Part 12 out of 13
noise, she had rushed from her cell to see. The aspect of the
Place, the vision which was moving in it, the disorder of that
nocturnal assault, that hideous crowd, leaping like a cloud of
frogs, half seen in the gloom, the croaking of that hoarse
multitude, those few red torches running and crossing each
other in the darkness like the meteors which streak the
misty surfaces of marshes, this whole scene produced upon
her the effect of a mysterious battle between the phantoms
of the witches' sabbath and the stone monsters of the church.
Imbued from her very infancy with the superstitions of the
Bohemian tribe, her first thought was that she had caught
the strange beings peculiar to the night, in their deeds of
witchcraft. Then she ran in terror to cower in her cell, asking
of her pallet some less terrible nightmare.
But little by little the first vapors of terror had been
dissipated; from the constantly increasing noise, and from
many other signs of reality, she felt herself besieged not
by spectres, but by human beings. Then her fear, though it
did not increase, changed its character. She had dreamed of
the possibility of a popular mutiny to tear her from her asylum.
The idea of once more recovering life, hope, Phoebus, who was
ever present in her future, the extreme helplessness of her
condition, flight cut off, no support, her abandonment, her
isolation,--these thoughts and a thousand others overwhelmed
her. She fell upon her knees, with her head on her bed, her
hands clasped over her head, full of anxiety and tremors,
and, although a gypsy, an idolater, and a pagan, she began
to entreat with sobs, mercy from the good Christian God, and
to pray to our Lady, her hostess. For even if one believes
in nothing, there are moments in life when one is always of
the religion of the temple which is nearest at hand.
She remained thus prostrate for a very long time, trembling
in truth, more than praying, chilled by the ever-closer breath
of that furious multitude, understanding nothing of this
outburst, ignorant of what was being plotted, what was being
done, what they wanted, but foreseeing a terrible issue.
In the midst of this anguish, she heard some one walking
near her. She turned round. Two men, one of whom carried
a lantern, had just entered her cell. She uttered a feeble cry.
"Fear nothing," said a voice which was not unknown to her,
"it is I."
"Who are you?" she asked.
This name reassured her. She raised her eyes once more,
and recognized the poet in very fact. But there stood beside
him a black figure veiled from head to foot, which struck her
by its silence.
"Oh!" continued Gringoire in a tone of reproach, "Djali recognized
me before you!"
The little goat had not, in fact, waited for Gringoire to
announce his name. No sooner had he entered than it rubbed
itself gently against his knees, covering the poet with caresses
and with white hairs, for it was shedding its hair. Gringoire
returned the caresses.
"Who is this with you?" said the gypsy, in a low voice.
"Be at ease," replied Gringoire. "'Tis one of my friends."
Then the philosopher setting his lantern on the ground,
crouched upon the stones, and exclaimed enthusiastically, as
he pressed Djali in his arms,--
"Oh! 'tis a graceful beast, more considerable no doubt, for
it's neatness than for its size, but ingenious, subtle, and
lettered as a grammarian! Let us see, my Djali, hast thou
forgotten any of thy pretty tricks? How does Master Jacques
The man in black did not allow him to finish. He approached
Gringoire and shook him roughly by the shoulder.
"'Tis true," said he: "I forgot that we are in haste. But
that is no reason master, for getting furious with people in
this manner. My dear and lovely child, your life is in danger,
and Djali's also. They want to hang you again. We are
your friends, and we have come to save you. Follow us."
"Is it true?" she exclaimed in dismay.
"Yes, perfectly true. Come quickly!"
"I am willing," she stammered. "But why does not your
"Ah!" said Gringoire, "'tis because his father and mother
were fantastic people who made him of a taciturn temperament."
She was obliged to content herself with this explanation.
Gringoire took her by the hand; his companion picked up the
lantern and walked on in front. Fear stunned the young girl.
She allowed herself to be led away. The goat followed them,
frisking, so joyous at seeing Gringoire again that it made him
stumble every moment by thrusting its horns between his legs.
"Such is life," said the philosopher, every time that he
came near falling down; "'tis often our best friends who
cause us to be overthrown."
They rapidly descended the staircase of the towers,
crossed the church, full of shadows and solitude, and all
reverberating with uproar, which formed a frightful contrast,
and emerged into the courtyard of the cloister by the red door.
The cloister was deserted; the canons had fled to the bishop's
palace in order to pray together; the courtyard was empty, a
few frightened lackeys were crouching in dark corners. They
directed their steps towards the door which opened from this
court upon the Terrain. The man in black opened it with a
key which he had about him. Our readers are aware that the
Terrain was a tongue of land enclosed by walls on the side of
the City and belonging to the chapter of Notre-Dame, which
terminated the island on the east, behind the church. They
found this enclosure perfectly deserted. There was here less
tumult in the air. The roar of the outcasts' assault reached
them more confusedly and less clamorously. The fresh breeze
which follows the current of a stream, rustled the leaves of
the only tree planted on the point of the Terrain, with a noise
that was already perceptible. But they were still very close
to danger. The nearest edifices to them were the bishop's
palace and the church. It was plainly evident that there was
great internal commotion in the bishop's palace. Its shadowy
mass was all furrowed with lights which flitted from window
to window; as, when one has just burned paper, there remains
a sombre edifice of ashes in which bright sparks run a thousand
eccentric courses. Beside them, the enormous towers of
Notre-Dame, thus viewed from behind, with the long nave
above which they rise cut out in black against the red and
vast light which filled the Parvis, resembled two gigantic
andirons of some cyclopean fire-grate.
What was to be seen of Paris on all sides wavered before
the eye in a gloom mingled with light. Rembrandt has such
backgrounds to his pictures.
The man with the lantern walked straight to the point of
the Terrain. There, at the very brink of the water, stood the
wormeaten remains of a fence of posts latticed with laths,
whereon a low vine spread out a few thin branches like the
fingers of an outspread hand. Behind, in the shadow cast by
this trellis, a little boat lay concealed. The man made a sign
to Gringoire and his companion to enter. The goat followed
them. The man was the last to step in. Then he cut the
boat's moorings, pushed it from the shore with a long boat-
hook, and, seizing two oars, seated himself in the bow, rowing
with all his might towards midstream. The Seine is very
rapid at this point, and he had a good deal of trouble in
leaving the point of the island.
Gringoire's first care on entering the boat was to place the
goat on his knees. He took a position in the stern; and the
young girl, whom the stranger inspired with an indefinable
uneasiness, seated herself close to the poet.
When our philosopher felt the boat sway, he clapped his
hands and kissed Djali between the horns.
"Oh!" said he, "now we are safe, all four of us."
He added with the air of a profound thinker, "One is
indebted sometimes to fortune, sometimes to ruse, for the
happy issue of great enterprises."
The boat made its way slowly towards the right shore. The
young girl watched the unknown man with secret terror. He
had carefully turned off the light of his dark lantern. A
glimpse could be caught of him in the obscurity, in the bow
of the boat, like a spectre. His cowl, which was still lowered,
formed a sort of mask; and every time that he spread his
arms, upon which hung large black sleeves, as he rowed, one
would have said they were two huge bat's wings. Moreover,
he had not yet uttered a word or breathed a syllable. No
other noise was heard in the boat than the splashing of the
oars, mingled with the rippling of the water along her sides.
"On my soul!" exclaimed Gringoire suddenly, "we are as
cheerful and joyous as young owls! We preserve the silence
of Pythagoreans or fishes! ~Pasque-Dieu~! my friends, I
should greatly like to have some one speak to me. The human
voice is music to the human ear. 'Tis not I who say that,
but Didymus of Alexandria, and they are illustrious words.
Assuredly, Didymus of Alexandria is no mediocre philosopher.--One
word, my lovely child! say but one word to me, I entreat
you. By the way, you had a droll and peculiar little
pout; do you still make it? Do you know, my dear, that
parliament hath full jurisdiction over all places of
asylum, and that you were running a great risk in your
little chamber at Notre-Dame? Alas! the little bird trochylus
maketh its nest in the jaws of the crocodile.--Master, here
is the moon re-appearing. If only they do not perceive us.
We are doing a laudable thing in saving mademoiselle, and
yet we should be hung by order of the king if we were caught.
Alas! human actions are taken by two handles. That is
branded with disgrace in one which is crowned in another.
He admires Cicero who blames Catiline. Is it not so, master?
What say you to this philosophy? I possess philosophy by
instinct, by nature, ~ut apes geometriam~.--Come! no one
answers me. What unpleasant moods you two are in! I
must do all the talking alone. That is what we call a
monologue in tragedy.--~Pasque-Dieu~! I must inform you that
I have just seen the king, Louis XI., and that I have caught
this oath from him,--~Pasque-Dieu~! They are still making a
hearty howl in the city.--'Tis a villanous, malicious old king.
He is all swathed in furs. He still owes me the money for
my epithalamium, and he came within a nick of hanging me
this evening, which would have been very inconvenient to
me.--He is niggardly towards men of merit. He ought to
read the four books of Salvien of Cologne, _Adversits
Avaritiam_. In truth! 'Tis a paltry king in his ways with
men of letters, and one who commits very barbarous cruelties.
He is a sponge, to soak money raised from the people. His
saving is like the spleen which swelleth with the leanness of
all the other members. Hence complaints against the hardness
of the times become murmurs against the prince. Under this
gentle and pious sire, the gallows crack with the hung, the
blocks rot with blood, the prisons burst like over full bellies.
This king hath one hand which grasps, and one which hangs.
He is the procurator of Dame Tax and Monsieur Gibbet.
The great are despoiled of their dignities, and the little
incessantly overwhelmed with fresh oppressions. He is an
exorbitant prince. I love not this monarch. And you,
The man in black let the garrulous poet chatter on. He
continued to struggle against the violent and narrow current,
which separates the prow of the City and the stem of the
island of Notre-Dame, which we call to-day the Isle St. Louis.
"By the way, master!" continued Gringoire suddenly.
"At the moment when we arrived on the Parvis, through the
enraged outcasts, did your reverence observe that poor little
devil whose skull your deaf man was just cracking on the
railing of the gallery of the kings? I am near sighted and I
could not recognize him. Do you know who he could be?"
The stranger answered not a word. But he suddenly ceased
rowing, his arms fell as though broken, his head sank on his
breast, and la Esmeralda heard him sigh convulsively. She
shuddered. She had heard such sighs before.
The boat, abandoned to itself, floated for several minutes
with the stream. But the man in black finally recovered
himself, seized the oars once more and began to row against
the current. He doubled the point of the Isle of Notre
Dame, and made for the landing-place of the Port an Foin.
"Ah!" said Gringoire, "yonder is the Barbeau mansion.--Stay,
master, look: that group of black roofs which make such
singular angles yonder, above that heap of black, fibrous
grimy, dirty clouds, where the moon is completely crushed
and spread out like the yolk of an egg whose shell is
broken.--'Tis a fine mansion. There is a chapel crowned with
a small vault full of very well carved enrichments. Above, you
can see the bell tower, very delicately pierced. There is also
a pleasant garden, which consists of a pond, an aviary, an echo,
a mall, a labyrinth, a house for wild beasts, and a quantity of
leafy alleys very agreeable to Venus. There is also a rascal
of a tree which is called 'the lewd,' because it favored the
pleasures of a famous princess and a constable of France, who
was a gallant and a wit.--Alas! we poor philosophers are to
a constable as a plot of cabbages or a radish bed to the garden
of the Louvre. What matters it, after all? human life, for
the great as well as for us, is a mixture of good and evil. Pain
is always by the side of joy, the spondee by the dactyl.--Master,
I must relate to you the history of the Barbeau mansion. It
ends in tragic fashion. It was in 1319, in the reign
of Philippe V., the longest reign of the kings of France. The
moral of the story is that the temptations of the flesh are
pernicious and malignant. Let us not rest our glance too long
on our neighbor's wife, however gratified our senses may be
by her beauty. Fornication is a very libertine thought.
Adultery is a prying into the pleasures of others--Ohé! the
noise yonder is redoubling!"
The tumult around Notre-Dame was, in fact, increasing.
They listened. Cries of victory were heard with tolerable
distinctness. All at once, a hundred torches, the light of
which glittered upon the helmets of men at arms, spread over
the church at all heights, on the towers, on the galleries, on
the flying buttresses. These torches seemed to be in search
of something; and soon distant clamors reached the fugitives
distinctly :--"The gypsy! the sorceress! death to the gypsy!"
The unhappy girl dropped her head upon her hands, and
the unknown began to row furiously towards the shore.
Meanwhile our philosopher reflected. He clasped the goat
in his arms, and gently drew away from the gypsy, who pressed
closer and closer to him, as though to the only asylum which
remained to her.
It is certain that Gringoire was enduring cruel perplexity.
He was thinking that the goat also, "according to existing
law," would be hung if recaptured; which would be a great
pity, poor Djali! that he had thus two condemned creatures
attached to him; that his companion asked no better than to
take charge of the gypsy. A violent combat began between
his thoughts, in which, like the Jupiter of the Iliad, he weighed
in turn the gypsy and the goat; and he looked at them alternately
with eyes moist with tears, saying between his teeth:
"But I cannot save you both!"
A shock informed them that the boat had reached the land
at last. The uproar still filled the city. The unknown
rose, approached the gypsy, and endeavored to take her arm to
assist her to alight. She repulsed him and clung to the sleeve
of Gringoire, who, in his turn, absorbed in the goat, almost
repulsed her. Then she sprang alone from the boat. She
was so troubled that she did not know what she did or whither
she was going. Thus she remained for a moment, stunned,
watching the water flow past; when she gradually returned to
her senses, she found herself alone on the wharf with the
unknown. It appears that Gringoire had taken advantage of
the moment of debarcation to slip away with the goat into the
block of houses of the Rue Grenier-sur-l'Eau.
The poor gypsy shivered when she beheld herself alone
with this man. She tried to speak, to cry out, to call
Gringoire; her tongue was dumb in her mouth, and no sound left
her lips. All at once she felt the stranger's hand on hers.
It was a strong, cold hand. Her teeth chattered, she turned
paler than the ray of moonlight which illuminated her. The
man spoke not a word. He began to ascend towards the Place
de Grève, holding her by the hand.
At that moment, she had a vague feeling that destiny is an
irresistible force. She had no more resistance left in her,
she allowed herself to be dragged along, running while he
walked. At this spot the quay ascended. But it seemed to
her as though she were descending a slope.
She gazed about her on all sides. Not a single passer-by.
The quay was absolutely deserted. She heard no sound, she
felt no people moving save in the tumultuous and glowing
city, from which she was separated only by an arm of the
Seine, and whence her name reached her, mingled with cries
of "Death!" The rest of Paris was spread around her in
great blocks of shadows.
Meanwhile, the stranger continued to drag her along with
the same silence and the same rapidity. She had no
recollection of any of the places where she was walking.
As she passed before a lighted window, she made an effort,
drew up suddenly, and cried out, "Help!"
The bourgeois who was standing at the window opened it,
appeared there in his shirt with his lamp, stared at the
quay with a stupid air, uttered some words which she did
not understand, and closed his shutter again. It was her
last gleam of hope extinguished.
The man in black did not utter a syllable; he held her firmly,
and set out again at a quicker pace. She no longer resisted,
but followed him, completely broken.
From time to time she called together a little strength, and
said, in a voice broken by the unevenness of the pavement
and the breathlessness of their flight, "Who are you? Who
are you?" He made no reply.
They arrived thus, still keeping along the quay, at a tolerably
spacious square. It was the Grève. In the middle, a sort of
black, erect cross was visible; it was the gallows. She
recognized all this, and saw where she was.
The man halted, turned towards her and raised his cowl.
"Oh!" she stammered, almost petrified, "I knew well that
it was he again!"
It was the priest. He looked like the ghost of himself;
that is an effect of the moonlight, it seems as though one
beheld only the spectres of things in that light.
"Listen!" he said to her; and she shuddered at the sound
of that fatal voice which she had not heard for a long time.
He continued speaking with those brief and panting jerks,
which betoken deep internal convulsions. "Listen! we are
here. I am going to speak to you. This is the Grève. This
is an extreme point. Destiny gives us to one another. I am
going to decide as to your life; you will decide as to my soul.
Here is a place, here is a night beyond which one sees nothing.
Then listen to me. I am going to tell you...In the first place,
speak not to me of your Phoebus. (As he spoke thus he paced to
and fro, like a man who cannot remain in one place, and dragged
her after him.) Do not speak to me of him. Do you see? If you
utter that name, I know not what I shall do, but it will
Then, like a body which recovers its centre of gravity,
he became motionless once more, but his words betrayed no
less agitation. His voice grew lower and lower.
"Do not turn your head aside thus. Listen to me. It is
a serious matter. In the first place, here is what has
happened.--All this will not be laughed at. I swear it to
you.--What was I saying? Remind me! Oh!--There is a decree
of Parliament which gives you back to the scaffold. I have just
rescued you from their hands. But they are pursuing you.
He extended his arm toward the City. The search seemed,
in fact, to be still in progress there. The uproar drew nearer;
the tower of the lieutenant's house, situated opposite the
Grève, was full of clamors and light, and soldiers could be
seen running on the opposite quay with torches and these
cries, "The gypsy! Where is the gypsy! Death! Death!"
"You see that they are in pursuit of you, and that I am
not lying to you. I love you.--Do not open your mouth;
refrain from speaking to me rather, if it be only to tell me
that you hate me. I have made up my mind not to hear that
again.--I have just saved you.--Let me finish first. I can
save you wholly. I have prepared everything. It is yours at
will. If you wish, I can do it."
He broke off violently. "No, that is not what I should say!"
As he went with hurried step and made her hurry also, for
he did not release her, he walked straight to the gallows, and
pointed to it with his finger,--
"Choose between us two," he said, coldly.
She tore herself from his hands and fell at the foot of the
gibbet, embracing that funereal support, then she half turned
her beautiful head, and looked at the priest over her shoulder.
One would have said that she was a Holy Virgin at the foot of
the cross. The priest remained motionless, his finger still
raised toward the gibbet, preserving his attitude like a statue.
At length the gypsy said to him,--
"It causes me less horror than you do."
Then he allowed his arm to sink slowly, and gazed at the
pavement in profound dejection.
"If these stones could speak," he murmured, "yes, they
would say that a very unhappy man stands here.
He went on. The young girl, kneeling before the gallows,
enveloped in her long flowing hair, let him speak on without
interruption. He now had a gentle and plaintive accent which
contrasted sadly with the haughty harshness of his features.
"I love you. Oh! how true that is! So nothing comes of
that fire which burns my heart! Alas! young girl, night and
day--yes, night and day I tell you,--it is torture. Oh! I
suffer too much, my poor child. 'Tis a thing deserving of
compassion, I assure you. You see that I speak gently to
you. I really wish that you should no longer cherish this
horror of me.--After all, if a man loves a woman, 'tis not his
fault!--Oh, my God!--What! So you will never pardon me?
You will always hate me? All is over then. It is that which
renders me evil, do you see? and horrible to myself.--You
will not even look at me! You are thinking of something
else, perchance, while I stand here and talk to you,
shuddering on the brink of eternity for both of us! Above
all things, do not speak to me of the officer!--I would cast
myself at your knees, I would kiss not your feet, but the earth
which is under your feet; I would sob like a child, I would
tear from my breast not words, but my very heart and vitals,
to tell you that I love you;--all would be useless, all!--And
yet you have nothing in your heart but what is tender and
merciful. You are radiant with the most beautiful mildness;
you are wholly sweet, good, pitiful, and charming. Alas!
You cherish no ill will for any one but me alone! Oh! what
He hid his face in his hands. The young girl heard him
weeping. It was for the first time. Thus erect and shaken
by sobs, he was more miserable and more suppliant than when
on his knees. He wept thus for a considerable time.
"Come!" he said, these first tears passed, "I have no more
words. I had, however, thought well as to what you would
say. Now I tremble and shiver and break down at the decisive
moment, I feel conscious of something supreme enveloping
us, and I stammer. Oh! I shall fall upon the pavement
if you do not take pity on me, pity on yourself. Do not
condemn us both. If you only knew how much I love you!
What a heart is mine! Oh! what desertion of all virtue!
What desperate abandonment of myself! A doctor, I mock at
science; a gentleman, I tarnish my own name; a priest, I
make of the missal a pillow of sensuality, I spit in the
face of my God! all this for thee, enchantress! to be
more worthy of thy hell! And you will not have the
apostate! Oh! let me tell you all! more still, something
more horrible, oh! Yet more horrible!...."
As he uttered these last words, his air became utterly
distracted. He was silent for a moment, and resumed,
as though speaking to himself, and in a strong voice,--
"Cain, what hast thou done with thy brother?"
There was another silence, and he went on--
"What have I done with him, Lord? I received him, I
reared him, I nourished him, I loved him, I idolized him,
and I have slain him! Yes, Lord, they have just dashed his
head before my eyes on the stone of thine house, and it is
because of me, because of this woman, because of her."
His eye was wild. His voice grew ever weaker; he repeated
many times, yet, mechanically, at tolerably long intervals,
like a bell prolonging its last vibration: "Because of
her.--Because of her."
Then his tongue no longer articulated any perceptible
sound; but his lips still moved. All at once he sank
together, like something crumbling, and lay motionless
on the earth, with his head on his knees.
A touch from the young girl, as she drew her foot from
under him, brought him to himself. He passed his hand
slowly over his hollow cheeks, and gazed for several
moments at his fingers, which were wet, "What!" he murmured,
"I have wept!"
And turning suddenly to the gypsy with unspeakable anguish,--
"Alas! you have looked coldly on at my tears! Child, do
you know that those tears are of lava? Is it indeed true?
Nothing touches when it comes from the man whom one does
not love. If you were to see me die, you would laugh. Oh!
I do not wish to see you die! One word! A single word of
pardon! Say not that you love me, say only that you will do
it; that will suffice; I will save you. If not--oh! the hour
is passing. I entreat you by all that is sacred, do not wait
until I shall have turned to stone again, like that gibbet which
also claims you! Reflect that I hold the destinies of both of
us in my hand, that I am mad,--it is terrible,--that I may
let all go to destruction, and that there is beneath us a
bottomless abyss, unhappy girl, whither my fall will follow
yours to all eternity! One word of kindness! Say one word!
only one word!"
She opened her mouth to answer him. He flung himself on
his knees to receive with adoration the word, possibly a
tender one, which was on the point of issuing from her lips.
She said to him, "You are an assassin!"
The priest clasped her in his arms with fury, and began to
laugh with an abominable laugh.
"Well, yes, an assassin!" he said, "and I will have you.
You will not have me for your slave, you shall have me for
your master. I will have you! I have a den, whither I will
drag you. You will follow me, you will be obliged to follow
me, or I will deliver you up! You must die, my beauty, or be
mine! belong to the priest! belong to the apostate! belong
to the assassin! this very night, do you hear? Come! joy;
kiss me, mad girl! The tomb or my bed!"
His eyes sparkled with impurity and rage. His lewd lips
reddened the young girl's neck. She struggled in his arms.
He covered her with furious kisses.
"Do not bite me, monster!" she cried. "Oh! the foul,
odious monk! leave me! I will tear out thy ugly gray hair
and fling it in thy face by the handful!"
He reddened, turned pale, then released her and gazed at
her with a gloomy air. She thought herself victorious, and
"I tell you that I belong to my Phoebus, that 'tis Phoebus
whom I love, that 'tis Phoebus who is handsome! you are old,
priest! you are ugly! Begone!"
He gave vent to a horrible cry, like the wretch to whom a
hot iron is applied. "Die, then!" he said, gnashing his teeth.
She saw his terrible look and tried to fly. He caught her
once more, he shook her, he flung her on the ground, and
walked with rapid strides towards the corner of the Tour-
Roland, dragging her after him along the pavement by her
On arriving there, he turned to her,--
"For the last time, will you be mine?"
She replied with emphasis,--
Then he cried in a loud voice,--
"Gudule! Gudule! here is the gypsy! take your vengeance!"
The young girl felt herself seized suddenly by the elbow.
She looked. A fleshless arm was stretched from an opening
in the wall, and held her like a hand of iron.
"Hold her well," said the priest; "'tis the gypsy escaped.
Release her not. I will go in search of the sergeants. You
shall see her hanged."
A guttural laugh replied from the interior of the wall to
these bloody words--"Hah! hah! hah!"--The gypsy watched
the priest retire in the direction of the Pont Notre-Dame.
A cavalcade was heard in that direction.
The young girl had recognized the spiteful recluse. Panting
with terror, she tried to disengage herself. She writhed,
she made many starts of agony and despair, but the other held
her with incredible strength. The lean and bony fingers
which bruised her, clenched on her flesh and met around it.
One would have said that this hand was riveted to her arm.
It was more than a chain, more than a fetter, more than a ring
of iron, it was a living pair of pincers endowed with intelligence,
which emerged from the wall.
She fell back against the wall exhausted, and then the fear
of death took possession of her. She thought of the beauty
of life, of youth, of the view of heaven, the aspects of nature,
of her love for Phoebus, of all that was vanishing and all that
was approaching, of the priest who was denouncing her, of
the headsman who was to come, of the gallows which was
there. Then she felt terror mount to the very roots of her
hair and she heard the mocking laugh of the recluse, saying
to her in a very low tone: "Hah! hah! hah! you are going
to be hanged!"
She turned a dying look towards the window, and she
beheld the fierce face of the sacked nun through the bars.
"What have I done to you?" she said, almost lifeless.
The recluse did not reply, but began to mumble with a singsong
irritated, mocking intonation: "Daughter of Egypt! daughter
of Egypt! daughter of Egypt!"
The unhappy Esmeralda dropped her head beneath her flowing
hair, comprehending that it was no human being she had
to deal with.
All at once the recluse exclaimed, as though the gypsy's
question had taken all this time to reach her brain,--"'What
have you done to me?' you say! Ah! what have you done to
me, gypsy! Well! listen.--I had a child! you see! I had
a child! a child, I tell you!--a pretty little girl!--my Agnes!"
she went on wildly, kissing something in the dark.--"Well! do
you see, daughter of Egypt? they took my child from me; they
stole my child; they ate my child. That is what you have done
The young girl replied like a lamb,--
"Alas! perchance I was not born then!"
"Oh! yes!" returned the recluse, "you must have been
born. You were among them. She would be the same age as
you! so!--I have been here fifteen years; fifteen years have
I suffered; fifteen years have I prayed; fifteen years have I
beat my head against these four walls--I tell you that 'twas
the gypsies who stole her from me, do you hear that? and
who ate her with their teeth.--Have you a heart? imagine a
child playing, a child sucking; a child sleeping. It is so
innocent a thing!--Well! that, that is what they took from me,
what they killed. The good God knows it well! To-day, it
is my turn; I am going to eat the gypsy.--Oh! I would bite
you well, if the bars did not prevent me! My head is too
large!--Poor little one! while she was asleep! And if they
woke her up when they took her, in vain she might cry; I was
not there!--Ah! gypsy mothers, you devoured my child! come
see your own."
Then she began to laugh or to gnash her teeth, for the two
things resembled each other in that furious face. The day
was beginning to dawn. An ashy gleam dimly lighted this
scene, and the gallows grew more and more distinct in the
square. On the other side, in the direction of the bridge of
Notre-Dame, the poor condemned girl fancied that she heard
the sound of cavalry approaching.
"Madam," she cried, clasping her hands and falling on her
knees, dishevelled, distracted, mad with fright; "madam! have
pity! They are coming. I have done nothing to you. Would
you wish to see me die in this horrible fashion before your
very eyes? You are pitiful, I am sure. It is too frightful.
Let me make my escape. Release me! Mercy. I do not wish to
die like that!"
"Give me back my child!" said the recluse.
"Give me back my child!"
"Release me, in the name of heaven!"
"Give me back my child!"
Again the young girl fell; exhausted, broken, and having
already the glassy eye of a person in the grave.
"Alas!" she faltered, "you seek your child, I seek my parents."
"Give me back my little Agnes!" pursued Gudule. "You
do not know where she is? Then die!--I will tell you. I
was a woman of the town, I had a child, they took my child.
It was the gypsies. You see plainly that you must die.
When your mother, the gypsy, comes to reclaim you, I shall
say to her: 'Mother, look at that gibbet!--Or, give me back
my child. Do you know where she is, my little daughter?
Stay! I will show you. Here is her shoe, all that is left me
of her. Do you know where its mate is? If you know, tell
me, and if it is only at the other end of the world, I will
crawl to it on my knees."
As she spoke thus, with her other arm extended through
the window, she showed the gypsy the little embroidered shoe.
It was already light enough to distinguish its shape and its
"Let me see that shoe," said the gypsy, quivering. "God! God!"
And at the same time, with her hand which was at liberty,
she quickly opened the little bag ornamented with green glass,
which she wore about her neck.
"Go on, go on!" grumbled Gudule, "search your demon's amulet!"
All at once, she stopped short, trembled in every limb, and
cried in a voice which proceeded from the very depths of her
being: "My daughter!"
The gypsy had just drawn from the bag a little shoe absolutely
similar to the other. To this little shoe was attached
a parchment on which was inscribed this charm,--
~Quand le parell retrouveras
Ta mere te tendras les bras~.*
* When thou shalt find its mate, thy mother will stretch out
her arms to thee.
Quicker than a flash of lightning, the recluse had laid the
two shoes together, had read the parchment and had put close
to the bars of the window her face beaming with celestial joy
as she cried,--
"My daughter! my daughter!"
"My mother!" said the gypsy.
Here we are unequal to the task of depicting the scene.
The wall and the iron bars were between them. "Oh! the
wall!" cried the recluse. "Oh! to see her and not to embrace
her! Your hand! your hand!"
The young girl passed her arm through the opening; the
recluse threw herself on that hand, pressed her lips to it
and there remained, buried in that kiss, giving no other sign
of life than a sob which heaved her breast from time to time.
In the meanwhile, she wept in torrents, in silence, in the dark,
like a rain at night. The poor mother poured out in floods
upon that adored hand the dark and deep well of tears, which
lay within her, and into which her grief had filtered, drop by
drop, for fifteen years.
All at once she rose, flung aside her long gray hair from her
brow, and without uttering a word, began to shake the bars of
her cage cell, with both hands, more furiously than a lioness.
The bars held firm. Then she went to seek in the corner of
her cell a huge paving stone, which served her as a pillow,
and launched it against them with such violence that one of
the bars broke, emitting thousands of sparks. A second blow
completely shattered the old iron cross which barricaded the
window. Then with her two hands, she finished breaking
and removing the rusted stumps of the bars. There are
moments when woman's hands possess superhuman strength.
A passage broken, less than a minute was required for her
to seize her daughter by the middle of her body, and draw her
into her cell. "Come let me draw you out of the abyss," she
When her daughter was inside the cell, she laid her gently
on the ground, then raised her up again, and bearing her in
her arms as though she were still only her little Agnes, she
walked to and fro in her little room, intoxicated, frantic,
joyous, crying out, singing, kissing her daughter, talking to
her, bursting into laughter, melting into tears, all at once
and with vehemence.
"My daughter! my daughter!" she said. "I have my daughter!
here she is! The good God has given her back to me!
Ha you! come all of you! Is there any one there to
see that I have my daughter? Lord Jesus, how beautiful she
is! You have made me wait fifteen years, my good God, but
it was in order to give her back to me beautiful.--Then the
gypsies did not eat her! Who said so? My little daughter!
my little daughter! Kiss me. Those good gypsies! I love
the gypsies!--It is really you! That was what made my
heart leap every time that you passed by. And I took that
for hatred! Forgive me, my Agnes, forgive me. You thought
me very malicious, did you not? I love you. Have you still
the little mark on your neck? Let us see. She still has it.
Oh! you are beautiful! It was I who gave you those big
eyes, mademoiselle. Kiss me. I love you. It is nothing
to me that other mothers have children; I scorn them now.
They have only to come and see. Here is mine. See her
neck, her eyes, her hair, her hands. Find me anything as
beautiful as that! Oh! I promise you she will have lovers,
that she will! I have wept for fifteen years. All my beauty
has departed and has fallen to her. Kiss me."
She addressed to her a thousand other extravagant remarks,
whose accent constituted their sole beauty, disarranged the
poor girl's garments even to the point of making her blush,
smoothed her silky hair with her hand, kissed her foot, her
knee, her brow, her eyes, was in raptures over everything.
The young girl let her have her way, repeating at intervals
and very low and with infinite tenderness, "My mother!"
"Do you see, my little girl," resumed the recluse,
interspersing her words with kisses, "I shall love you
dearly? We will go away from here. We are going to be very
happy. I have inherited something in Reims, in our country.
You know Reims? Ah! no, you do not know it; you were too
small! If you only knew how pretty you were at the age of
four months! Tiny feet that people came even from Epernay,
which is seven leagues away, to see! We shall have a field, a
house. I will put you to sleep in my bed. My God! my
God! who would believe this? I have my daughter!"
"Oh, my mother!" said the young girl, at length finding
strength to speak in her emotion, "the gypsy woman told me
so. There was a good gypsy of our band who died last year,
and who always cared for me like a nurse. It was she who
placed this little bag about my neck. She always said to me:
'Little one, guard this jewel well! 'Tis a treasure. It will
cause thee to find thy mother once again. Thou wearest thy
mother about thy neck.'--The gypsy predicted it!"
The sacked nun again pressed her daughter in her arms.
"Come, let me kiss you! You say that prettily. When we
are in the country, we will place these little shoes on an
infant Jesus in the church. We certainly owe that to the
good, holy Virgin. What a pretty voice you have! When
you spoke to me just now, it was music! Ah! my Lord God!
I have found my child again! But is this story credible?
Nothing will kill one--or I should have died of joy."
And then she began to clap her hands again and to laugh
and to cry out: "We are going to be so happy!"
At that moment, the cell resounded with the clang of arms
and a galloping of horses which seemed to be coming from
the Pont Notre-Dame, amid advancing farther and farther
along the quay. The gypsy threw herself with anguish into
the arms of the sacked nun.
"Save me! save me! mother! they are coming!"
"Oh, heaven! what are you saying? I had forgotten!
They are in pursuit of you! What have you done?"
"I know not," replied the unhappy child; "but I am condemned
"To die!" said Gudule, staggering as though struck by
lightning; "to die!" she repeated slowly, gazing at her
daughter with staring eyes.
"Yes, mother," replied the frightened young girl, "they
want to kill me. They are coming to seize me. That gallows
is for me! Save me! save me! They are coming! Save me!"
The recluse remained for several moments motionless and
petrified, then she moved her head in sign of doubt, and
suddenly giving vent to a burst of laughter, but with that
terrible laugh which had come back to her,--
"Ho! ho! no! 'tis a dream of which you are telling me.
Ah, yes! I lost her, that lasted fifteen years, and then
I found her again, and that lasted a minute! And they would
take her from me again! And now, when she is beautiful, when
she is grown up, when she speaks to me, when she loves me;
it is now that they would come to devour her, before my very
eyes, and I her mother! Oh! no! these things are not possible.
The good God does not permit such things as that."
Here the cavalcade appeared to halt, and a voice was heard
to say in the distance,--
"This way, Messire Tristan! The priest says that we shall
find her at the Rat-Hole." The noise of the horses began again.
The recluse sprang to her feet with a shriek of despair.
"Fly! fly! my child! All comes back to me. You are
right. It is your death! Horror! Maledictions! Fly!"
She thrust her head through the window, and withdrew it
"Remain," she said, in a low, curt, and lugubrious tone, as
she pressed the hand of the gypsy, who was more dead than
alive. "Remain! Do not breathe! There are soldiers everywhere.
You cannot get out. It is too light."
Her eyes were dry and burning. She remained silent for a
moment; but she paced the cell hurriedly, and halted now
and then to pluck out handfuls of her gray hairs, which she
afterwards tore with her teeth.
Suddenly she said: "They draw near. I will speak with
them. Hide yourself in this corner. They will not see you.
I will tell them that you have made your escape. That I
released you, i' faith!"
She set her daughter (down for she was still carrying her),
in one corner of the cell which was not visible from without.
She made her crouch down, arranged her carefully so that
neither foot nor hand projected from the shadow, untied her
black hair which she spread over her white robe to conceal
it, placed in front of her her jug and her paving stone, the
only articles of furniture which she possessed, imagining that
this jug and stone would hide her. And when this was finished
she became more tranquil, and knelt down to pray. The
day, which was only dawning, still left many shadows in
At that moment, the voice of the priest, that infernal voice,
passed very close to the cell, crying,--
"This way, Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers."
At that name, at that voice, la Esmeralda, crouching in her
corner, made a movement.
"Do not stir!" said Gudule.
She had barely finished when a tumult of men, swords, and
horses halted around the cell. The mother rose quickly and
went to post herself before her window, in order to stop it up.
She beheld a large troop of armed men, both horse and foot,
drawn up on the Grève.
The commander dismounted, and came toward her.
"Old woman!" said this man, who had an atrocious face,
"we are in search of a witch to hang her; we were told that
you had her."
The poor mother assumed as indifferent an air as she could,
"I know not what you mean."
The other resumed, "~Tête Dieu~! What was it that frightened
archdeacon said? Where is he?"
"Monseigneur," said a soldier, "he has disappeared."
"Come, now, old madwoman," began the commander again,
"do not lie. A sorceress was given in charge to you. What
have you done with her?"
The recluse did not wish to deny all, for fear of awakening
suspicion, and replied in a sincere and surly tone,--
"If you are speaking of a big young girl who was put into
my hands a while ago, I will tell you that she bit me, and
that I released her. There! Leave me in peace."
The commander made a grimace of disappointment.
"Don't lie to me, old spectre!" said he. "My name is
Tristan l'Hermite, and I am the king's gossip. Tristan the
Hermit, do you hear?" He added, as he glanced at the Place
de Grève around him, "'Tis a name which has an echo here."
"You might be Satan the Hermit," replied Gudule, who
was regaining hope, "but I should have nothing else to say to
you, and I should never be afraid of you."
"~Tête-Dieu~," said Tristan, "here is a crone! Ah! So the
witch girl hath fled! And in which direction did she go?"
Gudule replied in a careless tone,--
"Through the Rue du Mouton, I believe."
Tristan turned his head and made a sign to his troop to
prepare to set out on the march again. The recluse breathed
freely once more.
"Monseigneur," suddenly said an archer, "ask the old elf
why the bars of her window are broken in this manner."
This question brought anguish again to the heart of the
miserable mother. Nevertheless, she did not lose all presence
They have always been thus," she stammered.
"Bah!" retorted the archer, "only yesterday they still
formed a fine black cross, which inspired devotion."
Tristan east a sidelong glance at the recluse.
"I think the old dame is getting confused!"
The unfortunate woman felt that all depended on her self-
possession, and, although with death in her soul, she began to
grin. Mothers possess such strength.
"Bah!" said she, "the man is drunk. 'Tis more than a
year since the tail of a stone cart dashed against my window
and broke in the grating. And how I cursed the carter, too."
"'Tis true," said another archer, "I was there."
Always and everywhere people are to be found who have
seen everything. This unexpected testimony from the archer
re-encouraged the recluse, whom this interrogatory was forcing
to cross an abyss on the edge of a knife. But she was
condemned to a perpetual alternative of hope and alarm.
"If it was a cart which did it," retorted the first soldier,
"the stumps of the bars should be thrust inwards, while they
actually are pushed outwards."
"Ho! ho!" said Tristan to the soldier, "you have the nose
of an inquisitor of the Châtelet. Reply to what he says, old
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, driven to bay, and in a
voice that was full of tears in despite of her efforts, "I swear
to you, monseigneur, that 'twas a cart which broke those bars.
You hear the man who saw it. And then, what has that to do
with your gypsy?"
"Hum!" growled Tristan.
"The devil!" went on the soldier, flattered by the provost's
praise, "these fractures of the iron are perfectly fresh."
Tristan tossed his head. She turned pale.
"How long ago, say you, did the cart do it?"
"A month, a fortnight, perhaps, monseigheur, I know not."
"She first said more than a year," observed the soldier.
"That is suspicious," said the provost.
"Monseigneur!" she cried, still pressed against the opening,
and trembling lest suspicion should lead them to thrust
their heads through and look into her cell; "monseigneur, I
swear to you that 'twas a cart which broke this grating. I
swear it to you by the angels of paradise. If it was not a
cart, may I be eternally damned, and I reject God!"
"You put a great deal of heat into that oath;" said Tristan,
with his inquisitorial glance.
The poor woman felt her assurance vanishing more and
more. She had reached the point of blundering, and she
comprehended with terror that she was saying what she ought
not to have said.
Here another soldier came up, crying,--
"Monsieur, the old hag lies. The sorceress did not flee
through the Rue de Mouton. The street chain has remained
stretched all night, and the chain guard has seen no one pass."
Tristan, whose face became more sinister with every moment,
addressed the recluse,--
"What have you to say to that?"
She tried to make head against this new incident,
"That I do not know, monseigneur; that I may have been
mistaken. I believe, in fact, that she crossed the water."
"That is in the opposite direction," said the provost, "and
it is not very likely that she would wish to re-enter the city,
where she was being pursued. You are lying, old woman."
"And then," added the first soldier, "there is no boat
either on this side of the stream or on the other."
"She swam across," replied the recluse, defending her
ground foot by foot.
"Do women swim?" said the soldier.
"~Tête Dieu~! old woman! You are lying!" repeated Tristan
angrily. "I have a good mind to abandon that sorceress
and take you. A quarter of an hour of torture will, perchance,
draw the truth from your throat. Come! You are to follow us."
She seized on these words with avidity.
"As you please, monseigneur. Do it. Do it. Torture. I
am willing. Take me away. Quick, quick! let us set out at
once!--During that time," she said to herself, "my daughter
will make her escape."
"'S death!" said the provost, "what an appetite for the
rack! I understand not this madwoman at all."
An old, gray-haired sergeant of the guard stepped out of
the ranks, and addressing the provost,--
"Mad in sooth, monseigneur. If she released the gypsy, it
was not her fault, for she loves not the gypsies. I have been
of the watch these fifteen years, and I hear her every evening
cursing the Bohemian women with endless imprecations. If
the one of whom we are in pursuit is, as I suppose, the little
dancer with the goat, she detests that one above all the rest."
Gudule made an effort and said,--
"That one above all."
The unanimous testimony of the men of the watch confirmed
the old sergeant's words to the provost. Tristan
l'Hermite, in despair at extracting anything from the recluse,
turned his back on her, and with unspeakable anxiety she
beheld him direct his course slowly towards his horse.
"Come!" he said, between his teeth, "March on! let us
set out again on the quest. I shall not sleep until that gypsy
But he still hesitated for some time before mounting his
horse. Gudule palpitated between life and death, as she
beheld him cast about the Place that uneasy look of a hunting
dog which instinctively feels that the lair of the beast is
close to him, and is loath to go away. At length he shook
his head and leaped into his saddle. Gudule's horribly
compressed heart now dilated, and she said in a low voice,
as she cast a glance at her daughter, whom she had not
ventured to look at while they were there, "Saved!"
The poor child had remained all this time in her corner,
without breathing, without moving, with the idea of death
before her. She had lost nothing of the scene between Gudule
and Tristan, and the anguish of her mother had found its echo
in her heart. She had heard all the successive snappings of
the thread by which she hung suspended over the gulf; twenty
times she had fancied that she saw it break, and at last she
began to breathe again and to feel her foot on firm ground.
At that moment she heard a voice saying to the provost:
"~Corboeuf~! Monsieur le Prevôt, 'tis no affair of mine,
a man of arms, to hang witches. The rabble of the populace
is suppressed. I leave you to attend to the matter alone.
You will allow me to rejoin my company, who are waiting
for their captain."
The voice was that of Phoebus de Châteaupers; that which
took place within her was ineffable. He was there, her friend,
her protector, her support, her refuge, her Phoebus. She rose,
and before her mother could prevent her, she had rushed to
the window, crying,--
"Phoebus! aid me, my Phoebus!"
Phoebus was no longer there. He had just turned the
corner of the Rue de la Coutellerie at a gallop. But Tristan
had not yet taken his departure.
The recluse rushed upon her daughter with a roar of agony.
She dragged her violently back, digging her nails into her
neck. A tigress mother does not stand on trifles. But it was
too late. Tristan had seen.
"Hé! hé!" he exclaimed with a laugh which laid bare all
his teeth and made his face resemble the muzzle of a wolf,
"two mice in the trap!"
"I suspected as much," said the soldier.
Tristan clapped him on the shoulder,--
"You are a good cat! Come!" he added, "where is Henriet Cousin?"
A man who had neither the garments nor the air of a
soldier, stepped from the ranks. He wore a costume half
gray, half brown, flat hair, leather sleeves, and carried a
bundle of ropes in his huge hand. This man always attended
Tristan, who always attended Louis XI.
"Friend," said Tristan l'Hermite, "I presume that this is
the sorceress of whom we are in search. You will hang me
this one. Have you your ladder?"
"There is one yonder, under the shed of the Pillar-House,"
replied the man. "Is it on this justice that the thing is to
be done?" he added, pointing to the stone gibbet.
"Ho, hé!" continued the man with a huge laugh, which
was still more brutal than that of the provost, "we shall
not have far to go."
"Make haste!" said Tristan, "you shall laugh afterwards."
In the meantime, the recluse had not uttered another word
since Tristan had seen her daughter and all hope was lost.
She had flung the poor gypsy, half dead, into the corner of
the cellar, and had placed herself once more at the window
with both hands resting on the angle of the sill like two
claws. In this attitude she was seen to cast upon all those
soldiers her glance which had become wild and frantic once
more. At the moment when Rennet Cousin approached her
cell, she showed him so savage a face that he shrank back.
"Monseigneur," he said, returning to the provost, "which
am I to take?"
"The young one."
"So much the better, for the old one seemeth difficult."
"Poor little dancer with the goat!" said the old sergeant
of the watch.
Rennet Cousin approached the window again. The mother's
eyes made his own droop. He said with a good deal of timidity,--
She interrupted him in a very low but furious voice,--
"What do you ask?"
"It is not you," he said, "it is the other."
"The young one."
She began to shake her head, crying,--
"There is no one! there is no one! there is no one!"
"Yes, there is!" retorted the hangman, "and you know it
well. Let me take the young one. I have no wish to harm you."
She said, with a strange sneer,--
"Ah! so you have no wish to harm me!"
"Let me have the other, madam; 'tis monsieur the provost
who wills it."
She repeated with a look of madness,--
"There is no one here."
"I tell you that there is!" replied the executioner. "We
have all seen that there are two of you."
"Look then!" said the recluse, with a sneer. "Thrust
your head through the window."
The executioner observed the mother's finger-nails and
"Make haste!" shouted Tristan, who had just ranged his
troops in a circle round the Rat-Hole, and who sat on his
horse beside the gallows.
Rennet returned once more to the provost in great embarrassment.
He had flung his rope on the ground, and was twisting his hat
between his hands with an awkward air.
"Monseigneur," he asked, "where am I to enter?"
"By the door."
"There is none."
"By the window."
"'Tis too small."
"Make it larger," said Tristan angrily. "Have you not pickaxes?"
The mother still looked on steadfastly from the depths of
her cavern. She no longer hoped for anything, she no longer
knew what she wished, except that she did not wish them to
take her daughter.
Rennet Cousin went in search of the chest of tools for the
night man, under the shed of the Pillar-House. He drew
from it also the double ladder, which he immediately set up
against the gallows. Five or six of the provost's men armed
themselves with picks and crowbars, and Tristan betook himself,
in company with them, towards the window.
"Old woman," said the provost, in a severe tone, "deliver
up to us that girl quietly."
She looked at him like one who does not understand.
"~Tête Dieu~!" continued Tristan, "why do you try to
prevent this sorceress being hung as it pleases the king?"
The wretched woman began to laugh in her wild way.
"Why? She is my daughter."
The tone in which she pronounced these words made even Henriet
"I am sorry for that," said the provost, "but it is the king's
She cried, redoubling her terrible laugh,--
"What is your king to me? I tell you that she is my daughter!"
"Pierce the wall," said Tristan.
In order to make a sufficiently wide opening, it sufficed to
dislodge one course of stone below the window. When the
mother heard the picks and crowbars mining her fortress, she
uttered a terrible cry; then she began to stride about her cell
with frightful swiftness, a wild beasts' habit which her cage
had imparted to her. She no longer said anything, but her
eyes flamed. The soldiers were chilled to the very soul.
All at once she seized her paving stone, laughed, and hurled
it with both fists upon the workmen. The stone, badly flung
(for her hands trembled), touched no one, and fell short under
the feet of Tristan's horse. She gnashed her teeth.
In the meantime, although the sun had not yet risen, it
was broad daylight; a beautiful rose color enlivened the
ancient, decayed chimneys of the Pillar-House. It was
the hour when the earliest windows of the great city open
joyously on the roofs. Some workmen, a few fruit-sellers on
their way to the markets on their asses, began to traverse the
Grève; they halted for a moment before this group of soldiers
clustered round the Rat-Hole, stared at it with an air of
astonishment and passed on.
The recluse had gone and seated herself by her daughter,
covering her with her body, in front of her, with staring
eyes, listening to the poor child, who did not stir, but who
kept murmuring in a low voice, these words only, "Phoebus!
Phoebus!" In proportion as the work of the demolishers
seemed to advance, the mother mechanically retreated, and
pressed the young girl closer and closer to the wall. All at
once, the recluse beheld the stone (for she was standing
guard and never took her eyes from it), move, and she heard
Tristan's voice encouraging the workers. Then she aroused
from the depression into which she had fallen during the last
few moments, cried out, and as she spoke, her voice now
rent the ear like a saw, then stammered as though all kind
of maledictions were pressing to her lips to burst forth
"Ho! ho! ho! Why this is terrible! You are ruffians!
Are you really going to take my daughter? Oh! the cowards!
Oh! the hangman lackeys! the wretched, blackguard assassins!
Help! help! fire! Will they take my child from me
like this? Who is it then who is called the good God?"
Then, addressing Tristan, foaming at the mouth, with wild
eyes, all bristling and on all fours like a female panther,--
"Draw near and take my daughter! Do not you understand
that this woman tells you that she is my daughter? Do
you know what it is to have a child? Eh! lynx, have you
never lain with your female? have you never had a cub?
and if you have little ones, when they howl have you nothing
in your vitals that moves?"
"Throw down the stone," said Tristan; "it no longer holds."
The crowbars raised the heavy course. It was, as we have
said, the mother's last bulwark.
She threw herself upon it, she tried to hold it back; she
scratched the stone with her nails, but the massive block, set
in movement by six men, escaped her and glided gently to the
ground along the iron levers.
The mother, perceiving an entrance effected, fell down in
front of the opening, barricading the breach with her body,
beating the pavement with her head, and shrieking with
a voice rendered so hoarse by fatigue that it was hardly
"Help! fire! fire!"
"Now take the wench," said Tristan, still impassive.
The mother gazed at the soldiers in such formidable fashion
that they were more inclined to retreat than to advance.
"Come, now," repeated the provost. "Here you, Rennet Cousin!"
No one took a step.
The provost swore,--
"~Tête de Christ~! my men of war! afraid of a woman!"
"Monseigneur," said Rennet, "do you call that a woman?"
"She has the mane of a lion," said another.
"Come!" repeated the provost, "the gap is wide enough.
Enter three abreast, as at the breach of Pontoise. Let us
make an end of it, death of Mahom! I will make two pieces
of the first man who draws back!"
Placed between the provost and the mother, both threatening,
the soldiers hesitated for a moment, then took their resolution,
and advanced towards the Rat-Hole.
When the recluse saw this, she rose abruptly on her knees,
flung aside her hair from her face, then let her thin flayed
hands fall by her side. Then great tears fell, one by one, from
her eyes; they flowed down her cheeks through a furrow, like
a torrent through a bed which it has hollowed for itself.
At the same time she began to speak, but in a voice so
supplicating, so gentle, so submissive, so heartrending,
that more than one old convict-warder around Tristan who
must have devoured human flesh wiped his eyes.
"Messeigneurs! messieurs the sergeants, one word. There
is one thing which I must say to you. She is my daughter,
do you see? my dear little daughter whom I had lost!
Listen. It is quite a history. Consider that I knew the
sergeants very well. They were always good to me in the days
when the little boys threw stones at me, because I led a life
of pleasure. Do you see? You will leave me my child when
you know! I was a poor woman of the town. It was the
Bohemians who stole her from me. And I kept her shoe for
fifteen years. Stay, here it is. That was the kind of foot
which she had. At Reims! La Chantefleurie! Rue Folle-
Peine! Perchance, you knew about that. It was I. In your
youth, then, there was a merry time, when one passed good
hours. You will take pity on me, will you not, gentlemen?
The gypsies stole her from me; they hid her from me for
fifteen years. I thought her dead. Fancy, my good friends,
believed her to be dead. I have passed fifteen years here in
this cellar, without a fire in winter. It is hard. The poor,
dear little shoe! I have cried so much that the good God has
heard me. This night he has given my daughter back to me.
It is a miracle of the good God. She was not dead. You
will not take her from me, I am sure. If it were myself, I
would say nothing; but she, a child of sixteen! Leave her
time to see the sun! What has she done to you? nothing
at all. Nor have I. If you did but know that she is all I
have, that I am old, that she is a blessing which the Holy
Virgin has sent to me! And then, you are all so good!
You did not know that she was my daughter; but now you
do know it. Oh! I love her! Monsieur, the grand provost.
I would prefer a stab in my own vitals to a scratch on her
finger! You have the air of such a good lord! What I have
told you explains the matter, does it not? Oh! if you have
had a mother, monsiegneur! you are the captain, leave me my
child! Consider that I pray you on my knees, as one prays
to Jesus Christ! I ask nothing of any one; I am from
Reims, gentlemen; I own a little field inherited from my
uncle, Mahiet Pradon. I am no beggar. I wish nothing, but
I do want my child! oh! I want to keep my child! The
good God, who is the master, has not given her back to me
for nothing! The king! you say the king! It would not
cause him much pleasure to have my little daughter killed!
And then, the king is good! she is my daughter! she is my
own daughter! She belongs not to the king! she is not
yours! I want to go away! we want to go away! and when
two women pass, one a mother and the other a daughter, one
lets them go! Let us pass! we belong in Reims. Oh! you
are very good, messieurs the sergeants, I love you all. You
will not take my dear little one, it is impossible! It is
utterly impossible, is it not? My child, my child!"
We will not try to give an idea of her gestures, her tone,
of the tears which she swallowed as she spoke, of the hands
which she clasped and then wrung, of the heart-breaking
smiles, of the swimming glances, of the groans, the sighs,
the miserable and affecting cries which she mingled with her
disordered, wild, and incoherent words. When she became silent
Tristan l'Hermite frowned, but it was to conceal a tear which
welled up in his tiger's eye. He conquered this weakness,
however, and said in a curt tone,--
"The king wills it."
Then he bent down to the ear of Rennet Cousin, and said
to him in a very low tone,--
"Make an end of it quickly!" Possibly, the redoubtable
provost felt his heart also failing him.
The executioner and the sergeants entered the cell. The
mother offered no resistance, only she dragged herself towards
her daughter and threw herself bodily upon her.
The gypsy beheld the soldiers approach. The horror of
death reanimated her,--
"Mother!" she shrieked, in a tone of indescribable distress,
"Mother! they are coming! defend me!"
"Yes, my love, I am defending you!" replied the mother,
in a dying voice; and clasping her closely in her arms, she
covered her with kisses. The two lying thus on the earth,
the mother upon the daughter, presented a spectacle worthy
Rennet Cousin grasped the young girl by the middle of
her body, beneath her beautiful shoulders. When she felt
that hand, she cried, "Heuh!" and fainted. The executioner
who was shedding large tears upon her, drop by drop, was
about to bear her away in his arms. He tried to detach the
mother, who had, so to speak, knotted her hands around her
daughter's waist; but she clung so strongly to her child, that
it was impossible to separate them. Then Rennet Cousin
dragged the young girl outside the cell, and the mother after
her. The mother's eyes were also closed.
At that moment, the sun rose, and there was already on the
Place a fairly numerous assembly of people who looked on
from a distance at what was being thus dragged along the
pavement to the gibbet. For that was Provost Tristan's way
at executions. He had a passion for preventing the approach
of the curious.
There was no one at the windows. Only at a distance, at
the summit of that one of the towers of Notre-Dame which
commands the Grève, two men outlined in black against the
light morning sky, and who seemed to be looking on, were
Rennet Cousin paused at the foot of the fatal ladder, with
that which he was dragging, and, barely breathing, with so
much pity did the thing inspire him, he passed the rope
around the lovely neck of the young girl. The unfortunate
child felt the horrible touch of the hemp. She raised her
eyelids, and saw the fleshless arm of the stone gallows
extended above her head. Then she shook herself and shrieked
in a loud and heartrending voice: "No! no! I will not!" Her
mother, whose head was buried and concealed in her daughter's
garments, said not a word; only her whole body could be
seen to quiver, and she was heard to redouble her kisses on
her child. The executioner took advantage of this moment to
hastily loose the arms with which she clasped the condemned
girl. Either through exhaustion or despair, she let him have
his way. Then he took the young girl on his shoulder, from
which the charming creature hung, gracefully bent over his
large head. Then he set his foot on the ladder in order
At that moment, the mother who was crouching on the
pavement, opened her eyes wide. Without uttering a cry, she
raised herself erect with a terrible expression; then she flung
herself upon the hand of the executioner, like a beast on its
prey, and bit it. It was done like a flash of lightning. The
headsman howled with pain. Those near by rushed up.
With difficulty they withdrew his bleeding hand from the
mother's teeth. She preserved a profound silence. They
thrust her back with much brutality, and noticed that her
head fell heavily on the pavement. They raised her, she fell
back again. She was dead.
The executioner, who had not loosed his hold on the young
girl, began to ascend the ladder once more.
THE BEAUTIFUL CREATURE CLAD IN WHITE. (Dante.)
When Quasimodo saw that the cell was empty, that the
gypsy was no longer there, that while he had been defending
her she had been abducted, he grasped his hair with both
hands and stamped with surprise and pain; then he set out
to run through the entire church seeking his Bohemian,
howling strange cries to all the corners of the walls, strewing
his red hair on the pavement. It was just at the moment when
the king's archers were making their victorious entrance into
Notre-Dame, also in search of the gypsy. Quasimodo, poor,
deaf fellow, aided them in their fatal intentions, without
suspecting it; he thought that the outcasts were the gypsy's
enemies. He himself conducted Tristan l'Hermite to all
possible hiding-places, opened to him the secret doors, the
double bottoms of the altars, the rear sacristries. If the
unfortunate girl had still been there, it would have been he
himself who would have delivered her up.
When the fatigue of finding nothing had disheartened Tristan,
who was not easily discouraged, Quasimodo continued the search
alone. He made the tour of the church twenty times, length and
breadth, up and down, ascending and descending, running, calling,
sbouting, peeping, rummaging, ransacking, thrusting his head into
every hole, pushing a torch under every vault, despairing, mad. A
male who has lost his female is no more roaring nor more haggard.
At last when he was sure, perfectly sure that she was no
longer there, that all was at an end, that she had been
snatched from him, he slowly mounted the staircase to the
towers, that staircase which he had ascended with so much
eagerness and triumph on the day when he had saved her.
He passed those same places once more with drooping head,
voiceless, tearless, almost breathless. The church was again
deserted, and had fallen back into its silence. The archers
had quitted it to track the sorceress in the city. Quasimodo,
left alone in that vast Notre-Dame, so besieged and tumultuous
but a short time before, once more betook himself to the cell
where the gypsy had slept for so many weeks under his guardianship.
As he approached it, he fancied that he might, perhaps, find
her there. When, at the turn of the gallery which opens on
the roof of the side aisles, he perceived the tiny cell with its
little window and its little door crouching beneath a great
flying buttress like a bird's nest under a branch, the poor
man's heart failed him, and he leaned against a pillar to keep
from falling. He imagined that she might have returned
thither, that some good genius had, no doubt, brought her
back, that this chamber was too tranquil, too safe, too charming
for her not to be there, and he dared not take another step
for fear of destroying his illusion. "Yes," he said to himself,
"perchance she is sleeping, or praying. I must not disturb her."
At length he summoned up courage, advanced on tiptoe,
looked, entered. Empty. The cell was still empty. The
unhappy deaf man walked slowly round it, lifted the bed and
looked beneath it, as though she might be concealed between
the pavement and the mattress, then he shook his head and
remained stupefied. All at once, he crushed his torch under
his foot, and, without uttering a word, without giving vent to
a sigh, he flung himself at full speed, head foremost against
the wall, and fell fainting on the floor.
When he recovered his senses, he threw himself on the bed
and rolling about, he kissed frantically the place where the
young girl had slept and which was still warm; he remained
there for several moments as motionless as though he were
about to expire; then he rose, dripping with perspiration,
panting, mad, and began to beat his head against the wall
with the frightful regularity of the clapper of his bells, and
the resolution of a man determined to kill himself. At length
he fell a second time, exhausted; he dragged himself on his
knees outside the cell, and crouched down facing the door, in
an attitude of astonishment.
He remained thus for more than an hour without making a
movement, with his eye fixed on the deserted cell, more
gloomy, and more pensive than a mother seated between an
empty cradle and a full coffin. He uttered not a word; only
at long intervals, a sob heaved his body violently, but it was
a tearless sob, like summer lightning which makes no noise.
It appears to have been then, that, seeking at the bottom
of his lonely thoughts for the unexpected abductor of the
gypsy, he thought of the archdeacon. He remembered that
Dom Claude alone possessed a key to the staircase leading
to the cell; he recalled his nocturnal attempts on the young
girl, in the first of which he, Quasimodo, had assisted, the
second of which he had prevented. He recalled a thousand
details, and soon he no longer doubted that the archdeacon
had taken the gypsy. Nevertheless, such was his respect for
the priest, such his gratitude, his devotion, his love for this
man had taken such deep root in his heart, that they resisted,
even at this moment, the talons of jealousy and despair.
He reflected that the archdeacon had done this thing, and
the wrath of blood and death which it would have evoked in
him against any other person, turned in the poor deaf man,
from the moment when Claude Frollo was in question, into an
increase of grief and sorrow.
At the moment when his thought was thus fixed upon the
priest, while the daybreak was whitening the flying buttresses,
he perceived on the highest story of Notre-Dame, at the angle
formed by the external balustrade as it makes the turn of the
chancel, a figure walking. This figure was coming towards
him. He recognized it. It was the archdeacon.
Claude was walking with a slow, grave step. He did not
look before him as he walked, he was directing his course
towards the northern tower, but his face was turned aside
towards the right bank of the Seine, and he held his head
high, as though trying to see something over the roofs. The
owl often assumes this oblique attitude. It flies towards one
point and looks towards another. In this manner the priest
passed above Quasimodo without seeing him.
The deaf man, who had been petrified by this sudden
apparition, beheld him disappear through the door of the
staircase to the north tower. The reader is aware that this
is the tower from which the Hôtel-de-Ville is visible.
Quasimodo rose and followed the archdeacon.
Quasimodo ascended the tower staircase for the sake of
ascending it, for the sake of seeing why the priest was
ascending it. Moreover, the poor bellringer did not know what
he (Quasimodo) should do, what he should say, what he wished.
He was full of fury and full of fear. The archdeacon and the
gypsy had come into conflict in his heart.
When he reached the summit of the tower, before emerging
from the shadow of the staircase and stepping upon the
platform, he cautiously examined the position of the priest.
The priest's back was turned to him. There is an openwork
balustrade which surrounds the platform of the bell tower.
The priest, whose eyes looked down upon the town, was resting
his breast on that one of the four sides of the balustrades
which looks upon the Pont Notre-Dame.
Quasimodo, advancing with the tread of a wolf behind him,
went to see what he was gazing at thus.
The priest's attention was so absorbed elsewhere that he
did not hear the deaf man walking behind him.
Paris is a magnificent and charming spectacle, and especially
at that day, viewed from the top of the towers of Notre-
Dame, in the fresh light of a summer dawn. The day might
have been in July. The sky was perfectly serene. Some
tardy stars were fading away at various points, and there was
a very brilliant one in the east, in the brightest part of the
heavens. The sun was about to appear; Paris was beginning
to move. A very white and very pure light brought out
vividly to the eye all the outlines that its thousands of houses
present to the east. The giant shadow of the towers leaped
from roof to roof, from one end of the great city to the other.
There were several quarters from which were already heard
voices and noisy sounds. Here the stroke of a bell, there the
stroke of a hammer, beyond, the complicated clatter of a cart
Already several columns of smoke were being belched forth
from the chimneys scattered over the whole surface of roofs,
as through the fissures of an immense sulphurous crater.
The river, which ruffles its waters against the arches of so
many bridges, against the points of so many islands, was
wavering with silvery folds. Around the city, outside the
ramparts, sight was lost in a great circle of fleecy vapors
through which one confusedly distinguished the indefinite
line of the plains, and the graceful swell of the heights. All
sorts of floating sounds were dispersed over this half-awakened
city. Towards the east, the morning breeze chased a few soft
white bits of wool torn from the misty fleece of the hills.
In the Parvis, some good women, who had their milk jugs
in their hands, were pointing out to each other, with
astonishment, the singular dilapidation of the great door of
Notre-Dame, and the two solidified streams of lead in the crevices
of the stone. This was all that remained of the tempest of
the night. The bonfire lighted between the towers by Quasimodo
had died out. Tristan had already cleared up the Place,
and had the dead thrown into the Seine. Kings like Louis
XI. are careful to clean the pavement quickly after a massacre.
Outside the balustrade of the tower, directly under the
point where the priest had paused, there was one of those
fantastically carved stone gutters with which Gothic edifices
bristle, and, in a crevice of that gutter, two pretty wallflowers
in blossom, shaken out and vivified, as it were, by the breath
of air, made frolicsome salutations to each other. Above the
towers, on high, far away in the depths of the sky, the cries
of little birds were heard.
But the priest was not listening to, was not looking at,
anything of all this. He was one of the men for whom there are
no mornings, no birds, no flowers. In that immense horizon,
which assumed so many aspects about him, his contemplation
was concentrated on a single point.
Quasimodo was burning to ask him what he had done with
the gypsy; but the archdeacon seemed to be out of the world
at that moment. He was evidently in one of those violent
moments of life when one would not feel the earth crumble.
He remained motionless and silent, with his eyes steadily
fixed on a certain point; and there was something so terrible
about this silence and immobility that the savage bellringer
shuddered before it and dared not come in contact with it.
Only, and this was also one way of interrogating the archdeacon,
he followed the direction of his vision, and in this way the
glance of the unhappy deaf man fell upon the Place de Grève.
Thus he saw what the priest was looking at. The ladder
was erected near the permanent gallows. There were some
people and many soldiers in the Place. A man was dragging
a white thing, from which hung something black, along the
pavement. This man halted at the foot of the gallows.
Here something took place which Quasimodo could not see
very clearly. It was not because his only eye had not
preserved its long range, but there was a group of soldiers
which prevented his seeing everything. Moreover, at that moment
the sun appeared, and such a flood of light overflowed the
horizon that one would have said that all the points in Paris,
spires, chimneys, gables, had simultaneously taken fire.
Meanwhile, the man began to mount the ladder. Then Quasimodo
saw him again distinctly. He was carrying a woman on his shoulder,
a young girl dressed in white; that young girl had a noose about
her neck. Quasimodo recognized her.
It was she.
The man reached the top of the ladder. There he arranged
the noose. Here the priest, in order to see the better, knelt
upon the balustrade.
All at once the man kicked away the ladder abruptly, and
Quasimodo, who had not breathed for several moments, beheld
the unhappy child dangling at the end of the rope two fathoms
above the pavement, with the man squatting on her shoulders.
The rope made several gyrations on itself, and Quasimodo
beheld horrible convulsions run along the gypsy's body. The
priest, on his side, with outstretched neck and eyes starting
from his head, contemplated this horrible group of the man
and the young girl,--the spider and the fly.
At the moment when it was most horrible, the laugh of a
demon, a laugh which one can only give vent to when one is
no longer human, burst forth on the priest's livid face.
Quasimodo did not hear that laugh, but he saw it.
The bellringer retreated several paces behind the archdeacon,
and suddenly hurling himself upon him with fury, with his huge
hands he pushed him by the back over into the abyss over which
Dom Claude was leaning.
The priest shrieked: "Damnation!" and fell.
The spout, above which he had stood, arrested him in his
fall. He clung to it with desperate hands, and, at the moment
when he opened his mouth to utter a second cry, he beheld
the formidable and avenging face of Quasimodo thrust over
the edge of the balustrade above his head.
Then he was silent.
The abyss was there below him. A fall of more than two hundred
feet and the pavement.
In this terrible situation, the archdeacon said not a word,
uttered not a groan. He merely writhed upon the spout,
with incredible efforts to climb up again; but his hands had
no hold on the granite, his feet slid along the blackened wall
without catching fast. People who have ascended the towers
of Notre-Dame know that there is a swell of the stone immediately
beneath the balustrade. It was on this retreating angle that
miserable archdeacon exhausted himself. He had not to deal with
a perpendicular wall, but with one which sloped away beneath him.
Quasimodo had but to stretch out his hand in order to draw
him from the gulf; but he did not even look at him. He was
looking at the Grève. He was looking at the gallows. He
was looking at the gypsy.
The deaf man was leaning, with his elbows on the balustrade,
at the spot where the archdeacon had been a moment before,
and there, never detaching his gaze from the only object which
existed for him in the world at that moment, he remained
motionless and mute, like a man struck by lightning, and a
long stream of tears flowed in silence from that eye which,
up to that time, had never shed but one tear.
Meanwhile, the archdeacon was panting. His bald brow
was dripping with perspiration, his nails were bleeding
against the stones, his knees were flayed by the wall.
He heard his cassock, which was caught on the spout, crack
and rip at every jerk that he gave it. To complete his
misfortune, this spout ended in a leaden pipe which bent under
the weight of his body. The archdeacon felt this pipe slowly
giving way. The miserable man said to himself that, when
his hands should be worn out with fatigue, when his cassock
should tear asunder, when the lead should give way, he would
be obliged to fall, and terror seized upon his very vitals.
Now and then he glanced wildly at a sort of narrow shelf formed,
ten feet lower down, by projections of the sculpture, and he
prayed heaven, from the depths of his distressed soul, that he
might be allowed to finish his life, were it to last two centuries,
on that space two feet square. Once, he glanced below him into
the Place, into the abyss; the head which he raised again had
its eyes closed and its hair standing erect.
There was something frightful in the silence of these two
men. While the archdeacon agonized in this terrible fashion
a few feet below him, Quasimodo wept and gazed at the Grève.
The archdeacon, seeing that all his exertions served only to
weaken the fragile support which remained to him, decided
to remain quiet. There he hung, embracing the gutter, hardly
breathing, no longer stirring, making no longer any other
movements than that mechanical convulsion of the stomach,
which one experiences in dreams when one fancies himself
falling. His fixed eyes were wide open with a stare. He
lost ground little by little, nevertheless, his fingers slipped
along the spout; he became more and more conscious of the
feebleness of his arms and the weight of his body. The curve
of the lead which sustained him inclined more and more each
instant towards the abyss.
He beheld below him, a frightful thing, the roof of Saint-
Jean le Rond, as small as a card folded in two. He gazed at
the impressive carvings, one by one, of the tower, suspended
like himself over the precipice, but without terror for
themselves or pity for him. All was stone around him; before
his eyes, gaping monsters; below, quite at the bottom, in the
Place, the pavement; above his head, Quasimodo weeping.
In the Parvis there were several groups of curious good
people, who were tranquilly seeking to divine who the madman
could be who was amusing himself in so strange a manner.
The priest heard them saying, for their voices reached
him, clear and shrill: "Why, he will break his neck!"
At last the archdeacon, foaming with rage and despair,
understood that all was in vain. Nevertheless, he collected
all the strength which remained to him for a final effort. He
stiffened himself upon the spout, pushed against the wall with
both his knees, clung to a crevice in the stones with his hands,
and succeeded in climbing back with one foot, perhaps; but
this effort made the leaden beak on which he rested bend
abruptly. His cassock burst open at the same time. Then,
feeling everything give way beneath him, with nothing but
his stiffened and failing hands to support him, the
unfortunate man closed his eyes and let go of the spout.
Quasimodo watched him fall.
A fall from such a height is seldom perpendicular. The
archdeacon, launched into space, fell at first head foremost,
with outspread hands; then he whirled over and over many
times; the wind blew him upon the roof of a house, where
the unfortunate man began to break up. Nevertheless, he was
not dead when he reached there. The bellringer saw him still
endeavor to cling to a gable with his nails; but the surface
sloped too much, and he had no more strength. He slid rapidly
along the roof like a loosened tile, and dashed upon the
pavement. There he no longer moved.
Then Quasimodo raised his eyes to the gypsy, whose body
he beheld hanging from the gibbet, quivering far away beneath
her white robe with the last shudderings of anguish, then he
dropped them on the archdeacon, stretched out at the base of
the tower, and no longer retaining the human form, and he
said, with a sob which heaved his deep chest,--
"Oh! all that I have ever loved!"
THE MARRIAGE OF PHOEBUS.
Towards evening on that day, when the judiciary officers
of the bishop came to pick up from the pavement of the
Parvis the dislocated corpse of the archdeacon, Quasimodo
A great many rumors were in circulation with regard to this
adventure. No one doubted but that the day had come when,
in accordance with their compact, Quasimodo, that is to say,
the devil, was to carry off Claude Frollo, that is to say,
the sorcerer. It was presumed that he had broken the body
when taking the soul, like monkeys who break the shell to
get at the nut.