Part 3 out of 13
"Ah! so it was you, master!" said Clopin. "I was there,
~xête Dieu~! Well! comrade, is that any reason, because
you bored us to death this morning, that you should not
be hung this evening?"
"I shall find difficulty in getting out of it," said Gringoire
to himself. Nevertheless, he made one more effort: "I don't
see why poets are not classed with vagabonds," said he.
"Vagabond, Aesopus certainly was; Homerus was a beggar;
Mercurius was a thief--"
Clopin interrupted him: "I believe that you are trying to
blarney us with your jargon. Zounds! let yourself be hung,
and don't kick up such a row over it!"
"Pardon me, monseigneur, the King of Thunes," replied
Gringoire, disputing the ground foot by foot. "It is worth
trouble--One moment!--Listen to me--You are not going
to condemn me without having heard me"--
His unlucky voice was, in fact, drowned in the uproar which
rose around him. The little boy scraped away at his cauldron
with more spirit than ever; and, to crown all, an old woman
had just placed on the tripod a frying-pan of grease, which
hissed away on the fire with a noise similar to the cry of a
troop of children in pursuit of a masker.
In the meantime, Clopin Trouillefou appeared to hold a
momentary conference with the Duke of Egypt, and the
Emperor of Galilee, who was completely drunk. Then he
shouted shrilly: "Silence!" and, as the cauldron and the
frying-pan did not heed him, and continued their duet, he
jumped down from his hogshead, gave a kick to the boiler,
which rolled ten paces away bearing the child with it, a kick
to the frying-pan, which upset in the fire with all its grease,
and gravely remounted his throne, without troubling himself
about the stifled tears of the child, or the grumbling of the
old woman, whose supper was wasting away in a fine white flame.
Trouillefou made a sign, and the duke, the emperor, and
the passed masters of pickpockets, and the isolated robbers,
came and ranged themselves around him in a horseshoe, of
which Gringoire, still roughly held by the body, formed the
centre. It was a semicircle of rags, tatters, tinsel, pitchforks,
axes, legs staggering with intoxication, huge, bare arms, faces
sordid, dull, and stupid. In the midst of this Round Table of
beggary, Clopin Trouillefou,--as the doge of this senate, as
the king of this peerage, as the pope of this conclave,--
dominated; first by virtue of the height of his hogshead, and
next by virtue of an indescribable, haughty, fierce, and formidable
air, which caused his eyes to flash, and corrected in his
savage profile the bestial type of the race of vagabonds. One
would have pronounced him a boar amid a herd of swine.
"Listen," said he to Gringoire, fondling his misshapen chin
with his horny hand; "I don't see why you should not be
hung. It is true that it appears to be repugnant to you; and
it is very natural, for you bourgeois are not accustomed to it.
You form for yourselves a great idea of the thing. After all,
we don't wish you any harm. Here is a means of extricating
yourself from your predicament for the moment. Will you
become one of us?"
The reader can judge of the effect which this proposition
produced upon Gringoire, who beheld life slipping away from
him, and who was beginning to lose his hold upon it. He
clutched at it again with energy.
"Certainly I will, and right heartily," said he.
"Do you consent," resumed Clopin, "to enroll yourself among the
people of the knife?"
"Of the knife, precisely," responded Gringoire.
"You recognize yourself as a member of the free bourgeoisie?"*
added the King of Thunes.
* A high-toned sharper.
"Of the free bourgeoisie."
"Subject of the Kingdom of Argot?"
"Of the Kingdom of Argot*."
"In your soul?"
"In my soul."
"I must call your attention to the fact," continued the
king, "that you will be hung all the same."
"The devil!" said the poet.
"Only," continued Clopin imperturbably, "you will be hung
later on, with more ceremony, at the expense of the good city
of Paris, on a handsome stone gibbet, and by honest men.
That is a consolation."
"Just so," responded Gringoire.
"There are other advantages. In your quality of a high-toned
sharper, you will not have to pay the taxes on mud, or
the poor, or lanterns, to which the bourgeois of Paris are
"So be it," said the poet. "I agree. I am a vagabond, a
thief, a sharper, a man of the knife, anything you please; and
I am all that already, monsieur, King of Thunes, for I am a
philosopher; ~et omnia in philosophia, omnes in philosopho
continentur~,--all things are contained in philosophy, all men in
the philosopher, as you know."
The King of Thunes scowled.
"What do you take me for, my friend? What Hungarian
Jew patter are you jabbering at us? I don't know Hebrew.
One isn't a Jew because one is a bandit. I don't even steal
any longer. I'm above that; I kill. Cut-throat, yes;
Gringoire tried to slip in some excuse between these curt
words, which wrath rendered more and more jerky.
"I ask your pardon, monseigneur. It is not Hebrew; 'tis Latin."
"I tell you," resumed Clopin angrily, "that I'm not a Jew,
and that I'll have you hung, belly of the synagogue, like that
little shopkeeper of Judea, who is by your side, and whom I
entertain strong hopes of seeing nailed to a counter one of
these days, like the counterfeit coin that he is!"
So saying, he pointed his finger at the little, bearded Hungarian
Jew who had accosted Gringoire with his ~facitote caritatem~,
and who, understanding no other language beheld with
surprise the King of Thunes's ill-humor overflow upon him.
At length Monsieur Clopin calmed down.
"So you will be a vagabond, you knave?" he said to our poet.
"Of course," replied the poet.
"Willing is not all," said the surly Clopin; "good will
doesn't put one onion the more into the soup, and 'tis good
for nothing except to go to Paradise with; now, Paradise and
the thieves' band are two different things. In order to be
received among the thieves,* you must prove that you are
good for something, and for that purpose, you must search the
"I'll search anything you like," said Gringoire.
Clopin made a sign. Several thieves detached themselves
from the circle, and returned a moment later. They brought
two thick posts, terminated at their lower extremities in
spreading timber supports, which made them stand readily
upon the ground; to the upper extremity of the two posts
they fitted a cross-beam, and the whole constituted a very
pretty portable gibbet, which Gringoire had the satisfaction of
beholding rise before him, in a twinkling. Nothing was lacking,
not even the rope, which swung gracefully over the cross-beam.
"What are they going to do?" Gringoire asked himself
with some uneasiness. A sound of bells, which he heard at
that moment, put an end to his anxiety; it was a stuffed
manikin, which the vagabonds were suspending by the neck
from the rope, a sort of scarecrow dressed in red, and so
hung with mule-bells and larger bells, that one might have
tricked out thirty Castilian mules with them. These thousand
tiny bells quivered for some time with the vibration of the
rope, then gradually died away, and finally became silent
when the manikin had been brought into a state of immobility
by that law of the pendulum which has dethroned the water
clock and the hour-glass.
Then Clopin, pointing out to Gringoire a rickety old stool
placed beneath the manikin,--
"Climb up there."
"Death of the devil!" objected Gringoire; "I shall break
my neck. Your stool limps like one of Martial's distiches;
it has one hexameter leg and one pentameter leg."
"Climb!" repeated Clopin.
Gringoire mounted the stool, and succeeded, not without
some oscillations of head and arms, in regaining his centre of
"Now," went on the King of Thunes, "twist your right
foot round your left leg, and rise on the tip of your left foot."
"Monseigneur," said Gringoire, "so you absolutely insist
on my breaking some one of my limbs?"
Clopin tossed his head.
"Hark ye, my friend, you talk too much. Here's the gist
of the matter in two words: you are to rise on tiptoe, as I
tell you; in that way you will be able to reach the pocket of
the manikin, you will rummage it, you will pull out the purse
that is there,--and if you do all this without our hearing
the sound of a bell, all is well: you shall be a vagabond.
All we shall then have to do, will be to thrash you soundly
for the space of a week."
"~Ventre-Dieu~! I will be careful," said Gringoire. "And
suppose I do make the bells sound?"
"Then you will be hanged. Do you understand?"
"I don't understand at all," replied Gringoire.
"Listen, once more. You are to search the manikin, and
take away its purse; if a single bell stirs during the operation,
you will be hung. Do you understand that?"
"Good," said Gringoire; "I understand that. And then?"
"If you succeed in removing the purse without our hearing
the bells, you are a vagabond, and you will be thrashed for
eight consecutive days. You understand now, no doubt?"
"No, monseigneur; I no longer understand. Where is the
advantage to me? hanged in one case, cudgelled in the other?"
"And a vagabond," resumed Clopin, "and a vagabond; is
that nothing? It is for your interest that we should beat
you, in order to harden you to blows."
"Many thanks," replied the poet.
"Come, make haste," said the king, stamping upon his
cask, which resounded like a huge drum! Search the manikin,
and let there be an end to this! I warn you for the last
time, that if I hear a single bell, you will take the place of
The band of thieves applauded Clopin's words, and arranged
themselves in a circle round the gibbet, with a laugh so pitiless
that Gringoire perceived that he amused them too much
not to have everything to fear from them. No hope was
left for him, accordingly, unless it were the slight chance
of succeeding in the formidable operation which was imposed
upon him; he decided to risk it, but it was not without first
having addressed a fervent prayer to the manikin he was
about to plunder, and who would have been easier to move
to pity than the vagabonds. These myriad bells, with their
little copper tongues, seemed to him like the mouths of so
many asps, open and ready to sting and to hiss.
"Oh!" he said, in a very low voice, "is it possible that my
life depends on the slightest vibration of the least of these
bells? Oh!" he added, with clasped hands, "bells, do not
ring, hand-bells do not clang, mule-bells do not quiver!"
He made one more attempt upon Trouillefou.
"And if there should come a gust of wind?"
"You will be hanged," replied the other, without hesitation.
Perceiving that no respite, nor reprieve, nor subterfuge was
possible, he bravely decided upon his course of action; he
wound his right foot round his left leg, raised himself on his
left foot, and stretched out his arm: but at the moment
when his hand touched the manikin, his body, which was now
supported upon one leg only, wavered on the stool which had
but three; he made an involuntary effort to support himself
by the manikin, lost his balance, and fell heavily to the
ground, deafened by the fatal vibration of the thousand bells
of the manikin, which, yielding to the impulse imparted by
his hand, described first a rotary motion, and then swayed
majestically between the two posts.
"Malediction!" he cried as he fell, and remained as though
dead, with his face to the earth.
Meanwhile, he heard the dreadful peal above his head, the
diabolical laughter of the vagabonds, and the voice of
"Pick me up that knave, and hang him without ceremony."
He rose. They had already detached the manikin to make
room for him.
The thieves made him mount the stool, Clopin came to him,
passed the rope about his neck, and, tapping him on the
"Adieu, my friend. You can't escape now, even if you
digested with the pope's guts."
The word "Mercy!" died away upon Gringoire's lips. He
cast his eyes about him; but there was no hope: all were
"Bellevigne de l'Etoile," said the King of Thunes to an
enormous vagabond, who stepped out from the ranks, "climb
upon the cross beam."
Bellevigne de l'Etoile nimbly mounted the transverse beam,
and in another minute, Gringoire, on raising his eyes, beheld
him, with terror, seated upon the beam above his head.
"Now," resumed Clopin Trouillefou, "as soon as I clap my
hands, you, Andry the Red, will fling the stool to the ground
with a blow of your knee; you, François Chante-Prune, will
cling to the feet of the rascal; and you, Bellevigne, will fling
yourself on his shoulders; and all three at once, do you
"Are you ready?" said Clopin Trouillefou to the three
thieves, who held themselves in readiness to fall upon
Gringoire. A moment of horrible suspense ensued for the poor
victim, during which Clopin tranquilly thrust into the fire
with the tip of his foot, some bits of vine shoots which the
flame had not caught. "Are you ready?" he repeated, and
opened his hands to clap. One second more and all would
have been over.
But he paused, as though struck by a sudden thought.
"One moment!" said he; "I forgot! It is our custom not
to hang a man without inquiring whether there is any woman
who wants him. Comrade, this is your last resource. You
must wed either a female vagabond or the noose."
This law of the vagabonds, singular as it may strike the
reader, remains to-day written out at length, in ancient English
legislation. (See _Burington's Observations_.)
Gringoire breathed again. This was the second time that
he had returned to life within an hour. So he did not dare
to trust to it too implicitly.
"Holà!" cried Clopin, mounted once more upon his cask,
"holà! women, females, is there among you, from the sorceress
to her cat, a wench who wants this rascal? Holà, Colette
la Charonne! Elisabeth Trouvain! Simone Jodouyne!
Marie Piédebou! Thonne la Longue! Bérarde Fanouel! Michelle
Genaille! Claude Ronge-oreille! Mathurine Girorou!--Holà!
Isabeau-la-Thierrye! Come and see! A man for nothing!
Who wants him?"
Gringoire, no doubt, was not very appetizing in this miserable
condition. The female vagabonds did not seem to be
much affected by the proposition. The unhappy wretch
heard them answer: "No! no! hang him; there'll be the more
fun for us all!"
Nevertheless, three emerged from the throng and came to
smell of him. The first was a big wench, with a square face.
She examined the philosopher's deplorable doublet attentively.
His garment was worn, and more full of holes than a stove for
roasting chestnuts. The girl made a wry face. "Old rag!" she
muttered, and addressing Gringoire, "Let's see your cloak!"
"I have lost it," replied Gringoire. "Your hat?" "They took
it away from me." "Your shoes?" "They have hardly any
soles left." "Your purse?" "Alas!" stammered Gringoire, "I
have not even a sou." "Let them hang you, then, and say 'Thank
you!'" retorted the vagabond wench, turning her back on him.
The second,--old, black, wrinkled, hideous, with an ugliness
conspicuous even in the Cour des Miracles, trotted round Gringoire.
He almost trembled lest she should want him. But she
mumbled between her teeth, "He's too thin," and went off.
The third was a young girl, quite fresh, and not too ugly.
"Save me!" said the poor fellow to her, in a low tone. She
gazed at him for a moment with an air of pity, then dropped
her eyes, made a plait in her petticoat, and remained in indecision.
He followed all these movements with his eyes; it
was the last gleam of hope. "No," said the young girl, at
length, "no! Guillaume Longuejoue would beat me." She
retreated into the crowd.
"You are unlucky, comrade," said Clopin.
Then rising to his feet, upon his hogshead. "No one wants
him," he exclaimed, imitating the accent of an auctioneer, to
the great delight of all; "no one wants him? once, twice,
three times!" and, turning towards the gibbet with a sign of
his hand, "Gone!"
Bellevigne de l'Etoile, Andry the Red, François Chante-Prune,
stepped up to Gringoire.
At that moment a cry arose among the thieves: "La Esmeralda!
Gringoire shuddered, and turned towards the side whence the
The crowd opened, and gave passage to a pure and dazzling
It was the gypsy.
"La Esmeralda!" said Gringoire, stupefied in the midst of
his emotions, by the abrupt manner in which that magic word
knotted together all his reminiscences of the day.
This rare creature seemed, even in the Cour des Miracles,
to exercise her sway of charm and beauty. The vagabonds,
male and female, ranged themselves gently along her path, and
their brutal faces beamed beneath her glance.
She approached the victim with her light step. Her pretty
Djali followed her. Gringoire was more dead than alive. She
examined him for a moment in silence.
"You are going to hang this man?" she said gravely, to Clopin.
"Yes, sister," replied the King of Thunes, "unless you will
take him for your husband."
She made her pretty little pout with her under lip. "I'll take
him," said she.
Gringoire firmly believed that he had been in a dream ever
since morning, and that this was the continuation of it.
The change was, in fact, violent, though a gratifying one.
They undid the noose, and made the poet step down from the
stool. His emotion was so lively that he was obliged to sit down.
The Duke of Egypt brought an earthenware crock, without
uttering a word. The gypsy offered it to Gringoire: "Fling
it on the ground," said she.
The crock broke into four pieces.
"Brother," then said the Duke of Egypt, laying his hands
upon their foreheads, "she is your wife; sister, he is your
husband for four years. Go."
A BRIDAL NIGHT.
A few moments later our poet found himself in a tiny
arched chamber, very cosy, very warm, seated at a table
which appeared to ask nothing better than to make some loans
from a larder hanging near by, having a good bed in prospect,
and alone with a pretty girl. The adventure smacked of
enchantment. He began seriously to take himself for a personage
in a fairy tale; he cast his eyes about him from time
to time to time, as though to see if the chariot of fire, harnessed
to two-winged chimeras, which alone could have so
rapidly transported him from Tartarus to Paradise, were still
there. At times, also, he fixed his eyes obstinately upon the
holes in his doublet, in order to cling to reality, and not lose
the ground from under his feet completely. His reason,
tossed about in imaginary space, now hung only by this
The young girl did not appear to pay any attention to him;
she went and came, displaced a stool, talked to her goat, and
indulged in a pout now and then. At last she came and
seated herself near the table, and Gringoire was able to
scrutinize her at his ease.
You have been a child, reader, and you would, perhaps, be
very happy to be one still. It is quite certain that you have
not, more than once (and for my part, I have passed whole
days, the best employed of my life, at it) followed from
thicket to thicket, by the side of running water, on a sunny
day, a beautiful green or blue dragon-fly, breaking its flight
in abrupt angles, and kissing the tips of all the branches.
You recollect with what amorous curiosity your thought and
your gaze were riveted upon this little whirlwind, hissing
and humming with wings of purple and azure, in the midst
of which floated an imperceptible body, veiled by the very
rapidity of its movement. The aerial being which was dimly
outlined amid this quivering of wings, appeared to you chimerical,
imaginary, impossible to touch, impossible to see.
But when, at length, the dragon-fly alighted on the tip of a
reed, and, holding your breath the while, you were able to examine
the long, gauze wings, the long enamel robe, the two
globes of crystal, what astonishment you felt, and what fear
lest you should again behold the form disappear into a shade,
and the creature into a chimera! Recall these impressions,
and you will readily appreciate what Gringoire felt on
contemplating, beneath her visible and palpable form, that
Esmeralda of whom, up to that time, he had only caught a
glimpse, amidst a whirlwind of dance, song, and tumult.
Sinking deeper and deeper into his revery: "So this,"
he said to himself, following her vaguely with his eyes, "is
la Esmeralda! a celestial creature! a street dancer! so much,
and so little! 'Twas she who dealt the death-blow to my
mystery this morning, 'tis she who saves my life this
evening! My evil genius! My good angel! A pretty woman,
on my word! and who must needs love me madly to have
taken me in that fashion. By the way," said he, rising
suddenly, with that sentiment of the true which formed the
foundation of his character and his philosophy, "I don't
know very well how it happens, but I am her husband!"
With this idea in his head and in his eyes, he stepped up
to the young girl in a manner so military and so gallant
that she drew back.
"What do you want of me?" said she.
"Can you ask me, adorable Esmeralda?" replied Gringoire,
with so passionate an accent that he was himself astonished
at it on hearing himself speak.
The gypsy opened her great eyes. "I don't know what
"What!" resumed Gringoire, growing warmer and warmer,
and supposing that, after all, he had to deal merely with a
virtue of the Cour des Miracles; "am I not thine, sweet friend,
art thou not mine?"
And, quite ingenuously, he clasped her waist.
The gypsy's corsage slipped through his hands like the skin
of an eel. She bounded from one end of the tiny room to the
other, stooped down, and raised herself again, with a little
poniard in her hand, before Gringoire had even had time to
see whence the poniard came; proud and angry, with swelling
lips and inflated nostrils, her cheeks as red as an api
apple,* and her eyes darting lightnings. At the same time,
the white goat placed itself in front of her, and presented to
Gringoire a hostile front, bristling with two pretty horns,
gilded and very sharp. All this took place in the twinkling
of an eye.
* A small dessert apple, bright red on one side and greenish-
white on the other.
The dragon-fly had turned into a wasp, and asked nothing
better than to sting.
Our philosopher was speechless, and turned his astonished
eyes from the goat to the young girl. "Holy Virgin!" he
said at last, when surprise permitted him to speak, "here are
two hearty dames!"
The gypsy broke the silence on her side.
"You must be a very bold knave!"
"Pardon, mademoiselle," said Gringoire, with a smile. "But
why did you take me for your husband?"
"Should I have allowed you to be hanged?"
"So," said the poet, somewhat disappointed in his amorous
hopes. "You had no other idea in marrying me than to save
me from the gibbet?"
"And what other idea did you suppose that I had?"
Gringoire bit his lips. "Come," said he, "I am not yet so
triumphant in Cupido, as I thought. But then, what was the
good of breaking that poor jug?"
Meanwhile Esmeralda's dagger and the goat's horns were
still upon the defensive.
"Mademoiselle Esmeralda," said the poet, "let us come to
terms. I am not a clerk of the court, and I shall not go to
law with you for thus carrying a dagger in Paris, in the teeth
of the ordinances and prohibitions of M. the Provost.
Nevertheless, you are not ignorant of the fact that Noel
Lescrivain was condemned, a week ago, to pay ten Parisian sous,
for having carried a cutlass. But this is no affair of mine, and
I will come to the point. I swear to you, upon my share of
Paradise, not to approach you without your leave and permission,
but do give me some supper."
The truth is, Gringoire was, like M. Despreaux, "not very
voluptuous." He did not belong to that chevalier and musketeer
species, who take young girls by assault. In the matter
of love, as in all other affairs, he willingly assented to
temporizing and adjusting terms; and a good supper, and an amiable
tête-a-tête appeared to him, especially when he was hungry,
an excellent interlude between the prologue and the catastrophe
of a love adventure.
The gypsy did not reply. She made her disdainful little
grimace, drew up her head like a bird, then burst out laughing,
and the tiny poniard disappeared as it had come, without
Gringoire being able to see where the wasp concealed its sting.
A moment later, there stood upon the table a loaf of rye
bread, a slice of bacon, some wrinkled apples and a jug of
beer. Gringoire began to eat eagerly. One would have said,
to hear the furious clashing of his iron fork and his
earthenware plate, that all his love had turned to appetite.
The young girl seated opposite him, watched him in silence,
visibly preoccupied with another thought, at which she smiled
from time to time, while her soft hand caressed the intelligent
head of the goat, gently pressed between her knees.
A candle of yellow wax illuminated this scene of voracity
Meanwhile, the first cravings of his stomach having been
stilled, Gringoire felt some false shame at perceiving that
nothing remained but one apple.
"You do not eat, Mademoiselle Esmeralda?"
She replied by a negative sign of the head, and her pensive
glance fixed itself upon the vault of the ceiling.
"What the deuce is she thinking of?" thought Gringoire,
staring at what she was gazing at; "'tis impossible that it can
be that stone dwarf carved in the keystone of that arch, which
thus absorbs her attention. What the deuce! I can bear the
He raised his voice, "Mademoiselle!"
She seemed not to hear him.
He repeated, still more loudly, "Mademoiselle Esmeralda!"
Trouble wasted. The young girl's mind was elsewhere, and
Gringoire's voice had not the power to recall it. Fortunately,
the goat interfered. She began to pull her mistress gently
by the sleeve.
"What dost thou want, Djali?" said the gypsy, hastily, as though
"She is hungry," said Gringoire, charmed to enter into conversation.
Esmeralda began to crumble some bread, which Djali ate gracefully
from the hollow of her hand.
Moreover, Gringoire did not give her time to resume her
revery. He hazarded a delicate question.
"So you don't want me for your husband?"
The young girl looked at him intently, and said, "No."
"For your lover?" went on Gringoire.
She pouted, and replied, "No."
"For your friend?" pursued Gringoire.
She gazed fixedly at him again, and said, after a momentary
This "perhaps," so dear to philosophers, emboldened Gringoire.
"Do you know what friendship is?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the gypsy; "it is to be brother and sister; two
souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand."
"And love?" pursued Gringoire.
"Oh! love!" said she, and her voice trembled, and her eye
beamed. "That is to be two and to be but one. A man and a
woman mingled into one angel. It is heaven."
The street dancer had a beauty as she spoke thus, that
struck Gringoire singularly, and seemed to him in perfect
keeping with the almost oriental exaltation of her words.
Her pure, red lips half smiled; her serene and candid brow
became troubled, at intervals, under her thoughts, like a mirror
under the breath; and from beneath her long, drooping, black
eyelashes, there escaped a sort of ineffable light, which gave
to her profile that ideal serenity which Raphael found at
the mystic point of intersection of virginity, maternity,
Nevertheless, Gringoire continued,--
"What must one be then, in order to please you?"
"And I--" said he, "what, then, am I?"
"A man has a hemlet on his head, a sword in his hand, and
golden spurs on his heels."
"Good," said Gringoire, "without a horse, no man. Do
you love any one?"
"As a lover?--"
She remained thoughtful for a moment, then said with a
peculiar expression: "That I shall know soon."
"Why not this evening?" resumed the poet tenderly. "Why
She cast a grave glance upon him and said,--
"I can never love a man who cannot protect me."
Gringoire colored, and took the hint. It was evident that
the young girl was alluding to the slight assistance which he
had rendered her in the critical situation in which she had
found herself two hours previously. This memory, effaced by
his own adventures of the evening, now recurred to him. He
smote his brow.
"By the way, mademoiselle, I ought to have begun there.
Pardon my foolish absence of mind. How did you contrive
to escape from the claws of Quasimodo?"
This question made the gypsy shudder.
"Oh! the horrible hunchback," said she, hiding her face in
her hands. And she shuddered as though with violent cold.
"Horrible, in truth," said Gringoire, who clung to his idea;
"but how did you manage to escape him?"
La Esmeralda smiled, sighed, and remained silent.
"Do you know why he followed you?" began Gringoire again,
seeking to return to his question by a circuitous route.
"I don't know," said the young girl, and she added hastily,
"but you were following me also, why were you following me?"
"In good faith," responded Gringoire, "I don't know either."
Silence ensued. Gringoire slashed the table with his knife.
The young girl smiled and seemed to be gazing through the
wall at something. All at once she began to sing in a barely
~Quando las pintadas aves,
Mudas estan, y la tierra~--*
* When the gay-plumaged birds grow weary, and the earth--
She broke off abruptly, and began to caress Djali.
"That's a pretty animal of yours," said Gringoire.
"She is my sister," she answered.
"Why are you called 'la Esmeralda?'" asked the poet.
"I do not know."
She drew from her bosom a sort of little oblong bag, suspended
from her neck by a string of adrézarach beads. This
bag exhaled a strong odor of camphor. It was covered with
green silk, and bore in its centre a large piece of green glass,
in imitation of an emerald.
"Perhaps it is because of this," said she.
Gringoire was on the point of taking the bag in his hand.
She drew back.
"Don't touch it! It is an amulet. You would injure the
charm or the charm would injure you."
The poet's curiosity was more and more aroused.
"Who gave it to you?"
She laid one finger on her mouth and concealed the amulet
in her bosom. He tried a few more questions, but she
"What is the meaning of the words, 'la Esmeralda?'"
"I don't know," said she.
"To what language do they belong?"
"They are Egyptian, I think."
"I suspected as much," said Gringoire, "you are not a
native of France?"
"I don't know."
"Are your parents alive?"
She began to sing, to an ancient air,--
~Mon père est oiseau,
Ma mère est oiselle.
Je passe l'eau sans nacelle,
Je passe l'eau sans bateau,
Ma mère est oiselle,
Mon père est oiseau~.*
* My father is a bird, my mother is a bird. I cross the
water without a barque, I cross the water without a boat.
My mother is a bird, my father is a bird.
"Good," said Gringoire. "At what age did you come to France?"
"When I was very young."
"And when to Paris?"
"Last year. At the moment when we were entering the
papal gate I saw a reed warbler flit through the air, that was
at the end of August; I said, it will be a hard winter."
"So it was," said Gringoire, delighted at this beginning of
a conversation. "I passed it in blowing my fingers. So
you have the gift of prophecy?"
She retired into her laconics again.
"Is that man whom you call the Duke of Egypt, the chief
of your tribe?"
"But it was he who married us," remarked the poet timidly.
She made her customary pretty grimace.
"I don't even know your name."
"My name? If you want it, here it is,--Pierre Gringoire."
"I know a prettier one," said she.
"Naughty girl!" retorted the poet. "Never mind, you shall
not provoke me. Wait, perhaps you will love me more when
you know me better; and then, you have told me your story
with so much confidence, that I owe you a little of mine. You
must know, then, that my name is Pierre Gringoire, and that
I am a son of the farmer of the notary's office of Gonesse.
My father was hung by the Burgundians, and my mother
disembowelled by the Picards, at the siege of Paris, twenty years
ago. At six years of age, therefore, I was an orphan, without
a sole to my foot except the pavements of Paris. I do not
know how I passed the interval from six to sixteen. A fruit
dealer gave me a plum here, a baker flung me a crust there;
in the evening I got myself taken up by the watch, who threw
me into prison, and there I found a bundle of straw. All this
did not prevent my growing up and growing thin, as you see.
In the winter I warmed myself in the sun, under the porch of
the Hôtel de Sens, and I thought it very ridiculous that the
fire on Saint John's Day was reserved for the dog days. At
sixteen, I wished to choose a calling. I tried all in succession.
I became a soldier; but I was not brave enough. I became a
monk; but I was not sufficiently devout; and then I'm a bad
hand at drinking. In despair, I became an apprentice of the
woodcutters, but I was not strong enough; I had more of
an inclination to become a schoolmaster; 'tis true that I did
not know how to read, but that's no reason. I perceived at
the end of a certain time, that I lacked something in every
direction; and seeing that I was good for nothing, of my own
free will I became a poet and rhymester. That is a trade
which one can always adopt when one is a vagabond, and it's
better than stealing, as some young brigands of my acquaintance
advised me to do. One day I met by luck, Dom Claude
Frollo, the reverend archdeacon of Notre-Dame. He took an
interest in me, and it is to him that I to-day owe it that I am a
veritable man of letters, who knows Latin from the ~de Officiis~
of Cicero to the mortuology of the Celestine Fathers, and a
barbarian neither in scholastics, nor in politics, nor in rhythmics,
that sophism of sophisms. I am the author of the Mystery
which was presented to-day with great triumph and a great
concourse of populace, in the grand hall of the Palais de Justice.
I have also made a book which will contain six hundred
pages, on the wonderful comet of 1465, which sent one man
mad. I have enjoyed still other successes. Being somewhat
of an artillery carpenter, I lent a hand to Jean Mangue's great
bombard, which burst, as you know, on the day when it was
tested, on the Pont de Charenton, and killed four and twenty
curious spectators. You see that I am not a bad match in
marriage. I know a great many sorts of very engaging tricks,
which I will teach your goat; for example, to mimic the
Bishop of Paris, that cursed Pharisee whose mill wheels
splash passers-by the whole length of the Pont aux Meuniers.
And then my mystery will bring me in a great deal of coined
money, if they will only pay me. And finally, I am at your
orders, I and my wits, and my science and my letters, ready
to live with you, damsel, as it shall please you, chastely or
joyously; husband and wife, if you see fit; brother and sister,
if you think that better."
Gringoire ceased, awaiting the effect of his harangue on the
young girl. Her eyes were fixed on the ground.
"'Phoebus,'" she said in a low voice. Then, turning towards
the poet, "'Phoebus',--what does that mean?"
Gringoire, without exactly understanding what the connection
could be between his address and this question, was not
sorry to display his erudition. Assuming an air of importance,
"It is a Latin word which means 'sun.'"
"Sun!" she repeated.
"It is the name of a handsome archer, who was a god,"
"A god!" repeated the gypsy, and there was something pensive and
passionate in her tone.
At that moment, one of her bracelets became unfastened
and fell. Gringoire stooped quickly to pick it up; when he
straightened up, the young girl and the goat had disappeared.
He heard the sound of a bolt. It was a little door, communicating,
no doubt, with a neighboring cell, which was being
fastened on the outside.
"Has she left me a bed, at least?" said our philosopher.
He made the tour of his cell. There was no piece of furniture
adapted to sleeping purposes, except a tolerably long
wooden coffer; and its cover was carved, to boot; which
afforded Gringoire, when he stretched himself out upon it, a
sensation somewhat similar to that which Micromégas would
feel if he were to lie down on the Alps.
"Come!" said he, adjusting himself as well as possible, "I
must resign myself. But here's a strange nuptial night. 'Tis
a pity. There was something innocent and antediluvian about
that broken crock, which quite pleased me."
The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a
majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been
preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to
wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations
which time and men have both caused the venerable monument
to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its
first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.
On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the
side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. ~Tempus edax,
homo edacior*~; which I should be glad to translate thus:
time is blind, man is stupid.
* Time is a devourer; man, more so.
If we had leisure to examine with the reader, one by one,
the diverse traces of destruction imprinted upon the old
church, time's share would be the least, the share of men the
most, especially the men of art, since there have been individuals
who assumed the title of architects during the last two
And, in the first place, to cite only a few leading examples,
there certainly are few finer architectural pages than this
façade, where, successively and at once, the three portals
hollowed out in an arch; the broidered and dentated cordon
of the eight and twenty royal niches; the immense central
rose window, flanked by its two lateral windows, like a
priest by his deacon and subdeacon; the frail and lofty gallery
of trefoil arcades, which supports a heavy platform above its
fine, slender columns; and lastly, the two black and massive
towers with their slate penthouses, harmonious parts of a
magnificent whole, superposed in five gigantic stories;--develop
themselves before the eye, in a mass and without confusion,
with their innumerable details of statuary, carving, and
sculpture, joined powerfully to the tranquil grandeur of the
whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work
of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like
the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious
product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch,
where, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman
disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a
hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word,
powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems
to have stolen the double character,--variety, eternity.
And what we here say of the façade must be said of the
entire church; and what we say of the cathedral church of
Paris, must be said of all the churches of Christendom in the
Middle Ages. All things are in place in that art, self-created,
logical, and well proportioned. To measure the great toe of
the foot is to measure the giant.
Let us return to the façade of Notre-Dame, as it still
appears to us, when we go piously to admire the grave and
puissant cathedral, which inspires terror, so its chronicles
assert: ~quoe mole sua terrorem incutit spectantibus~.
Three important things are to-day lacking in that façade:
in the first place, the staircase of eleven steps which formerly
raised it above the soil; next, the lower series of statues
which occupied the niches of the three portals; and lastly the
upper series, of the twenty-eight most ancient kings of France,
which garnished the gallery of the first story, beginning with
Childebert, and ending with Phillip Augustus, holding in his
hand "the imperial apple."
Time has caused the staircase to disappear, by raising the
soil of the city with a slow and irresistible progress; but,
while thus causing the eleven steps which added to the majestic
height of the edifice, to be devoured, one by one, by the
rising tide of the pavements of Paris,--time has bestowed
upon the church perhaps more than it has taken away, for it
is time which has spread over the façade that sombre hue of
the centuries which makes the old age of monuments the
period of their beauty.
But who has thrown down the two rows of statues? who
has left the niches empty? who has cut, in the very middle of
the central portal, that new and bastard arch? who has dared
to frame therein that commonplace and heavy door of carved
wood, à la Louis XV., beside the arabesques of Biscornette?
The men, the architects, the artists of our day.
And if we enter the interior of the edifice, who has overthrown
that colossus of Saint Christopher, proverbial for magnitude
among statues, as the grand hall of the Palais de Justice
was among halls, as the spire of Strasbourg among spires?
And those myriads of statues, which peopled all the spaces
between the columns of the nave and the choir, kneeling,
standing, equestrian, men, women, children, kings, bishops,
gendarmes, in stone, in marble, in gold, in silver, in
copper, in wax even,--who has brutally swept them away?
It is not time.
And who substituted for the ancient gothic altar, splendidly
encumbered with shrines and reliquaries, that heavy marble
sarcophagus, with angels' heads and clouds, which seems a
specimen pillaged from the Val-de-Grâce or the Invalides?
Who stupidly sealed that heavy anachronism of stone in the
Carlovingian pavement of Hercandus? Was it not Louis
XIV., fulfilling the request of Louis XIII.?
And who put the cold, white panes in the place of those
windows," high in color, "which caused the astonished eyes
of our fathers to hesitate between the rose of the grand portal
and the arches of the apse? And what would a sub-chanter
of the sixteenth century say, on beholding the beautiful
yellow wash, with which our archiepiscopal vandals have
desmeared their cathedral? He would remember that it
was the color with which the hangman smeared "accursed"
edifices; he would recall the Hôtel du Petit-Bourbon, all
smeared thus, on account of the constable's treason. "Yellow,
after all, of so good a quality," said Sauval, "and so well
recommended, that more than a century has not yet caused
it to lose its color." He would think that the sacred place
had become infamous, and would flee.
And if we ascend the cathedral, without mentioning a thousand
barbarisms of every sort,--what has become of that
charming little bell tower, which rested upon the point of
intersection of the cross-roofs, and which, no less frail and no
less bold than its neighbor (also destroyed), the spire of the
Sainte-Chapelle, buried itself in the sky, farther forward than
the towers, slender, pointed, sonorous, carved in open work.
An architect of good taste amputated it (1787), and considered
it sufficient to mask the wound with that large, leaden
plaster, which resembles a pot cover.
'Tis thus that the marvellous art of the Middle Ages has
been treated in nearly every country, especially in France.
One can distinguish on its ruins three sorts of lesions, all
three of which cut into it at different depths; first, time,
which has insensibly notched its surface here and there, and
gnawed it everywhere; next, political and religious revolution,
which, blind and wrathful by nature, have flung themselves
tumultuously upon it, torn its rich garment of carving
and sculpture, burst its rose windows, broken its necklace of
arabesques and tiny figures, torn out its statues, sometimes
because of their mitres, sometimes because of their crowns;
lastly, fashions, even more grotesque and foolish, which, since
the anarchical and splendid deviations of the Renaissance,
have followed each other in the necessary decadence of
architecture. Fashions have wrought more harm than revolutions.
They have cut to the quick; they have attacked the very
bone and framework of art; they have cut, slashed, disorganized,
killed the edifice, in form as in the symbol, in its
consistency as well as in its beauty. And then they have
made it over; a presumption of which neither time nor
revolutions at least have been guilty. They have audaciously
adjusted, in the name of "good taste," upon the wounds of
gothic architecture, their miserable gewgaws of a day, their
ribbons of marble, their pompons of metal, a veritable leprosy
of egg-shaped ornaments, volutes, whorls, draperies, garlands,
fringes, stone flames, bronze clouds, pudgy cupids, chubby-
cheeked cherubim, which begin to devour the face of art in
the oratory of Catherine de Medicis, and cause it to expire,
two centuries later, tortured and grimacing, in the boudoir of
Thus, to sum up the points which we have just indicated,
three sorts of ravages to-day disfigure Gothic architecture.
Wrinkles and warts on the epidermis; this is the work of
time. Deeds of violence, brutalities, contusions, fractures;
this is the work of the revolutions from Luther to Mirabeau.
Mutilations, amputations, dislocation of the joints,
"restorations"; this is the Greek, Roman, and barbarian
work of professors according to Vitruvius and Vignole. This
magnificent art produced by the Vandals has been slain by the
academies. The centuries, the revolutions, which at least
devastate with impartiality and grandeur, have been joined by a
cloud of school architects, licensed, sworn, and bound by oath;
defacing with the discernment and choice of bad taste, substituting
the ~chicorées~ of Louis XV. for the Gothic lace, for the greater
glory of the Parthenon. It is the kick of the ass at the dying
lion. It is the old oak crowning itself, and which, to heap the
measure full, is stung, bitten, and gnawed by caterpillars.
How far it is from the epoch when Robert Cenalis, comparing
Notre-Dame de Paris to the famous temple of Diana at
Ephesus, *so much lauded by the ancient pagans*, which Erostatus
*has* immortalized, found the Gallic temple "more excellent
in length, breadth, height, and structure."*
* _Histoire Gallicane_, liv. II. Periode III. fo. 130, p. 1.
Notre-Dame is not, moreover, what can be called a complete,
definite, classified monument. It is no longer a Romanesque
church; nor is it a Gothic church. This edifice is
not a type. Notre-Dame de Paris has not, like the Abbey of
Tournus, the grave and massive frame, the large and round
vault, the glacial bareness, the majestic simplicity of the
edifices which have the rounded arch for their progenitor. It
is not, like the Cathedral of Bourges, the magnificent, light,
multiform, tufted, bristling efflorescent product of the pointed
arch. Impossible to class it in that ancient family of sombre,
mysterious churches, low and crushed as it were by the round
arch, almost Egyptian, with the exception of the ceiling; all
hieroglyphics, all sacerdotal, all symbolical, more loaded in
their ornaments, with lozenges and zigzags, than with flowers,
with flowers than with animals, with animals than with men;
the work of the architect less than of the bishop; first
transformation of art, all impressed with theocratic and military
discipline, taking root in the Lower Empire, and stopping
with the time of William the Conqueror. Impossible to place
our Cathedral in that other family of lofty, aerial churches,
rich in painted windows and sculpture; pointed in form,
bold in attitude; communal and bourgeois as political
symbols; free, capricious, lawless, as a work of art; second
transformation of architecture, no longer hieroglyphic,
immovable and sacerdotal, but artistic, progressive, and popular,
which begins at the return from the crusades, and ends with
Louis IX. Notre-Dame de Paris is not of pure Romanesque,
like the first; nor of pure Arabian race, like the second.
It is an edifice of the transition period. The Saxon architect
completed the erection of the first pillars of the nave,
when the pointed arch, which dates from the Crusade, arrived
and placed itself as a conqueror upon the large Romanesque
capitals which should support only round arches. The pointed
arch, mistress since that time, constructed the rest of the
church. Nevertheless, timid and inexperienced at the start,
it sweeps out, grows larger, restrains itself, and dares no
longer dart upwards in spires and lancet windows, as it did
later on, in so many marvellous cathedrals. One would say
that it were conscious of the vicinity of the heavy
However, these edifices of the transition from the Romanesque
to the Gothic, are no less precious for study than the
pure types. They express a shade of the art which would be
lost without them. It is the graft of the pointed upon the
Notre-Dame de Paris is, in particular, a curious specimen
of this variety. Each face, each stone of the venerable
monument, is a page not only of the history of the country, but
of the history of science and art as well. Thus, in order to
indicate here only the principal details, while the little Red
Door almost attains to the limits of the Gothic delicacy
of the fifteenth century, the pillars of the nave, by their
size and weight, go back to the Carlovingian Abbey of
Saint-Germain des Prés. One would suppose that six centuries
separated these pillars from that door. There is no one,
not even the hermetics, who does not find in the symbols of
the grand portal a satisfactory compendium of their science,
of which the Church of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie was
so complete a hieroglyph. Thus, the Roman abbey, the
philosophers' church, the Gothic art, Saxon art, the heavy,
round pillar, which recalls Gregory VII., the hermetic symbolism,
with which Nicolas Flamel played the prelude to Luther,
papal unity, schism, Saint-Germain des Prés, Saint-Jacques
de la Boucherie,--all are mingled, combined, amalgamated in
Notre-Dame. This central mother church is, among the
ancient churches of Paris, a sort of chimera; it has the head
of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something
We repeat it, these hybrid constructions are not the least
interesting for the artist, for the antiquarian, for the historian.
They make one feel to what a degree architecture is a primitive
thing, by demonstrating (what is also demonstrated by
the cyclopean vestiges, the pyramids of Egypt, the gigantic
Hindoo pagodas) that the greatest products of architecture
are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the
offspring of a nation's effort, than the inspired flash of a man
of genius; the deposit left by a whole people; the heaps
accumulated by centuries; the residue of successive evaporations
of human society,--in a word, species of formations.
Each wave of time contributes its alluvium, each race
deposits its layer on the monument, each individual brings
his stone. Thus do the beavers, thus do the bees, thus do
men. The great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a hive.
Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries.
Art often undergoes a transformation while they are pending,
~pendent opera interrupta~; they proceed quietly in accordance
with the transformed art. The new art takes the monument where
it finds it, incrusts itself there, assimilates it to itself,
develops it according to its fancy, and finishes it if it can.
The thing is accomplished without trouble, without effort,
without reaction,--following a natural and tranquil law. It
is a graft which shoots up, a sap which circulates, a vegetation
which starts forth anew. Certainly there is matter here for many
large volumes, and often the universal history of humanity in the
successive engrafting of many arts at many levels, upon the same
monument. The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these
great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence
is there summed up and totalized. Time is the architect, the nation
is the builder.
Not to consider here anything except the Christian architecture
of Europe, that younger sister of the great masonries
of the Orient, it appears to the eyes as an immense formation
divided into three well-defined zones, which are superposed,
the one upon the other: the Romanesque zone*, the
Gothic zone, the zone of the Renaissance, which we would
gladly call the Greco-Roman zone. The Roman layer, which
is the most ancient and deepest, is occupied by the round
arch, which reappears, supported by the Greek column, in
the modern and upper layer of the Renaissance. The pointed
arch is found between the two. The edifices which belong
exclusively to any one of these three layers are perfectly
distinct, uniform, and complete. There is the Abbey of
Jumiéges, there is the Cathedral of Reims, there is the
Sainte-Croix of Orleans. But the three zones mingle and
amalgamate along the edges, like the colors in the solar
spectrum. Hence, complex monuments, edifices of gradation and
transition. One is Roman at the base, Gothic in the middle,
Greco-Roman at the top. It is because it was six hundred
years in building. This variety is rare. The donjon keep
of d'Etampes is a specimen of it. But monuments of two
formations are more frequent. There is Notre-Dame de Paris, a
pointed-arch edifice, which is imbedded by its pillars in that
Roman zone, in which are plunged the portal of Saint-Denis,
and the nave of Saint-Germain des Prés. There is the charming,
half-Gothic chapter-house of Bocherville, where the
Roman layer extends half way up. There is the cathedral of
Rouen, which would be entirely Gothic if it did not bathe
the tip of its central spire in the zone of the Renaissance.**
* This is the same which is called, according to locality,
climate, and races, Lombard, Saxon, or Byzantine. There are
four sister and parallel architectures, each having its special
character, but derived from the same origin, the round arch.
~Facies non omnibus una,
No diversa tamen, qualem~, etc.
Their faces not all alike, nor yet different, but such as the
faces of sisters ought to be.
** This portion of the spire, which was of woodwork, is precisely
that which was consumed by lightning, in 1823.
However, all these shades, all these differences, do not
affect the surfaces of edifices only. It is art which has
changed its skin. The very constitution of the Christian
church is not attacked by it. There is always the same
internal woodwork, the same logical arrangement of parts.
Whatever may be the carved and embroidered envelope of a
cathedral, one always finds beneath it--in the state of a
germ, and of a rudiment at the least--the Roman basilica.
It is eternally developed upon the soil according to the same
law. There are, invariably, two naves, which intersect in a
cross, and whose upper portion, rounded into an apse, forms
the choir; there are always the side aisles, for interior
processions, for chapels,--a sort of lateral walks or promenades
where the principal nave discharges itself through the spaces
between the pillars. That settled, the number of chapels,
doors, bell towers, and pinnacles are modified to infinity,
according to the fancy of the century, the people, and art.
The service of religion once assured and provided for,
architecture does what she pleases. Statues, stained glass, rose
windows, arabesques, denticulations, capitals, bas-reliefs,--she
combines all these imaginings according to the arrangement
which best suits her. Hence, the prodigious exterior
variety of these edifices, at whose foundation dwells so much
order and unity. The trunk of a tree is immovable; the
foliage is capricious.
A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF PARIS.
We have just attempted to restore, for the reader's benefit,
that admirable church of Notre-Dame de Paris. We have
briefly pointed out the greater part of the beauties which it
possessed in the fifteenth century, and which it lacks to-day;
but we have omitted the principal thing,--the view of Paris
which was then to be obtained from the summits of its towers.
That was, in fact,--when, after having long groped one's
way up the dark spiral which perpendicularly pierces the
thick wall of the belfries, one emerged, at last abruptly, upon
one of the lofty platforms inundated with light and air,--that
was, in fact, a fine picture which spread out, on all sides at
once, before the eye; a spectacle ~sui generis~, of which those
of our readers who have had the good fortune to see a Gothic
city entire, complete, homogeneous,--a few of which still
remain, Nuremberg in Bavaria and Vittoria in Spain,--can
readily form an idea; or even smaller specimens, provided
that they are well preserved,--Vitré in Brittany, Nordhausen
The Paris of three hundred and fifty years ago--the Paris
of the fifteenth century--was already a gigantic city. We
Parisians generally make a mistake as to the ground which
we think that we have gained, since Paris has not increased
much over one-third since the time of Louis XI. It has
certainly lost more in beauty than it has gained in size.
Paris had its birth, as the reader knows, in that old island
of the City which has the form of a cradle. The strand of
that island was its first boundary wall, the Seine its first
moat. Paris remained for many centuries in its island state,
with two bridges, one on the north, the other on the south;
and two bridge heads, which were at the same time its
gates and its fortresses,--the Grand-Châtelet on the right
bank, the Petit-Châtelet on the left. Then, from the date of
the kings of the first race, Paris, being too cribbed and
confined in its island, and unable to return thither, crossed
the water. Then, beyond the Grand, beyond the Petit-Châtelet,
a first circle of walls and towers began to infringe upon the
country on the two sides of the Seine. Some vestiges of this
ancient enclosure still remained in the last century; to-day,
only the memory of it is left, and here and there a tradition,
the Baudets or Baudoyer gate, "Porte Bagauda".
Little by little, the tide of houses, always thrust from the
heart of the city outwards, overflows, devours, wears away,
and effaces this wall. Philip Augustus makes a new dike for
it. He imprisons Paris in a circular chain of great towers,
both lofty and solid. For the period of more than a century,
the houses press upon each other, accumulate, and raise their
level in this basin, like water in a reservoir. They begin to
deepen; they pile story upon story; they mount upon each
other; they gush forth at the top, like all laterally compressed
growth, and there is a rivalry as to which shall thrust
its head above its neighbors, for the sake of getting a little
air. The street glows narrower and deeper, every space is
overwhelmed and disappears. The houses finally leap the
wall of Philip Augustus, and scatter joyfully over the plain,
without order, and all askew, like runaways. There they
plant themselves squarely, cut themselves gardens from the
fields, and take their ease. Beginning with 1367, the city
spreads to such an extent into the suburbs, that a new wall
becomes necessary, particularly on the right bank; Charles V.
builds it. But a city like Paris is perpetually growing. It is
only such cities that become capitals. They are funnels, into
which all the geographical, political, moral, and intellectual
water-sheds of a country, all the natural slopes of a people,
pour; wells of civilization, so to speak, and also sewers, where
commerce, industry, intelligence, population,--all that is sap,
all that is life, all that is the soul of a nation, filters and
amasses unceasingly, drop by drop, century by century.
So Charles V.'s wall suffered the fate of that of Philip
Augustus. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Faubourg
strides across it, passes beyond it, and runs farther. In the
sixteenth, it seems to retreat visibly, and to bury itself deeper
and deeper in the old city, so thick had the new city already
become outside of it. Thus, beginning with the fifteenth
century, where our story finds us, Paris had already outgrown
the three concentric circles of walls which, from the time of
Julian the Apostate, existed, so to speak, in germ in the
Grand-Châtelet and the Petit-Châtelet. The mighty city had
cracked, in succession, its four enclosures of walls, like a
child grown too large for his garments of last year. Under
Louis XI., this sea of houses was seen to be pierced at
intervals by several groups of ruined towers, from the ancient
wall, like the summits of hills in an inundation,--like
archipelagos of the old Paris submerged beneath the new.
Since that time Paris has undergone yet another transformation,
unfortunately for our eyes; but it has passed only one
more wall, that of Louis XV., that miserable wall of mud and
spittle, worthy of the king who built it, worthy of the poet
who sung it,--
~Le mur murant Paris rend Paris murmurant~.*
* The wall walling Paris makes Paris murmur.
In the fifteenth century, Paris was still divided into three
wholly distinct and separate towns, each having its own
physiognomy, its own specialty, its manners, customs, privileges,
and history: the City, the University, the Town. The City,
which occupied the island, was the most ancient, the smallest,
and the mother of the other two, crowded in between them
like (may we be pardoned the comparison) a little old woman
between two large and handsome maidens. The University
covered the left bank of the Seine, from the Tournelle to the
Tour de Nesle, points which correspond in the Paris of to-day,
the one to the wine market, the other to the mint. Its wall
included a large part of that plain where Julian had built his
hot baths. The hill of Sainte-Geneviève was enclosed in it.
The culminating point of this sweep of walls was the Papal
gate, that is to say, near the present site of the Pantheon.
The Town, which was the largest of the three fragments of
Paris, held the right bank. Its quay, broken or interrupted
in many places, ran along the Seine, from the Tour de Billy
to the Tour du Bois; that is to say, from the place where the
granary stands to-day, to the present site of the Tuileries.
These four points, where the Seine intersected the wall of the
capital, the Tournelle and the Tour de Nesle on the right, the
Tour de Billy and the Tour du Bois on the left, were called
pre-eminently, "the four towers of Paris." The Town encroached
still more extensively upon the fields than the University.
The culminating point of the Town wall (that of Charles V.)
was at the gates of Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin, whose situation
has not been changed.
As we have just said, each of these three great divisions of
Paris was a town, but too special a town to be complete, a city
which could not get along without the other two. Hence three
entirely distinct aspects: churches abounded in the City; palaces,
in the Town; and colleges, in the University. Neglecting
here the originalities, of secondary importance in old
Paris, and the capricious regulations regarding the public
highways, we will say, from a general point of view, taking
only masses and the whole group, in this chaos of communal
jurisdictions, that the island belonged to the bishop, the right
bank to the provost of the merchants, the left bank to the
Rector; over all ruled the provost of Paris, a royal not
a municipal official. The City had Notre-Dame; the Town, the
Louvre and the Hôtel de Ville; the University, the Sorbonne.
The Town had the markets (Halles); the city, the Hospital;
the University, the Pré-aux-Clercs. Offences committed by
the scholars on the left bank were tried in the law courts on
the island, and were punished on the right bank at Montfauçon;
unless the rector, feeling the university to be strong and
the king weak, intervened; for it was the students' privilege
to be hanged on their own grounds.
The greater part of these privileges, it may be noted in
passing, and there were some even better than the above, had
been extorted from the kings by revolts and mutinies. It is
the course of things from time immemorial; the king only
lets go when the people tear away. There is an old charter
which puts the matter naively: apropos of fidelity: ~Civibus
fidelitas in reges, quoe tamen aliquoties seditionibus
interrypta, multa peperit privileyia~.
In the fifteenth century, the Seine bathed five islands within
the walls of Paris: Louviers island, where there were then
trees, and where there is no longer anything but wood; l'ile
aux Vaches, and l'ile Notre-Dame, both deserted, with the
exception of one house, both fiefs of the bishop--in the
seventeenth century, a single island was formed out of these
two, which was built upon and named l'ile Saint-Louis--,
lastly the City, and at its point, the little islet of the cow
tender, which was afterwards engulfed beneath the platform
of the Pont-Neuf. The City then had five bridges: three on
the right, the Pont Notre-Dame, and the Pont au Change, of
stone, the Pont aux Meuniers, of wood; two on the left, the
Petit Pont, of stone, the Pont Saint-Michel, of wood; all
loaded with houses.
The University had six gates, built by Philip Augustus;
there were, beginning with la Tournelle, the Porte Saint-
Victor, the Porte Bordelle, the Porte Papale, the Porte Saint-
Jacques, the Porte Saint-Michel, the Porte Saint-Germain.
The Town had six gates, built by Charles V.; beginning with
the Tour de Billy they were: the Porte Saint-Antoine, the Porte
du Temple, the Porte Saint-Martin, the Porte Saint-Denis, the
Porte Montmartre, the Porte Saint-Honoré. All these gates
were strong, and also handsome, which does not detract from
strength. A large, deep moat, with a brisk current during
the high water of winter, bathed the base of the wall round
Paris; the Seine furnished the water. At night, the gates
were shut, the river was barred at both ends of the city with
huge iron chains, and Paris slept tranquilly.
From a bird's-eye view, these three burgs, the City, the
Town, and the University, each presented to the eye an
inextricable skein of eccentrically tangled streets. Nevertheless,
at first sight, one recognized the fact that these three
fragments formed but one body. One immediately perceived three
long parallel streets, unbroken, undisturbed, traversing, almost
in a straight line, all three cities, from one end to the other;
from North to South, perpendicularly, to the Seine, which
bound them together, mingled them, infused them in each
other, poured and transfused the people incessantly, from one
to the other, and made one out of the three. The first of
these streets ran from the Porte Saint-Martin: it was called
the Rue Saint-Jacques in the University, Rue de la Juiverie in
the City, Rue Saint-Martin in the Town; it crossed the water
twice, under the name of the Petit Pont and the Pont Notre-
Dame. The second, which was called the Rue de la Harpe on
the left bank, Rue de la Barillerié in the island, Rue Saint-
Denis on the right bank, Pont Saint-Michel on one arm of
the Seine, Pont au Change on the other, ran from the Porte
Saint-Michel in the University, to the Porte Saint-Denis in
the Town. However, under all these names, there were but
two streets, parent streets, generating streets,--the two
arteries of Paris. All the other veins of the triple city
either derived their supply from them or emptied into them.
Independently of these two principal streets, piercing Paris
diametrically in its whole breadth, from side to side, common
to the entire capital, the City and the University had also
each its own great special street, which ran lengthwise by
them, parallel to the Seine, cutting, as it passed, at right
angles, the two arterial thoroughfares. Thus, in the Town,
one descended in a straight line from the Porte Saint-Antoine
to the Porte Saint-Honoré; in the University from the Porte
Saint-Victor to the Porte Saint-Germain. These two great
thoroughfares intersected by the two first, formed the canvas
upon which reposed, knotted and crowded together on every
hand, the labyrinthine network of the streets of Paris. In
the incomprehensible plan of these streets, one distinguished
likewise, on looking attentively, two clusters of great streets,
like magnified sheaves of grain, one in the University, the
other in the Town, which spread out gradually from the
bridges to the gates.
Some traces of this geometrical plan still exist to-day.
Now, what aspect did this whole present, when, as viewed
from the summit of the towers of Notre-Dame, in 1482?
That we shall try to describe.
For the spectator who arrived, panting, upon that pinnacle,
it was first a dazzling confusing view of roofs, chimneys,
streets, bridges, places, spires, bell towers. Everything
struck your eye at once: the carved gable, the pointed roof, the
turrets suspended at the angles of the walls; the stone pyramids
of the eleventh century, the slate obelisks of the fifteenth; the
round, bare tower of the donjon keep; the square and fretted
tower of the church; the great and the little, the massive and
the aerial. The eye was, for a long time, wholly lost in this
labyrinth, where there was nothing which did not possess its
originality, its reason, its genius, its beauty,--nothing which
did not proceed from art; beginning with the smallest house,
with its painted and carved front, with external beams, elliptical
door, with projecting stories, to the royal Louvre, which
then had a colonnade of towers. But these are the principal
masses which were then to be distinguished when the eye
began to accustom itself to this tumult of edifices.
In the first place, the City.--"The island of the City," as
Sauval says, who, in spite of his confused medley, sometimes
has such happy turns of expression,--"the island of the city
is made like a great ship, stuck in the mud and run aground
in the current, near the centre of the Seine."
We have just explained that, in the fifteenth century, this
ship was anchored to the two banks of the river by five
bridges. This form of a ship had also struck the heraldic
scribes; for it is from that, and not from the siege by the
Normans, that the ship which blazons the old shield of Paris,
comes, according to Favyn and Pasquier. For him who understands
how to decipher them, armorial bearings are algebra,
armorial bearings have a tongue. The whole history of the
second half of the Middle Ages is written in armorial
bearings,--the first half is in the symbolism of the Roman
churches. They are the hieroglyphics of feudalism, succeeding
those of theocracy.
Thus the City first presented itself to the eye, with its stern
to the east, and its prow to the west. Turning towards the
prow, one had before one an innumerable flock of ancient
roofs, over which arched broadly the lead-covered apse of the
Sainte-Chapelle, like an elephant's haunches loaded with its
tower. Only here, this tower was the most audacious, the
most open, the most ornamented spire of cabinet-maker's work
that ever let the sky peep through its cone of lace. In front
of Notre-Dame, and very near at hand, three streets opened
into the cathedral square,--a fine square, lined with ancient
houses. Over the south side of this place bent the wrinkled
and sullen façade of the Hôtel Dieu, and its roof, which seemed
covered with warts and pustules. Then, on the right and the
left, to east and west, within that wall of the City, which was
yet so contracted, rose the bell towers of its one and twenty
churches, of every date, of every form, of every size, from the
low and wormeaten belfry of Saint-Denis du Pas (~Carcer
Glaueini~) to the slender needles of Saint-Pierre aux Boeufs
Behind Notre-Dame, the cloister and its Gothic galleries
spread out towards the north; on the south, the half-Roman
palace of the bishop; on the east, the desert point of the
Terrain. In this throng of houses the eye also distinguished,
by the lofty open-work mitres of stone which then crowned
the roof itself, even the most elevated windows of the palace,
the Hôtel given by the city, under Charles VI., to Juvénal des
Ursins; a little farther on, the pitch-covered sheds of the
Palus Market; in still another quarter the new apse of Saint-
Germain le Vieux, lengthened in 1458, with a bit of the Rue
aux Febves; and then, in places, a square crowded with
people; a pillory, erected at the corner of a street; a fine
fragment of the pavement of Philip Augustus, a magnificent
flagging, grooved for the horses' feet, in the middle of the
road, and so badly replaced in the sixteenth century by the
miserable cobblestones, called the "pavement of the League;" a
deserted back courtyard, with one of those diaphanous staircase
turrets, such as were erected in the fifteenth century, one
of which is still to be seen in the Rue des Bourdonnais.
Lastly, at the right of the Sainte-Chapelle, towards the west,
the Palais de Justice rested its group of towers at the edge
of the water. The thickets of the king's gardens, which
covered the western point of the City, masked the Island du
Passeur. As for the water, from the summit of the towers of
Notre-Dame one hardly saw it, on either side of the City; the
Seine was hidden by bridges, the bridges by houses.
And when the glance passed these bridges, whose roofs were
visibly green, rendered mouldy before their time by the vapors
from the water, if it was directed to the left, towards the
University, the first edifice which struck it was a large,
low sheaf of towers, the Petit-Chàtelet, whose yawning gate
devoured the end of the Petit-Pont. Then, if your view ran
along the bank, from east to west, from the Tournelle to the
Tour de Nesle, there was a long cordon of houses, with carved
beams, stained-glass windows, each story projecting over
that beneath it, an interminable zigzag of bourgeois gables,
frequently interrupted by the mouth of a street, and from time
to time also by the front or angle of a huge stone mansion,
planted at its ease, with courts and gardens, wings and
detached buildings, amid this populace of crowded and narrow
houses, like a grand gentleman among a throng of rustics.
There were five or six of these mansions on the quay, from the
house of Lorraine, which shared with the Bernardins the
grand enclosure adjoining the Tournelle, to the Hôtel de Nesle,
whose principal tower ended Paris, and whose pointed roofs
were in a position, during three months of the year, to
encroach, with their black triangles, upon the scarlet disk of
the setting sun.
This side of the Seine was, however, the least mercantile of
the two. Students furnished more of a crowd and more noise
there than artisans, and there was not, properly speaking,
any quay, except from the Pont Saint-Michel to the Tour de
Nesle. The rest of the bank of the Seine was now a naked
strand, the same as beyond the Bernardins; again, a throng
of houses, standing with their feet in the water, as between
the two bridges.
There was a great uproar of laundresses; they screamed, and
talked, and sang from morning till night along the beach,
and beat a great deal of linen there, just as in our day.
This is not the least of the gayeties of Paris.
The University presented a dense mass to the eye. From
one end to the other, it was homogeneous and compact. The
thousand roofs, dense, angular, clinging to each other,
composed, nearly all, of the same geometrical element, offered,
when viewed from above, the aspect of a crystallization of the
The capricious ravine of streets did not cut this block of
houses into too disproportionate slices. The forty-two colleges
were scattered about in a fairly equal manner, and there were
some everywhere. The amusingly varied crests of these
beautiful edifices were the product of the same art as the
simple roofs which they overshot, and were, actually, only
a multiplication of the square or the cube of the same
geometrical figure. Hence they complicated the whole effect,
without disturbing it; completed, without overloading it.
Geometry is harmony. Some fine mansions here and there
made magnificent outlines against the picturesque attics of
the left bank. The house of Nevers, the house of Rome, the
house of Reims, which have disappeared; the Hôtel de Cluny,
which still exists, for the consolation of the artist, and whose
tower was so stupidly deprived of its crown a few years ago.
Close to Cluny, that Roman palace, with fine round arches,
were once the hot baths of Julian. There were a great many
abbeys, of a beauty more devout, of a grandeur more solemn
than the mansions, but not less beautiful, not less grand.
Those which first caught the eye were the Bernardins, with
their three bell towers; Sainte-Geneviève, whose square
tower, which still exists, makes us regret the rest; the
Sorbonne, half college, half monastery, of which so admirable
a nave survives; the fine quadrilateral cloister of the Mathurins;
its neighbor, the cloister of Saint-Benoit, within whose
walls they have had time to cobble up a theatre, between the
seventh and eighth editions of this book; the Cordeliers, with
their three enormous adjacent gables; the Augustins, whose
graceful spire formed, after the Tour de Nesle, the second
denticulation on this side of Paris, starting from the west.
The colleges, which are, in fact, the intermediate ring between
the cloister and the world, hold the middle position in the
monumental series between the Hôtels and the abbeys, with a
severity full of elegance, sculpture less giddy than the palaces,
an architecture less severe than the convents. Unfortunately,
hardly anything remains of these monuments, where Gothic
art combined with so just a balance, richness and economy.
The churches (and they were numerous and splendid in the
University, and they were graded there also in all the ages of
architecture, from the round arches of Saint-Julian to the
pointed arches of Saint-Séverin), the churches dominated the
whole; and, like one harmony more in this mass of harmonies,
they pierced in quick succession the multiple open work of
the gables with slashed spires, with open-work bell towers,
with slender pinnacles, whose line was also only a magnificent
exaggeration of the acute angle of the roofs.
The ground of the University was hilly; Mount Sainte-
Geneviève formed an enormous mound to the south; and it
was a sight to see from the summit of Notre-Dame how that
throng of narrow and tortuous streets (to-day the Latin Quarter),
those bunches of houses which, spread out in every direction
from the top of this eminence, precipitated themselves in
disorder, and almost perpendicularly down its flanks, nearly to
the water's edge, having the air, some of falling, others of
clambering up again, and all of holding to one another. A
continual flux of a thousand black points which passed each
other on the pavements made everything move before the
eyes; it was the populace seen thus from aloft and afar.
Lastly, in the intervals of these roofs, of these spires, of
these accidents of numberless edifices, which bent and writhed,
and jagged in so eccentric a manner the extreme line of the
University, one caught a glimpse, here and there, of a great
expanse of moss-grown wall, a thick, round tower, a crenellated
city gate, shadowing forth the fortress; it was the wall of
Philip Augustus. Beyond, the fields gleamed green; beyond,
fled the roads, along which were scattered a few more suburban
houses, which became more infrequent as they became more
distant. Some of these faubourgs were important: there were,
first, starting from la Tournelle, the Bourg Saint-Victor, with
its one arch bridge over the Bièvre, its abbey where one could
read the epitaph of Louis le Gros, ~epitaphium Ludovici Grossi~,
and its church with an octagonal spire, flanked with four little
bell towers of the eleventh century (a similar one can be seen
at Etampes; it is not yet destroyed); next, the Bourg Saint-
Marceau, which already had three churches and one convent;
then, leaving the mill of the Gobelins and its four white walls
on the left, there was the Faubourg Saint-Jacques with the
beautiful carved cross in its square; the church of Saint-
Jacques du Haut-Pas, which was then Gothic, pointed, charming;
Saint-Magloire, a fine nave of the fourteenth century,
which Napoleon turned into a hayloft; Notre-Dame des
Champs, where there were Byzantine mosaics; lastly, after
having left behind, full in the country, the Monastery des
Chartreux, a rich edifice contemporary with the Palais de Justice,
with its little garden divided into compartments, and the
haunted ruins of Vauvert, the eye fell, to the west, upon the
three Roman spires of Saint-Germain des Prés. The Bourg
Saint-Germain, already a large community, formed fifteen or
twenty streets in the rear; the pointed bell tower of Saint-
Sulpice marked one corner of the town. Close beside it one
descried the quadrilateral enclosure of the fair of Saint-
Germain, where the market is situated to-day; then the
abbot's pillory, a pretty little round tower, well capped with
a leaden cone; the brickyard was further on, and the Rue du
Four, which led to the common bakehouse, and the mill on its
hillock, and the lazar house, a tiny house, isolated and half
But that which attracted the eye most of all, and fixed it for
a long time on that point, was the abbey itself. It is certain
that this monastery, which had a grand air, both as a church and
as a seignory; that abbatial palace, where the bishops of Paris
counted themselves happy if they could pass the night; that
refectory, upon which the architect had bestowed the air, the
beauty, and the rose window of a cathedral; that elegant
chapel of the Virgin; that monumental dormitory; those vast
gardens; that portcullis; that drawbridge; that envelope of
battlements which notched to the eye the verdure of the
surrounding meadows; those courtyards, where gleamed men at
arms, intermingled with golden copes;--the whole grouped
and clustered about three lofty spires, with round arches,
well planted upon a Gothic apse, made a magnificent figure
against the horizon.
When, at length, after having contemplated the University
for a long time, you turned towards the right bank, towards
the Town, the character of the spectacle was abruptly altered.
The Town, in fact much larger than the University, was also
less of a unit. At the first glance, one saw that it was divided
into many masses, singularly distinct. First, to the eastward,
in that part of the town which still takes its name from the
marsh where Camulogènes entangled Caesar, was a pile of
palaces. The block extended to the very water's edge. Four
almost contiguous Hôtels, Jouy, Sens, Barbeau, the house of
the Queen, mirrored their slate peaks, broken with slender
turrets, in the Seine.
These four edifices filled the space from the Rue des
Nonaindières, to the abbey of the Celestins, whose spire gracefully
relieved their line of gables and battlements. A few miserable,
greenish hovels, hanging over the water in front of these
sumptuous Hôtels, did not prevent one from seeing the fine
angles of their façades, their large, square windows with
stone mullions, their pointed porches overloaded with statues,
the vivid outlines of their walls, always clear cut, and all
those charming accidents of architecture, which cause Gothic
art to have the air of beginning its combinations afresh with
Behind these palaces, extended in all directions, now broken,
fenced in, battlemented like a citadel, now veiled by great
trees like a Carthusian convent, the immense and multiform
enclosure of that miraculous Hôtel de Saint-Pol, where the
King of France possessed the means of lodging superbly two
and twenty princes of the rank of the dauphin and the Duke
of Burgundy, with their domestics and their suites, without
counting the great lords, and the emperor when he came to
view Paris, and the lions, who had their separate Hôtel at the
royal Hôtel. Let us say here that a prince's apartment was
then composed of never less than eleven large rooms, from
the chamber of state to the oratory, not to mention the galleries,
baths, vapor-baths, and other "superfluous places," with
which each apartment was provided; not to mention the private
gardens for each of the king's guests; not to mention
the kitchens, the cellars, the domestic offices, the general
refectories of the house, the poultry-yards, where there were
twenty-two general laboratories, from the bakehouses to the
wine-cellars; games of a thousand sorts, malls, tennis, and riding
at the ring; aviaries, fishponds, menageries, stables, barns,
libraries, arsenals and foundries. This was what a king's
palace, a Louvre, a Hôtel de Saint-Pol was then. A city
within a city.
From the tower where we are placed, the Hôtel Saint-Pol,
almost half hidden by the four great houses of which we have
just spoken, was still very considerable and very marvellous
to see. One could there distinguish, very well, though cleverly
united with the principal building by long galleries, decked
with painted glass and slender columns, the three Hôtels which
Charles V. had amalgamated with his palace: the Hôtel du
Petit-Muce, with the airy balustrade, which formed a graceful
border to its roof; the Hôtel of the Abbe de Saint-Maur,
having the vanity of a stronghold, a great tower, machicolations,
loopholes, iron gratings, and over the large Saxon door,
the armorial bearings of the abbé, between the two mortises
of the drawbridge; the Hôtel of the Comte d' Etampes, whose
donjon keep, ruined at its summit, was rounded and notched
like a cock's comb; here and there, three or four ancient oaks,
forming a tuft together like enormous cauliflowers; gambols
of swans, in the clear water of the fishponds, all in folds
of light and shade; many courtyards of which one beheld
picturesque bits; the Hôtel of the Lions, with its low, pointed
arches on short, Saxon pillars, its iron gratings and its
perpetual roar; shooting up above the whole, the scale-
ornamented spire of the Ave-Maria; on the left, the house of
the Provost of Paris, flanked by four small towers, delicately
grooved, in the middle; at the extremity, the Hôtel Saint-Pol,
properly speaking, with its multiplied façades, its successive
enrichments from the time of Charles V., the hybrid excrescences,
with which the fancy of the architects had loaded it
during the last two centuries, with all the apses of its chapels,
all the gables of its galleries, a thousand weathercocks for the
four winds, and its two lofty contiguous towers, whose conical
roof, surrounded by battlements at its base, looked like those
pointed caps which have their edges turned up.
Continuing to mount the stories of this amphitheatre of
palaces spread out afar upon the ground, after crossing a deep
ravine hollowed out of the roofs in the Town, which marked
the passage of the Rue Saint-Antoine, the eye reached the
house of Angoulême, a vast construction of many epochs,
where there were perfectly new and very white parts, which
melted no better into the whole than a red patch on a blue
doublet. Nevertheless, the remarkably pointed and lofty
roof of the modern palace, bristling with carved eaves,
covered with sheets of lead, where coiled a thousand fantastic
arabesques of sparkling incrustations of gilded bronze, that
roof, so curiously damascened, darted upwards gracefully from
the midst of the brown ruins of the ancient edifice; whose
huge and ancient towers, rounded by age like casks, sinking
together with old age, and rending themselves from top to
bottom, resembled great bellies unbuttoned. Behind rose the
forest of spires of the Palais des Tournelles. Not a view in
the world, either at Chambord or at the Alhambra, is more
magic, more aerial, more enchanting, than that thicket of
spires, tiny bell towers, chimneys, weather-vanes, winding
staircases, lanterns through which the daylight makes its way,
which seem cut out at a blow, pavilions, spindle-shaped turrets,
or, as they were then called, "tournelles," all differing in
form, in height, and attitude. One would have pronounced
it a gigantic stone chess-board.
To the right of the Tournelles, that truss of enormous
towers, black as ink, running into each other and tied, as it
were, by a circular moat; that donjon keep, much more pierced
with loopholes than with windows; that drawbridge, always
raised; that portcullis, always lowered,--is the Bastille.
Those sorts of black beaks which project from between the
battlements, and which you take from a distance to be cave
spouts, are cannons.
Beneath them, at the foot of the formidable edifice, behold
the Porte Sainte-Antoine, buried between its two towers.
Beyond the Tournelles, as far as the wall of Charles V.,
spread out, with rich compartments of verdure and of flowers,
a velvet carpet of cultivated land and royal parks, in the
midst of which one recognized, by its labyrinth of trees and
alleys, the famous Daedalus garden which Louis XI. had given
to Coictier. The doctor's observatory rose above the labyrinth
like a great isolated column, with a tiny house for a
capital. Terrible astrologies took place in that laboratory.
There to-day is the Place Royale.
As we have just said, the quarter of the palace, of which
we have just endeavored to give the reader some idea by
indicating only the chief points, filled the angle which Charles
V.'s wall made with the Seine on the east. The centre of
the Town was occupied by a pile of houses for the populace.
It was there, in fact, that the three bridges disgorged upon
the right bank, and bridges lead to the building of houses
rather than palaces. That congregation of bourgeois habitations,
pressed together like the cells in a hive, had a beauty of
its own. It is with the roofs of a capital as with the waves
of the sea,--they are grand. First the streets, crossed and
entangled, forming a hundred amusing figures in the block;
around the market-place, it was like a star with a thousand
The Rues Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin, with their innumerable
ramifications, rose one after the other, like trees
intertwining their branches; and then the tortuous lines,
the Rues de la Plâtrerie, de la Verrerie, de la Tixeranderie,
etc., meandered over all. There were also fine edifices which
pierced the petrified undulations of that sea of gables. At
the head of the Pont aux Changeurs, behind which one beheld
the Seine foaming beneath the wheels of the Pont aux
Meuniers, there was the Chalelet, no longer a Roman tower, as
under Julian the Apostate, but a feudal tower of the thirteenth
century, and of a stone so hard that the pickaxe could