Part 4 out of 13
not break away so much as the thickness of the fist in a space
of three hours; there was the rich square bell tower of Saint-
Jacques de la Boucherie, with its angles all frothing with
carvings, already admirable, although it was not finished in
the fifteenth century. (It lacked, in particular, the four
monsters, which, still perched to-day on the corners of its
roof, have the air of so many sphinxes who are propounding to
new Paris the riddle of the ancient Paris. Rault, the sculptor,
only placed them in position in 1526, and received twenty
francs for his pains.) There was the Maison-aux-Piliers, the
Pillar House, opening upon that Place de Grève of which we
have given the reader some idea; there was Saint-Gervais,
which a front "in good taste" has since spoiled; Saint-Méry,
whose ancient pointed arches were still almost round arches;
Saint-Jean, whose magnificent spire was proverbial; there
were twenty other monuments, which did not disdain to bury
their wonders in that chaos of black, deep, narrow streets.
Add the crosses of carved stone, more lavishly scattered
through the squares than even the gibbets; the cemetery of
the Innocents, whose architectural wall could be seen in the
distance above the roofs; the pillory of the Markets, whose
top was visible between two chimneys of the Rue de la
Cossonnerie; the ladder of the Croix-du-Trahoir, in its square
always black with people; the circular buildings of the wheat
mart; the fragments of Philip Augustus's ancient wall,
which could be made out here and there, drowned among the
houses, its towers gnawed by ivy, its gates in ruins, with
crumbling and deformed stretches of wall; the quay with its
thousand shops, and its bloody knacker's yards; the Seine
encumbered with boats, from the Port au Foin to Port-l'Evêque,
and you will have a confused picture of what the central
trapezium of the Town was like in 1482.
With these two quarters, one of Hôtels, the other of houses,
the third feature of aspect presented by the city was a long
zone of abbeys, which bordered it in nearly the whole of its
circumference, from the rising to the setting sun, and, behind
the circle of fortifications which hemmed in Paris, formed a
second interior enclosure of convents and chapels. Thus,
immediately adjoining the park des Tournelles, between the
Rue Saint-Antoine and the Vielle Rue du Temple, there stood
Sainte-Catherine, with its immense cultivated lands, which
were terminated only by the wall of Paris. Between the old
and the new Rue du Temple, there was the Temple, a sinister
group of towers, lofty, erect, and isolated in the middle of a
vast, battlemented enclosure. Between the Rue Neuve-du-
Temple and the Rue Saint-Martin, there was the Abbey of
Saint-Martin, in the midst of its gardens, a superb fortified
church, whose girdle of towers, whose diadem of bell towers,
yielded in force and splendor only to Saint-Germain des
Prés. Between the Rue Saint-Martin and the Rue Saint-
Denis, spread the enclosure of the Trinité.
Lastly, between the Rue Saint-Denis, and the Rue Montorgueil,
stood the Filles-Dieu. On one side, the rotting roofs
and unpaved enclosure of the Cour des Miracles could be
descried. It was the sole profane ring which was linked to
that devout chain of convents.
Finally, the fourth compartment, which stretched itself out
in the agglomeration of the roofs on the right bank, and
which occupied the western angle of the enclosure, and the
banks of the river down stream, was a fresh cluster of palaces
and Hôtels pressed close about the base of the Louvre. The
old Louvre of Philip Augustus, that immense edifice whose
great tower rallied about it three and twenty chief towers, not
to reckon the lesser towers, seemed from a distance to be
enshrined in the Gothic roofs of the Hôtel d'Alençon, and the
Petit-Bourbon. This hydra of towers, giant guardian of
Paris, with its four and twenty heads, always erect, with its
monstrous haunches, loaded or scaled with slates, and all
streaming with metallic reflections, terminated with wonderful
effect the configuration of the Town towards the west.
Thus an immense block, which the Romans called ~iusula~, or
island, of bourgeois houses, flanked on the right and the left
by two blocks of palaces, crowned, the one by the Louvre, the
other by the Tournelles, bordered on the north by a long
girdle of abbeys and cultivated enclosures, all amalgamated
and melted together in one view; upon these thousands of
edifices, whose tiled and slated roofs outlined upon each other
so many fantastic chains, the bell towers, tattooed, fluted, and
ornamented with twisted bands, of the four and forty churches
on the right bank; myriads of cross streets; for boundary on
one side, an enclosure of lofty walls with square towers (that
of the University had round towers); on the other, the Seine,
cut by bridges, and bearing on its bosom a multitude of boats;
behold the Town of Paris in the fifteenth century.
Beyond the walls, several suburban villages pressed close
about the gates, but less numerous and more scattered than
those of the University. Behind the Bastille there were
twenty hovels clustered round the curious sculptures of the
Croix-Faubin and the flying buttresses of the Abbey of Saint-
Antoine des Champs; then Popincourt, lost amid wheat fields;
then la Courtille, a merry village of wine-shops; the hamlet
of Saint-Laurent with its church whose bell tower, from afar,
seemed to add itself to the pointed towers of the Porte Saint-
Martin; the Faubourg Saint-Denis, with the vast enclosure
of Saint-Ladre; beyond the Montmartre Gate, the Grange-
Batelière, encircled with white walls; behind it, with its
chalky slopes, Montmartre, which had then almost as many
churches as windmills, and which has kept only the windmills,
for society no longer demands anything but bread for the
body. Lastly, beyond the Louvre, the Faubourg Saint-
Honoré, already considerable at that time, could be seen
stretching away into the fields, and Petit-Bretagne gleaming
green, and the Marché aux Pourceaux spreading abroad, in
whose centre swelled the horrible apparatus used for boiling
counterfeiters. Between la Courtille and Saint-Laurent, your
eye had already noticed, on the summit of an eminence
crouching amid desert plains, a sort of edifice which
resembled from a distance a ruined colonnade, mounted upon
a basement with its foundation laid bare. This was neither
a Parthenon, nor a temple of the Olympian Jupiter. It was
Now, if the enumeration of so many edifices, summary as
we have endeavored to make it, has not shattered in the
reader's mind the general image of old Paris, as we have
constructed it, we will recapitulate it in a few words. In
the centre, the island of the City, resembling as to form an
enormous tortoise, and throwing out its bridges with tiles for
scales; like legs from beneath its gray shell of roofs. On the
left, the monolithic trapezium, firm, dense, bristling, of the
University; on the right, the vast semicircle of the Town,
much more intermixed with gardens and monuments. The
three blocks, city, university, and town, marbled with innumerable
streets. Across all, the Seine, "foster-mother Seine,"
as says Father Du Breul, blocked with islands, bridges, and
boats. All about an immense plain, patched with a thousand
sorts of cultivated plots, sown with fine villages. On the
left, Issy, Vanvres, Vaugirarde, Montrouge, Gentilly, with
its round tower and its square tower, etc.; on the right,
twenty others, from Conflans to Ville-l'Evêque. On the horizon,
a border of hills arranged in a circle like the rim of the
basin. Finally, far away to the east, Vincennes, and its
seven quadrangular towers to the south, Bicêtre and its
pointed turrets; to the north, Saint-Denis and its spire; to
the west, Saint Cloud and its donjon keep. Such was the
Paris which the ravens, who lived in 1482, beheld from the
summits of the towers of Notre-Dame.
Nevertheless, Voltaire said of this city, that "before Louis
XIV., it possessed but four fine monuments": the dome of
the Sorbonne, the Val-de-Grâce, the modern Louvre, and I
know not what the fourth was--the Luxembourg, perhaps.
Fortunately, Voltaire was the author of "Candide" in spite of
this, and in spite of this, he is, among all the men who have
followed each other in the long series of humanity, the one
who has best possessed the diabolical laugh. Moreover, this
proves that one can be a fine genius, and yet understand nothing
of an art to which one does not belong. Did not Moliere
imagine that he was doing Raphael and Michael-Angelo a very
great honor, by calling them "those Mignards of their age?"
Let us return to Paris and to the fifteenth century.
It was not then merely a handsome city; it was a homogeneous
city, an architectural and historical product of the
Middle Ages, a chronicle in stone. It was a city formed of
two layers only; the Romanesque layer and the Gothic layer;
for the Roman layer had disappeared long before, with the
exception of the Hot Baths of Julian, where it still pierced
through the thick crust of the Middle Ages. As for the
Celtic layer, no specimens were any longer to be found, even
when sinking wells.
Fifty years later, when the Renaissance began to mingle
with this unity which was so severe and yet so varied, the
dazzling luxury of its fantasies and systems, its debasements
of Roman round arches, Greek columns, and Gothic bases, its
sculpture which was so tender and so ideal, its peculiar taste
for arabesques and acanthus leaves, its architectural paganism,
contemporary with Luther, Paris, was perhaps, still more beautiful,
although less harmonious to the eye, and to the thought.
But this splendid moment lasted only for a short time; the
Renaissance was not impartial; it did not content itself with
building, it wished to destroy; it is true that it required the
room. Thus Gothic Paris was complete only for a moment. Saint-
Jacques de la Boucherie had barely been completed when the
demolition of the old Louvre was begun.
After that, the great city became more disfigured every day.
Gothic Paris, beneath which Roman Paris was effaced, was effaced in
its turn; but can any one say what Paris has replaced it?
There is the Paris of Catherine de Medicis at the Tuileries;*--the
Paris of Henri II., at the Hôtel de Ville, two edifices
still in fine taste;--the Paris of Henri IV., at the Place
Royale: façades of brick with stone corners, and slated roofs,
tri-colored houses;--the Paris of Louis XIII., at the Val-de-
Grace: a crushed and squat architecture, with vaults like
basket-handles, and something indescribably pot-bellied in the
column, and thickset in the dome;--the Paris of Louis XIV.,
in the Invalides: grand, rich, gilded, cold;--the Paris of Louis
XV., in Saint-Sulpice: volutes, knots of ribbon, clouds,
vermicelli and chiccory leaves, all in stone;--the Paris of Louis
XVI., in the Pantheon: Saint Peter of Rome, badly copied (the
edifice is awkwardly heaped together, which has not amended
its lines);--the Paris of the Republic, in the School of
Medicine: a poor Greek and Roman taste, which resembles the
Coliseum or the Parthenon as the constitution of the year III.,
resembles the laws of Minos,--it is called in architecture,
"the Messidor"** taste;--the Paris of Napoleon in the Place
Vendome: this one is sublime, a column of bronze made of
cannons;--the Paris of the Restoration, at the Bourse: a
very white colonnade supporting a very smooth frieze; the
whole is square and cost twenty millions.
* We have seen with sorrow mingled with indignation, that it
is the intention to increase, to recast, to make over, that is
to say, to destroy this admirable palace. The architects of our
day have too heavy a hand to touch these delicate works of the
Renaissance. We still cherish a hope that they will not dare.
Moreover, this demolition of the Tuileries now, would be not
only a brutal deed of violence, which would make a drunken vandal
blush--it would be an act of treason. The Tuileries is not simply
a masterpiece of the art of the sixteenth century, it is a page
of the history of the nineteenth. This palace no longer belongs
to the king, but to the people. Let us leave it as it is. Our
revolution has twice set its seal upon its front. On one of its
two façades, there are the cannon-balls of the 10th of August;
on the other, the balls of the 29th of July. It is sacred.
Paris, April 1, 1831. (Note to the fifth edition.)
** The tenth month of the French republican calendar, from the
19th of June to the 18th of July.
To each of these characteristic monuments there is attached
by a similarity of taste, fashion, and attitude, a certain
number of houses scattered about in different quarters and which
the eyes of the connoisseur easily distinguishes and furnishes
with a date. When one knows how to look, one finds the
spirit of a century, and the physiognomy of a king, even in
the knocker on a door.
The Paris of the present day has then, no general physiognomy. It
is a collection of specimens of many centuries, and the finest have
disappeared. The capital grows only in houses, and what houses!
At the rate at which Paris is now proceeding, it will renew itself
every fifty years.
Thus the historical significance of its architecture is being
effaced every day. Monuments are becoming rarer and rarer,
and one seems to see them gradually engulfed, by the flood
of houses. Our fathers had a Paris of stone; our sons will
have one of plaster.
So far as the modern monuments of new Paris are concerned,
we would gladly be excused from mentioning them. It is
not that we do not admire them as they deserve. The
Sainte-Geneviève of M. Soufflot is certainly the finest Savoy
cake that has ever been made in stone. The Palace of the
Legion of Honor is also a very distinguished bit of pastry.
The dome of the wheat market is an English jockey cap, on a
grand scale. The towers of Saint-Sulpice are two huge clarinets,
and the form is as good as any other; the telegraph, contorted
and grimacing, forms an admirable accident upon their roofs.
Saint-Roch has a door which, for magnificence, is comparable only
to that of Saint-Thomas d'Aquin. It has, also, a crucifixion in
high relief, in a cellar, with a sun of gilded wood. These things
are fairly marvellous. The lantern of the labyrinth of the Jardin
des Plantes is also very ingenious.
As for the Palace of the Bourse, which is Greek as to its
colonnade, Roman in the round arches of its doors and windows,
of the Renaissance by virtue of its flattened vault, it is
indubitably a very correct and very pure monument; the proof
is that it is crowned with an attic, such as was never seen in
Athens, a beautiful, straight line, gracefully broken here and
there by stovepipes. Let us add that if it is according to
rule that the architecture of a building should be adapted to
its purpose in such a manner that this purpose shall be
immediately apparent from the mere aspect of the building, one
cannot be too much amazed at a structure which might be
indifferently--the palace of a king, a chamber of communes,
a town-hall, a college, a riding-school, an academy, a
warehouse, a court-house, a museum, a barracks, a sepulchre, a
temple, or a theatre. However, it is an Exchange. An edifice
ought to be, moreover, suitable to the climate. This one
is evidently constructed expressly for our cold and rainy skies.
It has a roof almost as flat as roofs in the East, which involves
sweeping the roof in winter, when it snows; and of course
roofs are made to be swept. As for its purpose, of which we
just spoke, it fulfils it to a marvel; it is a bourse in France
as it would have been a temple in Greece. It is true that the
architect was at a good deal of trouble to conceal the clock
face, which would have destroyed the purity of the fine lines
of the façade; but, on the other hand, we have that colonnade
which circles round the edifice and under which, on days of
high religious ceremony, the theories of the stock-brokers and
the courtiers of commerce can be developed so majestically.
These are very superb structures. Let us add a quantity
of fine, amusing, and varied streets, like the Rue de Rivoli,
and I do not despair of Paris presenting to the eye, when
viewed from a balloon, that richness of line, that opulence
of detail, that diversity of aspect, that grandiose something
in the simple, and unexpected in the beautiful, which
characterizes a checker-board.
However, admirable as the Paris of to-day may seem to
you, reconstruct the Paris of the fifteenth century, call it up
before you in thought; look at the sky athwart that surprising
forest of spires, towers, and belfries; spread out in the
centre of the city, tear away at the point of the islands, fold
at the arches of the bridges, the Seine, with its broad green
and yellow expanses, more variable than the skin of a serpent;
project clearly against an azure horizon the Gothic profile of
this ancient Paris. Make its contour float in a winter's mist
which clings to its numerous chimneys; drown it in profound
night and watch the odd play of lights and shadows in that
sombre labyrinth of edifices; cast upon it a ray of light which
shall vaguely outline it and cause to emerge from the fog the
great heads of the towers; or take that black silhouette
again, enliven with shadow the thousand acute angles of the
spires and gables, and make it start out more toothed than a
shark's jaw against a copper-colored western sky,--and
And if you wish to receive of the ancient city an impression
with which the modern one can no longer furnish you, climb--on
the morning of some grand festival, beneath the rising sun of
Easter or of Pentecost--climb upon some elevated point, whence
you command the entire capital; and be present at the wakening
of the chimes. Behold, at a signal given from heaven, for it
is the sun which gives it, all those churches quiver
simultaneously. First come scattered strokes, running from
one church to another, as when musicians give warning that
they are about to begin. Then, all at once, behold!--for it
seems at times, as though the ear also possessed a sight of its
own,--behold, rising from each bell tower, something like a
column of sound, a cloud of harmony. First, the vibration of
each bell mounts straight upwards, pure and, so to speak,
isolated from the others, into the splendid morning sky; then,
little by little, as they swell they melt together, mingle,
are lost in each other, and amalgamate in a magnificent concert.
It is no longer anything but a mass of sonorous vibrations
incessantly sent forth from the numerous belfries; floats,
undulates, bounds, whirls over the city, and prolongs far beyond
the horizon the deafening circle of its oscillations.
Nevertheless, this sea of harmony is not a chaos; great and
profound as it is, it has not lost its transparency; you behold
the windings of each group of notes which escapes from the
belfries. You can follow the dialogue, by turns grave and
shrill, of the treble and the bass; you can see the octaves
leap from one tower to another; you watch them spring forth,
winged, light, and whistling, from the silver bell, to fall,
broken and limping from the bell of wood; you admire in their
midst the rich gamut which incessantly ascends and re-ascends
the seven bells of Saint-Eustache; you see light and rapid
notes running across it, executing three or four luminous
zigzags, and vanishing like flashes of lightning. Yonder is
the Abbey of Saint-Martin, a shrill, cracked singer; here the
gruff and gloomy voice of the Bastille; at the other end,
the great tower of the Louvre, with its bass. The royal
chime of the palace scatters on all sides, and without
relaxation, resplendent trills, upon which fall, at regular
intervals, the heavy strokes from the belfry of Notre-Dame,
which makes them sparkle like the anvil under the hammer. At
intervals you behold the passage of sounds of all forms which
come from the triple peal of Saint-Germaine des Prés. Then,
again, from time to time, this mass of sublime noises opens
and gives passage to the beats of the Ave Maria, which bursts
forth and sparkles like an aigrette of stars. Below, in the
very depths of the concert, you confusedly distinguish the
interior chanting of the churches, which exhales through the
vibrating pores of their vaulted roofs.
Assuredly, this is an opera which it is worth the trouble of
listening to. Ordinarily, the noise which escapes from Paris
by day is the city speaking; by night, it is the city breathing;
in this case, it is the city singing. Lend an ear, then,
to this concert of bell towers; spread over all the murmur
of half a million men, the eternal plaint of the river, the
infinite breathings of the wind, the grave and distant quartette
of the four forests arranged upon the hills, on the horizon,
like immense stacks of organ pipes; extinguish, as in a half
shade, all that is too hoarse and too shrill about the central
chime, and say whether you know anything in the world more
rich and joyful, more golden, more dazzling, than this tumult
of bells and chimes;--than this furnace of music,--than
these ten thousand brazen voices chanting simultaneously in
the flutes of stone, three hundred feet high,--than this city
which is no longer anything but an orchestra,--than this
symphony which produces the noise of a tempest.
Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes
place, one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature
had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre-
Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the vestibule on
the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher,
which the figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier,
carved in stone, had been gazing at on his knees since 1413,
when they took it into their heads to overthrow the saint and
the faithful follower. Upon this bed of wood it was customary
to expose foundlings for public charity. Whoever cared
to take them did so. In front of the wooden bed was a copper
basin for alms.
The sort of living being which lay upon that plank on the
morning of Quasimodo, in the year of the Lord, 1467, appeared
to excite to a high degree, the curiosity of the numerous
group which had congregated about the wooden bed. The
group was formed for the most part of the fair sex. Hardly
any one was there except old women.
In the first row, and among those who were most bent over
the bed, four were noticeable, who, from their gray ~cagoule~,
a sort of cassock, were recognizable as attached to some devout
sisterhood. I do not see why history has not transmitted to
posterity the names of these four discreet and venerable
damsels. They were Agnes la Herme, Jehanne de la Tarme,
Henriette la Gaultière, Gauchère la Violette, all four widows,
all four dames of the Chapel Etienne Haudry, who had quitted
their house with the permission of their mistress, and in
conformity with the statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, in order to
come and hear the sermon.
However, if these good Haudriettes were, for the moment,
complying with the statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, they certainly
violated with joy those of Michel de Brache, and the Cardinal
of Pisa, which so inhumanly enjoined silence upon them.
"What is this, sister?" said Agnes to Gauchère, gazing at
the little creature exposed, which was screaming and writhing
on the wooden bed, terrified by so many glances.
"What is to become of us," said Jehanne, "if that is the
way children are made now?"
"I'm not learned in the matter of children," resumed Agnes,
"but it must be a sin to look at this one."
"'Tis not a child, Agnes."
"'Tis an abortion of a monkey," remarked Gauchère.
"'Tis a miracle," interposed Henriette la Gaultière.
"Then," remarked Agnes, "it is the third since the Sunday
of the ~Loetare~: for, in less than a week, we had the miracle
of the mocker of pilgrims divinely punished by Notre-Dame
d'Aubervilliers, and that was the second miracle within
"This pretended foundling is a real monster of abomination,"
"He yells loud enough to deafen a chanter," continued Gauchère.
"Hold your tongue, you little howler!"
"To think that Monsieur of Reims sent this enormity
to Monsieur of Paris," added la Gaultière, clasping
"I imagine," said Agnes la Herme, "that it is a beast, an
animal,--the fruit of--a Jew and a sow; something not Christian,
in short, which ought to be thrown into the fire or into
"I really hope," resumed la Gaultière, "that nobody will
apply for it."
"Ah, good heavens!" exclaimed Agnes; "those poor nurses
yonder in the foundling asylum, which forms the lower end of
the lane as you go to the river, just beside Monseigneur the
bishop! what if this little monster were to be carried to them
to suckle? I'd rather give suck to a vampire."
"How innocent that poor la Herme is!" resumed Jehanne; "don't
you see, sister, that this little monster is at least four years
old, and that he would have less appetite for your breast than
for a turnspit."
The "little monster" we should find it difficult
ourselves to describe him otherwise, was, in fact, not a new-born
child. It was a very angular and very lively little mass,
imprisoned in its linen sack, stamped with the cipher of Messire
Guillaume Chartier, then bishop of Paris, with a head
projecting. That head was deformed enough; one beheld only a
forest of red hair, one eye, a mouth, and teeth. The eye
wept, the mouth cried, and the teeth seemed to ask only to
be allowed to bite. The whole struggled in the sack, to the
great consternation of the crowd, which increased and was
renewed incessantly around it.
Dame Aloise de Gondelaurier, a rich and noble woman, who
held by the hand a pretty girl about five or six years of
age, and dragged a long veil about, suspended to the golden horn
of her headdress, halted as she passed the wooden bed, and gazed
for a moment at the wretched creature, while her charming little
daughter, Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier, spelled out with her
tiny, pretty finger, the permanent inscription attached to the
wooden bed: "Foundlings."
"Really," said the dame, turning away in disgust, "I thought that
they only exposed children here."
She turned her back, throwing into the basin a silver florin,
which rang among the liards, and made the poor goodwives of
the chapel of Etienne Haudry open their eyes.
A moment later, the grave and learned Robert Mistricolle,
the king's protonotary, passed, with an enormous missal under
one arm and his wife on the other (Damoiselle Guillemette la
Mairesse), having thus by his side his two regulators,--spiritual
"Foundling!" he said, after examining the object; "found,
apparently, on the banks of the river Phlegethon."
"One can only see one eye," observed Damoiselle Guillemette;
"there is a wart on the other."
"It's not a wart," returned Master Robert Mistricolle, "it
is an egg which contains another demon exactly similar, who
bears another little egg which contains another devil, and
"How do you know that?" asked Guillemette la Mairesse.
"I know it pertinently," replied the protonotary.
"Monsieur le protonotare," asked Gauchère, "what do you
prognosticate of this pretended foundling?"
"The greatest misfortunes," replied Mistricolle.
"Ah! good heavens!" said an old woman among the spectators,
"and that besides our having had a considerable pestilence
last year, and that they say that the English are going
to disembark in a company at Harfleur."
"Perhaps that will prevent the queen from coming to Paris
in the month of September," interposed another; "trade is so
"My opinion is," exclaimed Jehanne de la Tarme, "that it
would be better for the louts of Paris, if this little magician
were put to bed on a fagot than on a plank."
"A fine, flaming fagot," added the old woman.
"It would be more prudent," said Mistricolle.
For several minutes, a young priest had been listening to
the reasoning of the Haudriettes and the sentences of the
notary. He had a severe face, with a large brow, a profound
glance. He thrust the crowd silently aside, scrutinized the
"little magician," and stretched out his hand upon him. It was
high time, for all the devotees were already licking their chops
over the "fine, flaming fagot."
"I adopt this child," said the priest.
He took it in his cassock and carried it off. The spectators
followed him with frightened glances. A moment later, he had
disappeared through the "Red Door," which then led from the
church to the cloister.
When the first surprise was over, Jehanne de la Tarme
bent down to the ear of la Gaultière,--
"I told you so, sister,--that young clerk, Monsieur Claude
Frollo, is a sorcerer."
In fact, Claude Frollo was no common person.
He belonged to one of those middle-class families which
were called indifferently, in the impertinent language of the
last century, the high ~bourgeoise~ or the petty nobility. This
family had inherited from the brothers Paclet the fief of
Tirechappe, which was dependent upon the Bishop of Paris, and
whose twenty-one houses had been in the thirteenth century
the object of so many suits before the official. As possessor
of this fief, Claude Frollo was one of the twenty-seven
seigneurs keeping claim to a manor in fee in Paris and its
suburbs; and for a long time, his name was to be seen inscribed
in this quality, between the Hôtel de Tancarville, belonging
to Master François Le Rez, and the college of Tours, in the
records deposited at Saint Martin des Champs.
Claude Frollo had been destined from infancy, by his parents,
to the ecclesiastical profession. He had been taught to
read in Latin; he had been trained to keep his eyes on the
ground and to speak low. While still a child, his father had
cloistered him in the college of Torchi in the University.
There it was that he had grown up, on the missal and the
Moreover, he was a sad, grave, serious child, who studied
ardently, and learned quickly; he never uttered a loud cry in
recreation hour, mixed but little in the bacchanals of the Rue
du Fouarre, did not know what it was to ~dare alapas et capillos
laniare~, and had cut no figure in that revolt of 1463, which
the annalists register gravely, under the title of "The sixth
trouble of the University." He seldom rallied the poor
students of Montaigu on the ~cappettes~ from which they derived
their name, or the bursars of the college of Dormans on their
shaved tonsure, and their surtout parti-colored of bluish-green,
blue, and violet cloth, ~azurini coloris et bruni~, as says the
charter of the Cardinal des Quatre-Couronnes.
On the other hand, he was assiduous at the great and the
small schools of the Rue Saint Jean de Beauvais. The first
pupil whom the Abbé de Saint Pierre de Val, at the moment
of beginning his reading on canon law, always perceived, glued
to a pillar of the school Saint-Vendregesile, opposite his
rostrum, was Claude Frollo, armed with his horn ink-bottle, biting
his pen, scribbling on his threadbare knee, and, in winter,
blowing on his fingers. The first auditor whom Messire Miles
d'Isliers, doctor in decretals, saw arrive every Monday morning,
all breathless, at the opening of the gates of the school
of the Chef-Saint-Denis, was Claude Frollo. Thus, at sixteen
years of age, the young clerk might have held his own, in
mystical theology, against a father of the church; in canonical
theology, against a father of the councils; in scholastic
theology, against a doctor of Sorbonne.
Theology conquered, he had plunged into decretals. From
the "Master of Sentences," he had passed to the "Capitularies
of Charlemagne;" and he had devoured in succession, in his
appetite for science, decretals upon decretals, those of
Theodore, Bishop of Hispalus; those of Bouchard, Bishop of
Worms; those of Yves, Bishop of Chartres; next the decretal
of Gratian, which succeeded the capitularies of Charlemagne;
then the collection of Gregory IX.; then the Epistle of
~Superspecula~, of Honorius III. He rendered clear and
familiar to himself that vast and tumultuous period of civil law
and canon law in conflict and at strife with each other, in the
chaos of the Middle Ages,--a period which Bishop Theodore
opens in 618, and which Pope Gregory closes in 1227.
Decretals digested, he flung himself upon medicine, on the
liberal arts. He studied the science of herbs, the science of
unguents; he became an expert in fevers and in contusions,
in sprains and abcesses. Jacques d' Espars would have
received him as a physician; Richard Hellain, as a surgeon.
He also passed through all the degrees of licentiate, master,
and doctor of arts. He studied the languages, Latin, Greek,
Hebrew, a triple sanctuary then very little frequented. His
was a veritable fever for acquiring and hoarding, in the matter
of science. At the age of eighteen, he had made his way
through the four faculties; it seemed to the young man that
life had but one sole object: learning.
It was towards this epoch, that the excessive heat of the
summer of 1466 caused that grand outburst of the plague
which carried off more than forty thousand souls in the
vicomty of Paris, and among others, as Jean de Troyes states,
"Master Arnoul, astrologer to the king, who was a very
fine man, both wise and pleasant." The rumor spread in the
University that the Rue Tirechappe was especially devastated by
the malady. It was there that Claude's parents resided, in
the midst of their fief. The young scholar rushed in great
alarm to the paternal mansion. When he entered it, he found
that both father and mother had died on the preceding day.
A very young brother of his, who was in swaddling clothes,
was still alive and crying abandoned in his cradle. This was
all that remained to Claude of his family; the young man
took the child under his arm and went off in a pensive mood.
Up to that moment, he had lived only in science; he now
began to live in life.
This catastrophe was a crisis in Claude's existence.
Orphaned, the eldest, head of the family at the age of nineteen,
he felt himself rudely recalled from the reveries of school to
the realities of this world. Then, moved with pity, he was
seized with passion and devotion towards that child, his
brother; a sweet and strange thing was a human affection
to him, who had hitherto loved his books alone.
This affection developed to a singular point; in a soul so
new, it was like a first love. Separated since infancy from
his parents, whom he had hardly known; cloistered and immured,
as it were, in his books; eager above all things to study
and to learn; exclusively attentive up to that time, to his
intelligence which broadened in science, to his imagination,
which expanded in letters,--the poor scholar had not yet had
time to feel the place of his heart.
This young brother, without mother or father, this little
child which had fallen abruptly from heaven into his arms,
made a new man of him. He perceived that there was something
else in the world besides the speculations of the Sorbonne,
and the verses of Homer; that man needed affections; that
life without tenderness and without love was only a set
of dry, shrieking, and rending wheels. Only, he imagined, for
he was at the age when illusions are as yet replaced only by
illusions, that the affections of blood and family were the sole
ones necessary, and that a little brother to love sufficed to fill
an entire existence.
He threw himself, therefore, into the love for his little
Jehan with the passion of a character already profound,
ardent, concentrated; that poor frail creature, pretty, fair-
haired, rosy, and curly,--that orphan with another orphan
for his only support, touched him to the bottom of his heart;
and grave thinker as he was, he set to meditating upon Jehan
with an infinite compassion. He kept watch and ward over
him as over something very fragile, and very worthy of care.
He was more than a brother to the child; he became a mother
Little Jehan had lost his mother while he was still at the
breast; Claude gave him to a nurse. Besides the fief of
Tirechappe, he had inherited from his father the fief of
Moulin, which was a dependency of the square tower of Gentilly;
it was a mill on a hill, near the château of Winchestre
(Bicêtre). There was a miller's wife there who was nursing a
fine child; it was not far from the university, and Claude
carried the little Jehan to her in his own arms.
From that time forth, feeling that he had a burden to bear,
he took life very seriously. The thought of his little brother
became not only his recreation, but the object of his studies.
He resolved to consecrate himself entirely to a future for
which he was responsible in the sight of God, and never to
have any other wife, any other child than the happiness and
fortune of his brother. Therefore, he attached himself more
closely than ever to the clerical profession. His merits, his
learning, his quality of immediate vassal of the Bishop of
Paris, threw the doors of the church wide open to him. At
the age of twenty, by special dispensation of the Holy See,
he was a priest, and served as the youngest of the chaplains
of Notre-Dame the altar which is called, because of the late
mass which is said there, ~altare pigrorum~.
There, plunged more deeply than ever in his dear books,
which he quitted only to run for an hour to the fief of Moulin,
this mixture of learning and austerity, so rare at his age, had
promptly acquired for him the respect and admiration of the
monastery. From the cloister, his reputation as a learned man
had passed to the people, among whom it had changed a little,
a frequent occurrence at that time, into reputation as a sorcerer.
It was at the moment when he was returning, on Quasimodo
day, from saying his mass at the Altar of the Lazy, which was
by the side of the door leading to the nave on the right, near
the image of the Virgin, that his attention had been attracted
by the group of old women chattering around the bed for
Then it was that he approached the unhappy little creature,
which was so hated and so menaced. That distress, that
deformity, that abandonment, the thought of his young brother,
the idea which suddenly occurred to him, that if he were to
die, his dear little Jehan might also be flung miserably on the
plank for foundlings,--all this had gone to his heart
simultaneously; a great pity had moved in him, and he had
carried off the child.
When he removed the child from the sack, he found it greatly
deformed, in very sooth. The poor little wretch had a wart on
his left eye, his head placed directly on his shoulders, his
spinal column was crooked, his breast bone prominent, and his
legs bowed; but he appeared to be lively; and although it was
impossible to say in what language he lisped, his cry indicated
considerable force and health. Claude's compassion increased
at the sight of this ugliness; and he made a vow in his heart
to rear the child for the love of his brother, in order that,
whatever might be the future faults of the little Jehan, he
should have beside him that charity done for his sake. It
was a sort of investment of good works, which he was effecting
in the name of his young brother; it was a stock of good works
which he wished to amass in advance for him, in case the little
rogue should some day find himself short of that coin, the only
sort which is received at the toll-bar of paradise.
He baptized his adopted child, and gave him the name of
Quasimodo, either because he desired thereby to mark the day,
when he had found him, or because he wished to designate by
that name to what a degree the poor little creature was
incomplete, and hardly sketched out. In fact, Quasimodo,
blind, hunchbacked, knock-kneed, was only an "almost."
~IMMANIS PECORIS CUSTOS, IMMANIOR IPSE~.
Now, in 1482, Quasimodo had grown up. He had become a
few years previously the bellringer of Notre-Dame, thanks to
his father by adoption, Claude Frollo,--who had become archdeacon
of Josas, thanks to his suzerain, Messire Louis de Beaumont,--who
had become Bishop of Paris, at the death of Guillaume Chartier in
1472, thanks to his patron, Olivier Le Daim, barber to Louis XI.,
king by the grace of God.
So Quasimodo was the ringer of the chimes of Notre-Dame.
In the course of time there had been formed a certain
peculiarly intimate bond which united the ringer to the church.
Separated forever from the world, by the double fatality of
his unknown birth and his natural deformity, imprisoned from
his infancy in that impassable double circle, the poor wretch
had grown used to seeing nothing in this world beyond the
religious walls which had received him under their shadow.
Notre-Dame had been to him successively, as he grew up and
developed, the egg, the nest, the house, the country, the
There was certainly a sort of mysterious and pre-existing
harmony between this creature and this church. When, still
a little fellow, he had dragged himself tortuously and by jerks
beneath the shadows of its vaults, he seemed, with his human
face and his bestial limbs, the natural reptile of that humid
and sombre pavement, upon which the shadow of the Romanesque
capitals cast so many strange forms.
Later on, the first time that he caught hold, mechanically,
of the ropes to the towers, and hung suspended from them,
and set the bell to clanging, it produced upon his adopted
father, Claude, the effect of a child whose tongue is unloosed
and who begins to speak.
It is thus that, little by little, developing always in
sympathy with the cathedral, living there, sleeping there, hardly
ever leaving it, subject every hour to the mysterious impress,
he came to resemble it, he incrusted himself in it, so to speak,
and became an integral part of it. His salient angles fitted
into the retreating angles of the cathedral (if we may be
allowed this figure of speech), and he seemed not only its
inhabitant but more than that, its natural tenant. One might
almost say that he had assumed its form, as the snail takes on
the form of its shell. It was his dwelling, his hole, his envelope.
There existed between him and the old church so profound an
instinctive sympathy, so many magnetic affinities, so many
material affinities, that he adhered to it somewhat as a
tortoise adheres to its shell. The rough and wrinkled cathedral
was his shell.
It is useless to warn the reader not to take literally all the
similes which we are obliged to employ here to express the
singular, symmetrical, direct, almost consubstantial union of a
man and an edifice. It is equally unnecessary to state to what
a degree that whole cathedral was familiar to him, after so
long and so intimate a cohabitation. That dwelling was
peculiar to him. It had no depths to which Quasimodo had not
penetrated, no height which he had not scaled. He often
climbed many stones up the front, aided solely by the uneven
points of the carving. The towers, on whose exterior
surface he was frequently seen clambering, like a lizard gliding
along a perpendicular wall, those two gigantic twins, so
lofty, so menacing, so formidable, possessed for him neither
vertigo, nor terror, nor shocks of amazement.
To see them so gentle under his hand, so easy to scale, one
would have said that he had tamed them. By dint of leaping,
climbing, gambolling amid the abysses of the gigantic cathedral
he had become, in some sort, a monkey and a goat, like
the Calabrian child who swims before he walks, and plays with
the sea while still a babe.
Moreover, it was not his body alone which seemed fashioned
after the Cathedral, but his mind also. In what condition
was that mind? What bent had it contracted, what form
had it assumed beneath that knotted envelope, in that savage
life? This it would be hard to determine. Quasimodo had
been born one-eyed, hunchbacked, lame. It was with great
difficulty, and by dint of great patience that Claude Frollo had
succeeded in teaching him to talk. But a fatality was
attached to the poor foundling. Bellringer of Notre-Dame at
the age of fourteen, a new infirmity had come to complete
his misfortunes: the bells had broken the drums of his ears;
he had become deaf. The only gate which nature had left
wide open for him had been abruptly closed, and forever.
In closing, it had cut off the only ray of joy and of light
which still made its way into the soul of Quasimodo. His
soul fell into profound night. The wretched being's misery
became as incurable and as complete as his deformity. Let us
add that his deafness rendered him to some extent dumb.
For, in order not to make others laugh, the very moment that
he found himself to be deaf, he resolved upon a silence which
he only broke when he was alone. He voluntarily tied that
tongue which Claude Frollo had taken so much pains to unloose.
Hence, it came about, that when necessity constrained
him to speak, his tongue was torpid, awkward, and like a door
whose hinges have grown rusty.
If now we were to try to penetrate to the soul of Quasimodo
through that thick, hard rind; if we could sound the depths
of that badly constructed organism; if it were granted to us
to look with a torch behind those non-transparent organs
to explore the shadowy interior of that opaque creature, to
elucidate his obscure corners, his absurd no-thoroughfares, and
suddenly to cast a vivid light upon the soul enchained at the
extremity of that cave, we should, no doubt, find the unhappy
Psyche in some poor, cramped, and ricketty attitude, like
those prisoners beneath the Leads of Venice, who grew old
bent double in a stone box which was both too low and too
short for them.
It is certain that the mind becomes atrophied in a defective
body. Quasimodo was barely conscious of a soul cast in his
own image, moving blindly within him. The impressions of
objects underwent a considerable refraction before reaching
his mind. His brain was a peculiar medium; the ideas which
passed through it issued forth completely distorted. The
reflection which resulted from this refraction was, necessarily,
divergent and perverted.
Hence a thousand optical illusions, a thousand aberrations
of judgment, a thousand deviations, in which his thought
strayed, now mad, now idiotic.
The first effect of this fatal organization was to trouble the
glance which he cast upon things. He received hardly any
immediate perception of them. The external world seemed
much farther away to him than it does to us.
The second effect of his misfortune was to render him malicious.
He was malicious, in fact, because he was savage; he was
savage because he was ugly. There was logic in his nature, as
there is in ours.
His strength, so extraordinarily developed, was a cause of
still greater malevolence: "~Malus puer robustus~," says
This justice must, however be rendered to him. Malevolence
was not, perhaps, innate in him. From his very first
steps among men, he had felt himself, later on he had seen
himself, spewed out, blasted, rejected. Human words were,
for him, always a raillery or a malediction. As he grew up,
he had found nothing but hatred around him. He had caught
the general malevolence. He had picked up the weapon with
which he had been wounded.
After all, he turned his face towards men only with
reluctance; his cathedral was sufficient for him. It was peopled
with marble figures,--kings, saints, bishops,--who at least
did not burst out laughing in his face, and who gazed upon
him only with tranquillity and kindliness. The other statues,
those of the monsters and demons, cherished no hatred for
him, Quasimodo. He resembled them too much for that.
They seemed rather, to be scoffing at other men. The saints
were his friends, and blessed him; the monsters were his
friends and guarded him. So he held long communion with
them. He sometimes passed whole hours crouching before
one of these statues, in solitary conversation with it. If any
one came, he fled like a lover surprised in his serenade.
And the cathedral was not only society for him, but the
universe, and all nature beside. He dreamed of no other
hedgerows than the painted windows, always in flower; no
other shade than that of the foliage of stone which spread
out, loaded with birds, in the tufts of the Saxon capitals; of
no other mountains than the colossal towers of the church; of
no other ocean than Paris, roaring at their bases.
What he loved above all else in the maternal edifice, that
which aroused his soul, and made it open its poor wings,
which it kept so miserably folded in its cavern, that which
sometimes rendered him even happy, was the bells. He
loved them, fondled them, talked to them, understood them.
From the chime in the spire, over the intersection of the aisles
and nave, to the great bell of the front, he cherished a
tenderness for them all. The central spire and the two towers
were to him as three great cages, whose birds, reared by
himself, sang for him alone. Yet it was these very bells which
had made him deaf; but mothers often love best that child
which has caused them the most suffering.
It is true that their voice was the only one which he could
still hear. On this score, the big bell was his beloved. It
was she whom he preferred out of all that family of noisy
girls which bustled above him, on festival days. This bell
was named Marie. She was alone in the southern tower, with
her sister Jacqueline, a bell of lesser size, shut up in a smaller
cage beside hers. This Jacqueline was so called from the
name of the wife of Jean Montagu, who had given it to the
church, which had not prevented his going and figuring without
his head at Montfauçon. In the second tower there were
six other bells, and, finally, six smaller ones inhabited the
belfry over the crossing, with the wooden bell, which rang
only between after dinner on Good Friday and the morning of
the day before Easter. So Quasimodo had fifteen bells in his
seraglio; but big Marie was his favorite.
No idea can be formed of his delight on days when the
grand peal was sounded. At the moment when the archdeacon
dismissed him, and said, "Go!" he mounted the spiral
staircase of the clock tower faster than any one else could
have descended it. He entered perfectly breathless into the
aerial chamber of the great bell; he gazed at her a moment,
devoutly and lovingly; then he gently addressed her and
patted her with his hand, like a good horse, which is about
to set out on a long journey. He pitied her for the trouble
that she was about to suffer. After these first caresses, he
shouted to his assistants, placed in the lower story of the
tower, to begin. They grasped the ropes, the wheel creaked,
the enormous capsule of metal started slowly into motion.
Quasimodo followed it with his glance and trembled. The
first shock of the clapper and the brazen wall made the
framework upon which it was mounted quiver. Quasimodo
vibrated with the bell.
"Vah!" he cried, with a senseless burst of laughter. However,
the movement of the bass was accelerated, and, in proportion
as it described a wider angle, Quasimodo's eye opened
also more and more widely, phosphoric and flaming. At
length the grand peal began; the whole tower trembled;
woodwork, leads, cut stones, all groaned at once, from the
piles of the foundation to the trefoils of its summit. Then
Quasimodo boiled and frothed; he went and came; he trembled
from head to foot with the tower. The bell, furious,
running riot, presented to the two walls of the tower
alternately its brazen throat, whence escaped that tempestuous
breath, which is audible leagues away. Quasimodo stationed
himself in front of this open throat; he crouched and rose
with the oscillations of the bell, breathed in this overwhelming
breath, gazed by turns at the deep place, which swarmed
with people, two hundred feet below him, and at that enormous,
brazen tongue which came, second after second, to howl
in his ear.
It was the only speech which he understood, the only sound
which broke for him the universal silence. He swelled out
in it as a bird does in the sun. All of a sudden, the frenzy
of the bell seized upon him; his look became extraordinary;
he lay in wait for the great bell as it passed, as a spider lies
in wait for a fly, and flung himself abruptly upon it, with
might and main. Then, suspended above the abyss, borne to
and fro by the formidable swinging of the bell, he seized the
brazen monster by the ear-laps, pressed it between both knees,
spurred it on with his heels, and redoubled the fury of the
peal with the whole shock and weight of his body. Meanwhile,
the tower trembled; he shrieked and gnashed his teeth,
his red hair rose erect, his breast heaving like a bellows, his
eye flashed flames, the monstrous bell neighed, panting, beneath
him; and then it was no longer the great bell of Notre-
Dame nor Quasimodo: it was a dream, a whirlwind, a tempest,
dizziness mounted astride of noise; a spirit clinging to a flying
crupper, a strange centaur, half man, half bell; a sort of
horrible Astolphus, borne away upon a prodigious hippogriff
of living bronze.
The presence of this extraordinary being caused, as it were,
a breath of life to circulate throughout the entire cathedral.
It seemed as though there escaped from him, at least according
to the growing superstitions of the crowd, a mysterious
emanation which animated all the stones of Notre-Dame, and
made the deep bowels of the ancient church to palpitate. It
sufficed for people to know that he was there, to make them
believe that they beheld the thousand statues of the galleries
and the fronts in motion. And the cathedral did indeed seem
a docile and obedient creature beneath his hand; it waited on
his will to raise its great voice; it was possessed and filled
with Quasimodo, as with a familiar spirit. One would have
said that he made the immense edifice breathe. He was
everywhere about it; in fact, he multiplied himself on all
points of the structure. Now one perceived with affright at
the very top of one of the towers, a fantastic dwarf climbing,
writhing, crawling on all fours, descending outside above the
abyss, leaping from projection to projection, and going to
ransack the belly of some sculptured gorgon; it was Quasimodo
dislodging the crows. Again, in some obscure corner of
the church one came in contact with a sort of living chimera,
crouching and scowling; it was Quasimodo engaged in thought.
Sometimes one caught sight, upon a bell tower, of an enormous
head and a bundle of disordered limbs swinging furiously
at the end of a rope; it was Quasimodo ringing vespers
or the Angelus. Often at night a hideous form was seen
wandering along the frail balustrade of carved lacework,
which crowns the towers and borders the circumference of
the apse; again it was the hunchback of Notre-Dame. Then,
said the women of the neighborhood, the whole church took
on something fantastic, supernatural, horrible; eyes and
mouths were opened, here and there; one heard the dogs, the
monsters, and the gargoyles of stone, which keep watch night
and day, with outstretched neck and open jaws, around the
monstrous cathedral, barking. And, if it was a Christmas
Eve, while the great bell, which seemed to emit the death
rattle, summoned the faithful to the midnight mass, such an
air was spread over the sombre façade that one would have
declared that the grand portal was devouring the throng, and
that the rose window was watching it. And all this came
from Quasimodo. Egypt would have taken him for the god
of this temple; the Middle Ages believed him to be its
demon: he was in fact its soul.
To such an extent was this disease that for those who know
that Quasimodo has existed, Notre-Dame is to-day deserted,
inanimate, dead. One feels that something has disappeared
from it. That immense body is empty; it is a skeleton; the
spirit has quitted it, one sees its place and that is all. It is
like a skull which still has holes for the eyes, but no
THE DOG AND HIS MASTER.
Nevertheless, there was one human creature whom Quasimodo
excepted from his malice and from his hatred for others,
and whom he loved even more, perhaps, than his cathedral:
this was Claude Frollo.
The matter was simple; Claude Frollo had taken him in,
had adopted him, had nourished him, had reared him. When
a little lad, it was between Claude Frollo's legs that he was
accustomed to seek refuge, when the dogs and the children
barked after him. Claude Frollo had taught him to talk, to
read, to write. Claude Frollo had finally made him the
bellringer. Now, to give the big bell in marriage to Quasimodo
was to give Juliet to Romeo.
Hence Quasimodo's gratitude was profound, passionate,
boundless; and although the visage of his adopted father
was often clouded or severe, although his speech was habitually
curt, harsh, imperious, that gratitude never wavered
for a single moment. The archdeacon had in Quasimodo
the most submissive slave, the most docile lackey, the most
vigilant of dogs. When the poor bellringer became deaf,
there had been established between him and Claude Frollo, a
language of signs, mysterious and understood by themselves
alone. In this manner the archdeacon was the sole human
being with whom Quasimodo had preserved communication.
He was in sympathy with but two things in this world: Notre-
Dame and Claude Frollo.
There is nothing which can be compared with the empire of
the archdeacon over the bellringer; with the attachment of
the bellringer for the archdeacon. A sign from Claude and
the idea of giving him pleasure would have sufficed to make
Quasimodo hurl himself headlong from the summit of Notre-
Dame. It was a remarkable thing--all that physical strength
which had reached in Quasimodo such an extraordinary
development, and which was placed by him blindly at the disposition
of another. There was in it, no doubt, filial devotion,
domestic attachment; there was also the fascination of one
spirit by another spirit. It was a poor, awkward, and clumsy
organization, which stood with lowered head and supplicating
eyes before a lofty and profound, a powerful and superior
intellect. Lastly, and above all, it was gratitude. Gratitude
so pushed to its extremest limit, that we do not know to what
to compare it. This virtue is not one of those of which the
finest examples are to be met with among men. We will say
then, that Quasimodo loved the archdeacon as never a dog,
never a horse, never an elephant loved his master.
MORE ABOUT CLAUDE FROLLO.
In 1482, Quasimodo was about twenty years of age; Claude
Frollo, about thirty-six. One had grown up, the other had
Claude Frollo was no longer the simple scholar of the college
of Torch, the tender protector of a little child, the
young and dreamy philosopher who knew many things and
was ignorant of many. He was a priest, austere, grave,
morose; one charged with souls; monsieur the archdeacon of
Josas, the bishop's second acolyte, having charge of the
two deaneries of Montlhéry, and Châteaufort, and one hundred
and seventy-four country curacies. He was an imposing and
sombre personage, before whom the choir boys in alb and
in jacket trembled, as well as the machicots*, and the brothers
of Saint-Augustine and the matutinal clerks of Notre-Dame,
when he passed slowly beneath the lofty arches of the choir,
majestic, thoughtful, with arms folded and his head so bent
upon his breast that all one saw of his face was his large,
* An official of Notre-Dame, lower than a beneficed clergyman,
higher than simple paid chanters.
Dom Claude Frollo had, however, abandoned neither science
nor the education of his young brother, those two occupations
of his life. But as time went on, some bitterness had
been mingled with these things which were so sweet. In the
long run, says Paul Diacre, the best lard turns rancid. Little
Jehan Frollo, surnamed (~du Moulin~) "of the Mill" because of
the place where he had been reared, had not grown up in the
direction which Claude would have liked to impose upon him.
The big brother counted upon a pious, docile, learned, and
honorable pupil. But the little brother, like those young trees
which deceive the gardener's hopes and turn obstinately to the
quarter whence they receive sun and air, the little brother did
not grow and did not multiply, but only put forth fine bushy
and luxuriant branches on the side of laziness, ignorance, and
debauchery. He was a regular devil, and a very disorderly
one, who made Dom Claude scowl; but very droll and very
subtle, which made the big brother smile.
Claude had confided him to that same college of Torchi
where he had passed his early years in study and meditation;
and it was a grief to him that this sanctuary, formerly edified
by the name of Frollo, should to-day be scandalized by it.
He sometimes preached Jehan very long and severe sermons,
which the latter intrepidly endured. After all, the young
scapegrace had a good heart, as can be seen in all comedies.
But the sermon over, he none the less tranquilly resumed his
course of seditions and enormities. Now it was a ~bejaune~ or
yellow beak (as they called the new arrivals at the university),
whom he had been mauling by way of welcome; a precious
tradition which has been carefully preserved to our own day.
Again, he had set in movement a band of scholars, who had
flung themselves upon a wine-shop in classic fashion, quasi
~classico excitati~, had then beaten the tavern-keeper "with
offensive cudgels," and joyously pillaged the tavern, even to
smashing in the hogsheads of wine in the cellar. And then
it was a fine report in Latin, which the sub-monitor of Torchi
carried piteously to Dom Claude with this dolorous marginal
comment,--~Rixa; prima causa vinum optimum potatum~. Finally,
it was said, a thing quite horrible in a boy of sixteen, that
his debauchery often extended as far as the Rue de Glatigny.
Claude, saddened and discouraged in his human affections,
by all this, had flung himself eagerly into the arms of learning,
that sister which, at least does not laugh in your face, and
which always pays you, though in money that is sometimes a
little hollow, for the attention which you have paid to her.
Hence, he became more and more learned, and, at the same
time, as a natural consequence, more and more rigid as a
priest, more and more sad as a man. There are for each of
us several parallelisms between our intelligence, our habits,
and our character, which develop without a break, and break
only in the great disturbances of life.
As Claude Frollo had passed through nearly the entire
circle of human learning--positive, exterior, and
permissible--since his youth, he was obliged, unless he came
to a halt, ~ubi defuit orbis~, to proceed further and seek other
aliments for the insatiable activity of his intelligence. The
antique symbol of the serpent biting its tail is, above all,
applicable to science. It would appear that Claude Frollo had
experienced this. Many grave persons affirm that, after having
exhausted the ~fas~ of human learning, he had dared to penetrate
into the ~nefas~. He had, they said, tasted in succession all
the apples of the tree of knowledge, and, whether from hunger or
disgust, had ended by tasting the forbidden fruit. He had taken
his place by turns, as the reader has seen, in the conferences of
the theologians in Sorbonne,--in the assemblies of the doctors of
art, after the manner of Saint-Hilaire,--in the disputes of the
decretalists, after the manner of Saint-Martin,--in the
congregations of physicians at the holy water font of Notre-
Dame, ~ad cupam Nostroe-Dominoe~. All the dishes permitted
and approved, which those four great kitchens called
the four faculties could elaborate and serve to the understanding,
he had devoured, and had been satiated with them before
his hunger was appeased. Then he had penetrated further,
lower, beneath all that finished, material, limited knowledge;
he had, perhaps, risked his soul, and had seated himself in the
cavern at that mysterious table of the alchemists, of the
astrologers, of the hermetics, of which Averroès, Gillaume de
Paris, and Nicolas Flamel hold the end in the Middle Ages;
and which extends in the East, by the light of the seven-
branched candlestick, to Solomon, Pythagoras, and Zoroaster.
That is, at least, what was supposed, whether rightly or not.
It is certain that the archdeacon often visited the cemetery
of the Saints-Innocents, where, it is true, his father and
mother had been buried, with other victims of the plague of
1466; but that he appeared far less devout before the cross
of their grave than before the strange figures with which the
tomb of Nicolas Flamel and Claude Pernelle, erected just beside
it, was loaded.
It is certain that he had frequently been seen to pass along
the Rue des Lombards, and furtively enter a little house
which formed the corner of the Rue des Ecrivans and the Rue
Marivault. It was the house which Nicolas Flamel had
built, where he had died about 1417, and which, constantly
deserted since that time, had already begun to fall in
ruins,--so greatly had the hermetics and the alchemists of all
countries wasted away the walls, merely by carving their names
upon them. Some neighbors even affirm that they had once seen,
through an air-hole, Archdeacon Claude excavating, turning over,
digging up the earth in the two cellars, whose supports had been
daubed with numberless couplets and hieroglyphics by Nicolas
Flamel himself. It was supposed that Flamel had buried the
philosopher's stone in the cellar; and the alchemists, for the
space of two centuries, from Magistri to Father Pacifique, never
ceased to worry the soil until the house, so cruelly ransacked
and turned over, ended by falling into dust beneath their feet.
Again, it is certain that the archdeacon had been seized
with a singular passion for the symbolical door of Notre-
Dame, that page of a conjuring book written in stone, by
Bishop Guillaume de Paris, who has, no doubt, been damned
for having affixed so infernal a frontispiece to the sacred poem
chanted by the rest of the edifice. Archdeacon Claude had
the credit also of having fathomed the mystery of the colossus
of Saint Christopher, and of that lofty, enigmatical statue
which then stood at the entrance of the vestibule, and which
the people, in derision, called "Monsieur Legris." But, what
every one might have noticed was the interminable hours
which he often employed, seated upon the parapet of the area
in front of the church, in contemplating the sculptures of the
front; examining now the foolish virgins with their lamps
reversed, now the wise virgins with their lamps upright; again,
calculating the angle of vision of that raven which belongs to
the left front, and which is looking at a mysterious point inside
the church, where is concealed the philosopher's stone, if it be
not in the cellar of Nicolas Flamel.
It was, let us remark in passing, a singular fate for the
Church of Notre-Dame at that epoch to be so beloved, in two
different degrees, and with so much devotion, by two beings so
dissimilar as Claude and Quasimodo. Beloved by one, a sort
of instinctive and savage half-man, for its beauty, for its
stature, for the harmonies which emanated from its magnificent
ensemble; beloved by the other, a learned and passionate
imagination, for its myth, for the sense which it contains,
for the symbolism scattered beneath the sculptures of its
front,--like the first text underneath the second in a
palimpsest,--in a word, for the enigma which it is eternally
propounding to the understanding.
Furthermore, it is certain that the archdeacon had
established himself in that one of the two towers which looks
upon the Grève, just beside the frame for the bells, a very
secret little cell, into which no one, not even the bishop,
entered without his leave, it was said. This tiny cell had
formerly been made almost at the summit of the tower,
among the ravens' nests, by Bishop Hugo de Besançon* who
had wrought sorcery there in his day. What that cell
contained, no one knew; but from the strand of the Terrain,
at night, there was often seen to appear, disappear, and
reappear at brief and regular intervals, at a little dormer
window opening upon the back of the tower, a certain red,
intermittent, singular light which seemed to follow the panting
breaths of a bellows, and to proceed from a flame, rather than
from a light. In the darkness, at that height, it produced a
singular effect; and the goodwives said: "There's the
archdeacon blowing! hell is sparkling up yonder!"
* Hugo II. de Bisuncio, 1326-1332.
There were no great proofs of sorcery in that, after all, but
there was still enough smoke to warrant a surmise of fire, and
the archdeacon bore a tolerably formidable reputation. We
ought to mention however, that the sciences of Egypt, that
necromancy and magic, even the whitest, even the most innocent,
had no more envenomed enemy, no more pitiless denunciator
before the gentlemen of the officialty of Notre-Dame.
Whether this was sincere horror, or the game played by the
thief who shouts, "stop thief!" at all events, it did not prevent
the archdeacon from being considered by the learned heads of
the chapter, as a soul who had ventured into the vestibule of
hell, who was lost in the caves of the cabal, groping amid the
shadows of the occult sciences. Neither were the people
deceived thereby; with any one who possessed any sagacity,
Quasimodo passed for the demon; Claude Frollo, for the
sorcerer. It was evident that the bellringer was to serve the
archdeacon for a given time, at the end of which he would
carry away the latter's soul, by way of payment. Thus the
archdeacon, in spite of the excessive austerity of his life, was
in bad odor among all pious souls; and there was no devout
nose so inexperienced that it could not smell him out to
be a magician.
And if, as he grew older, abysses had formed in his science,
they had also formed in his heart. That at least, is what one
had grounds for believing on scrutinizing that face upon
which the soul was only seen to shine through a sombre cloud.
Whence that large, bald brow? that head forever bent? that
breast always heaving with sighs? What secret thought
caused his mouth to smile with so much bitterness, at the
same moment that his scowling brows approached each other
like two bulls on the point of fighting? Why was what hair
he had left already gray? What was that internal fire which
sometimes broke forth in his glance, to such a degree that his
eye resembled a hole pierced in the wall of a furnace?
These symptoms of a violent moral preoccupation, had
acquired an especially high degree of intensity at the epoch
when this story takes place. More than once a choir-boy had
fled in terror at finding him alone in the church, so strange
and dazzling was his look. More than once, in the choir, at
the hour of the offices, his neighbor in the stalls had heard
him mingle with the plain song, ~ad omnem tonum~, unintelligible
parentheses. More than once the laundress of the Terrain
charged "with washing the chapter" had observed, not
without affright, the marks of nails and clenched fingers
on the surplice of monsieur the archdeacon of Josas.
However, he redoubled his severity, and had never been
more exemplary. By profession as well as by character, he
had always held himself aloof from women; he seemed to hate
them more than ever. The mere rustling of a silken petticoat
caused his hood to fall over his eyes. Upon this score he was
so jealous of austerity and reserve, that when the Dame de
Beaujeu, the king's daughter, came to visit the cloister of
Notre-Dame, in the month of December, 1481, he gravely
opposed her entrance, reminding the bishop of the statute of
the Black Book, dating from the vigil of Saint-Barthélemy,
1334, which interdicts access to the cloister to "any woman
whatever, old or young, mistress or maid." Upon which the
bishop had been constrained to recite to him the ordinance of
Legate Odo, which excepts certain great dames, ~aliquoe
magnates mulieres, quoe sine scandalo vitari non possunt~.
And again the archdeacon had protested, objecting that the
ordinance of the legate, which dated back to 1207, was anterior
by a hundred and twenty-seven years to the Black Book, and
consequently was abrogated in fact by it. And he had refused
to appear before the princess.
It was also noticed that his horror for Bohemian women and
gypsies had seemed to redouble for some time past. He had
petitioned the bishop for an edict which expressly forbade
the Bohemian women to come and dance and beat their tambourines
on the place of the Parvis; and for about the same length of
time, he had been ransacking the mouldy placards of the
officialty, in order to collect the cases of sorcerers and
witches condemned to fire or the rope, for complicity in crimes
with rams, sows, or goats.
The archdeacon and the bellringer, as we have already
said, were but little loved by the populace great and small, in
the vicinity of the cathedral. When Claude and Quasimodo
went out together, which frequently happened, and when
they were seen traversing in company, the valet behind the
master, the cold, narrow, and gloomy streets of the block of
Notre-Dame, more than one evil word, more than one ironical
quaver, more than one insulting jest greeted them on their
way, unless Claude Frollo, which was rarely the case, walked
with head upright and raised, showing his severe and almost
august brow to the dumbfounded jeerers.
Both were in their quarter like "the poets" of whom
"All sorts of persons run after poets,
As warblers fly shrieking after owls."
Sometimes a mischievous child risked his skin and bones for
the ineffable pleasure of driving a pin into Quasimodo's hump.
Again, a young girl, more bold and saucy than was fitting,
brushed the priest's black robe, singing in his face the sardonic
ditty, "niche, niche, the devil is caught." Sometimes a group
of squalid old crones, squatting in a file under the shadow of
the steps to a porch, scolded noisily as the archdeacon and the
bellringer passed, and tossed them this encouraging welcome,
with a curse: "Hum! there's a fellow whose soul is made like
the other one's body!" Or a band of schoolboys and street
urchins, playing hop-scotch, rose in a body and saluted him
classically, with some cry in Latin: "~Eia! eia! Claudius
But the insult generally passed unnoticed both by the priest
and the bellringer. Quasimodo was too deaf to hear all these
gracious things, and Claude was too dreamy.
~ABBAS BEATI MARTINI~.
Dom Claude's fame had spread far and wide. It procured
for him, at about the epoch when he refused to see Madame de
Beaujeu, a visit which he long remembered.
It was in the evening. He had just retired, after the office,
to his canon's cell in the cloister of Notre-Dame. This cell,
with the exception, possibly, of some glass phials, relegated
to a corner, and filled with a decidedly equivocal powder,
which strongly resembled the alchemist's "powder of projection,"
presented nothing strange or mysterious. There were,
indeed, here and there, some inscriptions on the walls, but they
were pure sentences of learning and piety, extracted from
good authors. The archdeacon had just seated himself, by the
light of a three-jetted copper lamp, before a vast coffer
crammed with manuscripts. He had rested his elbow upon the
open volume of _Honorius d'Autun_, ~De predestinatione et libero
arbitrio~, and he was turning over, in deep meditation, the
leaves of a printed folio which he had just brought, the
sole product of the press which his cell contained. In the
midst of his revery there came a knock at his door. "Who's
there?" cried the learned man, in the gracious tone of a
famished dog, disturbed over his bone.
A voice without replied, "Your friend, Jacques Coictier."
He went to open the door.
It was, in fact, the king's physician; a person about fifty
years of age, whose harsh physiognomy was modified only by a
crafty eye. Another man accompanied him. Both wore long
slate-colored robes, furred with minever, girded and closed,
with caps of the same stuff and hue. Their hands were
concealed by their sleeves, their feet by their robes, their eyes
by their caps.
"God help me, messieurs!" said the archdeacon, showing
them in; "I was not expecting distinguished visitors at such
an hour." And while speaking in this courteous fashion he
cast an uneasy and scrutinizing glance from the physician to
"'Tis never too late to come and pay a visit to so considerable
a learned man as Dom Claude Frollo de Tirechappe," replied
Doctor Coictier, whose Franche-Comté accent made all his
phrases drag along with the majesty of a train-robe.
There then ensued between the physician and the archdeacon
one of those congratulatory prologues which, in accordance
with custom, at that epoch preceded all conversations
between learned men, and which did not prevent them from
detesting each other in the most cordial manner in the world.
However, it is the same nowadays; every wise man's mouth
complimenting another wise man is a vase of honeyed gall.
Claude Frollo's felicitations to Jacques Coictier bore reference
principally to the temporal advantages which the worthy
physician had found means to extract, in the course of his
much envied career, from each malady of the king, an operation
of alchemy much better and more certain than the pursuit
of the philosopher's stone.
"In truth, Monsieur le Docteur Coictier, I felt great joy
on learning of the bishopric given your nephew, my reverend
seigneur Pierre Verse. Is he not Bishop of Amiens?"
"Yes, monsieur Archdeacon; it is a grace and mercy of God."
"Do you know that you made a great figure on Christmas
Day at the bead of your company of the chamber of accounts,
"Vice-President, Dom Claude. Alas! nothing more."
"How is your superb house in the Rue Saint-André des
Arcs coming on? 'Tis a Louvre. I love greatly the apricot
tree which is carved on the door, with this play of words:
'A L'ABRI-COTIER--Sheltered from reefs.'"
"Alas! Master Claude, all that masonry costeth me dear.
In proportion as the house is erected, I am ruined."
"Ho! have you not your revenues from the jail, and the
bailiwick of the Palais, and the rents of all the houses,
sheds, stalls, and booths of the enclosure? 'Tis a fine breast
"My castellany of Poissy has brought me in nothing this year."
"But your tolls of Triel, of Saint-James, of Saint-Germainen-Laye
are always good."
"Six score livres, and not even Parisian livres at that."
"You have your office of counsellor to the king. That is fixed."
"Yes, brother Claude; but that accursed seigneury of Poligny,
which people make so much noise about, is worth not sixty gold
crowns, year out and year in."
In the compliments which Dom Claude addressed to Jacques
Coictier, there was that sardonical, biting, and covertly
mocking accent, and the sad cruel smile of a superior and
unhappy man who toys for a moment, by way of distraction, with
the dense prosperity of a vulgar man. The other did not
"Upon my soul," said Claude at length, pressing his hand,
"I am glad to see you and in such good health."
"Thanks, Master Claude."
"By the way," exclaimed Dom Claude, "how is your royal patient?"
"He payeth not sufficiently his physician," replied the
doctor, casting a side glance at his companion.
"Think you so, Gossip Coictier," said the latter.
These words, uttered in a tone of surprise and reproach,
drew upon this unknown personage the attention of the
archdeacon which, to tell the truth, had not been diverted from
him a single moment since the stranger had set foot across
the threshold of his cell. It had even required all the
thousand reasons which he had for handling tenderly Doctor
Jacques Coictier, the all-powerful physician of King Louis XI.,
to induce him to receive the latter thus accompanied. Hence,
there was nothing very cordial in his manner when Jacques
Coictier said to him,--
"By the way, Dom Claude, I bring you a colleague who has
desired to see you on account of your reputation."
"Monsieur belongs to science?" asked the archdeacon, fixing
his piercing eye upon Coictier's companion. He found
beneath the brows of the stranger a glance no less piercing
or less distrustful than his own.
He was, so far as the feeble light of the lamp permitted
one to judge, an old man about sixty years of age and of
medium stature, who appeared somewhat sickly and broken in
health. His profile, although of a very ordinary outline, had
something powerful and severe about it; his eyes sparkled
beneath a very deep superciliary arch, like a light in the
depths of a cave; and beneath his cap which was well drawn
down and fell upon his nose, one recognized the broad expanse
of a brow of genius.
He took it upon himself to reply to the archdeacon's question,--
"Reverend master," he said in a grave tone, "your renown
has reached my ears, and I wish to consult you. I am but a
poor provincial gentleman, who removeth his shoes before
entering the dwellings of the learned. You must know my
name. I am called Gossip Tourangeau."
"Strange name for a gentleman," said the archdeacon to himself.
Nevertheless, he had a feeling that he was in the presence
of a strong and earnest character. The instinct of his own
lofty intellect made him recognize an intellect no less lofty
under Gossip Tourangeau's furred cap, and as he gazed at
the solemn face, the ironical smile which Jacques Coictier's
presence called forth on his gloomy face, gradually
disappeared as twilight fades on the horizon of night.
Stern and silent, he had resumed his seat in his great
armchair; his elbow rested as usual, on the table, and his brow
on his hand. After a few moments of reflection, he motioned
his visitors to be seated, and, turning to Gossip Tourangeau
"You come to consult me, master, and upon what science?"
"Your reverence," replied Tourangeau, "I am ill, very ill.
You are said to be great AEsculapius, and I am come to ask
your advice in medicine."
"Medicine!" said the archdeacon, tossing his head. He
seemed to meditate for a moment, and then resumed: "Gossip
Tourangeau, since that is your name, turn your head, you will
find my reply already written on the wall."
Gossip Tourangeau obeyed, and read this inscription engraved
above his head: "Medicine is the daughter of dreams.--JAMBLIQUE."
Meanwhile, Doctor Jacques Coictier had heard his
companion's question with a displeasure which Dom Claude's
response had but redoubled. He bent down to the ear of
Gossip Tourangeau, and said to him, softly enough not to be
heard by the archdeacon: "I warned you that he was mad.
You insisted on seeing him."
"'Tis very possible that he is right, madman as he is, Doctor
Jacques," replied his comrade in the same low tone, and with
a bitter smile.
"As you please," replied Coictier dryly. Then, addressing
the archdeacon: "You are clever at your trade, Dom Claude,
and you are no more at a loss over Hippocrates than a
monkey is over a nut. Medicine a dream! I suspect that the
pharmacopolists and the master physicians would insist upon
stoning you if they were here. So you deny the influence of
philtres upon the blood, and unguents on the skin! You deny
that eternal pharmacy of flowers and metals, which is called
the world, made expressly for that eternal invalid called man!"
"I deny," said Dom Claude coldly, "neither pharmacy nor the
invalid. I reject the physician."
"Then it is not true," resumed Coictier hotly, "that gout
is an internal eruption; that a wound caused by artillery is to
be cured by the application of a young mouse roasted; that
young blood, properly injected, restores youth to aged veins;
it is not true that two and two make four, and that
emprostathonos follows opistathonos."
The archdeacon replied without perturbation: "There are
certain things of which I think in a certain fashion."
Coictier became crimson with anger.
"There, there, my good Coictier, let us not get angry," said
Gossip Tourangeau. "Monsieur the archdeacon is our friend."
Coictier calmed down, muttering in a low tone,--
"After all, he's mad."
"~Pasque-dieu~, Master Claude," resumed Gossip Tourangeau,
after a silence, "You embarrass me greatly. I had two things
to consult you upon, one touching my health and the other
touching my star."
"Monsieur," returned the archdeacon, "if that be your
motive, you would have done as well not to put yourself out
of breath climbing my staircase. I do not believe in Medicine.
I do not believe in Astrology."
"Indeed!" said the man, with surprise.
Coictier gave a forced laugh.
"You see that he is mad," he said, in a low tone, to Gossip
Tourangeau. "He does not believe in astrology."
"The idea of imagining," pursued Dom Claude, "that every
ray of a star is a thread which is fastened to the head of
"And what then, do you believe in?" exclaimed Gossip Tourangeau.
The archdeacon hesitated for a moment, then he allowed a
gloomy smile to escape, which seemed to give the lie to his
response: "~Credo in Deum~."
"~Dominum nostrum~," added Gossip Tourangeau, making the
sign of the cross.
"Amen," said Coictier.
"Reverend master," resumed Tourangeau, "I am charmed
in soul to see you in such a religious frame of mind. But
have you reached the point, great savant as you are, of no
longer believing in science?"
"No," said the archdeacon, grasping the arm of Gossip
Tourangeau, and a ray of enthusiasm lighted up his gloomy
eyes, "no, I do not reject science. I have not crawled so
long, flat on my belly, with my nails in the earth, through the
innumerable ramifications of its caverns, without perceiving
far in front of me, at the end of the obscure gallery, a light,
a flame, a something, the reflection, no doubt, of the dazzling
central laboratory where the patient and the wise have found
"And in short," interrupted Tourangeau, "what do you
hold to be true and certain?"
Coictier exclaimed, "Pardieu, Dom Claude, alchemy has its
use, no doubt, but why blaspheme medicine and astrology?"
"Naught is your science of man, naught is your science of
the stars," said the archdeacon, commandingly.
"That's driving Epidaurus and Chaldea very fast," replied
the physician with a grin.
"Listen, Messire Jacques. This is said in good faith. I
am not the king's physician, and his majesty has not
given me the Garden of Daedalus in which to observe the
constellations. Don't get angry, but listen to me. What
truth have you deduced, I will not say from medicine, which
is too foolish a thing, but from astrology? Cite to me the
virtues of the vertical boustrophedon, the treasures of the
number ziruph and those of the number zephirod!"
"Will you deny," said Coictier, "the sympathetic force of
the collar bone, and the cabalistics which are derived from it?"
"An error, Messire Jacques! None of your formulas end in
reality. Alchemy on the other hand has its discoveries. Will
you contest results like this? Ice confined beneath the earth
for a thousand years is transformed into rock crystals. Lead
is the ancestor of all metals. For gold is not a metal, gold is
light. Lead requires only four periods of two hundred years
each, to pass in succession from the state of lead, to the state
of red arsenic, from red arsenic to tin, from tin to silver. Are
not these facts? But to believe in the collar bone, in the full
line and in the stars, is as ridiculous as to believe with the
inhabitants of Grand-Cathay that the golden oriole turns into
a mole, and that grains of wheat turn into fish of the carp
"I have studied hermetic science!" exclaimed Coictier,
"and I affirm--"
The fiery archdeacon did not allow him to finish: "And I
have studied medicine, astrology, and hermetics. Here alone
is the truth." (As he spoke thus, he took from the top of the
coffer a phial filled with the powder which we have mentioned
above), "here alone is light! Hippocrates is a dream; Urania
is a dream; Hermes, a thought. Gold is the sun; to make
gold is to be God. Herein lies the one and only science.
I have sounded the depths of medicine and astrology, I tell
you! Naught, nothingness! The human body, shadows! the
And he fell back in his armchair in a commanding and
inspired attitude. Gossip Touraugeau watched him in silence.
Coictier tried to grin, shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly,
and repeated in a low voice,--
"And," said Tourangeau suddenly, "the wondrous result,--
have you attained it, have you made gold?"
"If I had made it," replied the archdeacon, articulating his
words slowly, like a man who is reflecting, "the king of
France would be named Claude and not Louis."
The stranger frowned.
"What am I saying?" resumed Dom Claude, with a smile
of disdain. "What would the throne of France be to me when
I could rebuild the empire of the Orient?"
"Very good!" said the stranger.
"Oh, the poor fool!" murmured Coictier.
The archdeacon went on, appearing to reply now only to
"But no, I am still crawling; I am scratching my face and
knees against the pebbles of the subterranean pathway. I
catch a glimpse, I do not contemplate! I do not read, I
"And when you know how to read!" demanded the stranger,
"will you make gold?"
"Who doubts it?" said the archdeacon.
"In that case Our Lady knows that I am greatly in need of
money, and I should much desire to read in your books. Tell
me, reverend master, is your science inimical or displeasing to
"Whose archdeacon I am?" Dom Claude contented himself with
replying, with tranquil hauteur.
"That is true, my master. Well! will it please you to initiate
me? Let me spell with you."
Claude assumed the majestic and pontifical attitude of a Samuel.
"Old man, it requires longer years than remain to you, to
undertake this voyage across mysterious things. Your head
is very gray! One comes forth from the cavern only with
white hair, but only those with dark hair enter it. Science
alone knows well how to hollow, wither, and dry up human
faces; she needs not to have old age bring her faces already
furrowed. Nevertheless, if the desire possesses you of putting
yourself under discipline at your age, and of deciphering
the formidable alphabet of the sages, come to me; 'tis well,
I will make the effort. I will not tell you, poor old man, to
go and visit the sepulchral chambers of the pyramids, of
which ancient Herodotus speaks, nor the brick tower of
Babylon, nor the immense white marble sanctuary of the Indian
temple of Eklinga. I, no more than yourself, have seen the
Chaldean masonry works constructed according to the sacred
form of the Sikra, nor the temple of Solomon, which is
destroyed, nor the stone doors of the sepulchre of the kings
of Israel, which are broken. We will content ourselves with
the fragments of the book of Hermes which we have here.
I will explain to you the statue of Saint Christopher, the
symbol of the sower, and that of the two angels which are
on the front of the Sainte-Chapelle, and one of which holds
in his hands a vase, the other, a cloud--"
Here Jacques Coictier, who had been unhorsed by the
archdeacon's impetuous replies, regained his saddle, and
interrupted him with the triumphant tone of one learned man
correcting another,--"~Erras amice Claudi~. The symbol is
not the number. You take Orpheus for Hermes."
"'Tis you who are in error," replied the archdeacon, gravely.
"Daedalus is the base; Orpheus is the wall; Hermes is the
edifice,--that is all. You shall come when you will," he
continued, turning to Tourangeau, "I will show you the little
parcels of gold which remained at the bottom of Nicholas
Flamel's alembic, and you shall compare them with the gold
of Guillaume de Paris. I will teach you the secret virtues
of the Greek word, ~peristera~. But, first of all, I will make
you read, one after the other, the marble letters of the alphabet,
the granite pages of the book. We shall go to the portal
of Bishop Guillaume and of Saint-Jean le Rond at the Sainte-
Chapelle, then to the house of Nicholas Flamel, Rue Manvault,
to his tomb, which is at the Saints-Innocents, to his two
hospitals, Rue de Montmorency. I will make you read the
hieroglyphics which cover the four great iron cramps on the
portal of the hospital Saint-Gervais, and of the Rue de la
Ferronnerie. We will spell out in company, also, the façade
of Saint-Come, of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Ardents, of Saint Martin,
of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie--."
For a long time, Gossip Tourangeau, intelligent as was his glance,
had appeared not to understand Dom Claude. He interrupted.
"~Pasque-dieu~! what are your books, then?"
"Here is one of them," said the archdeacon.
And opening the window of his cell he pointed out with
his finger the immense church of Notre-Dame, which, outlining
against the starry sky the black silhouette of its two towers,
its stone flanks, its monstrous haunches, seemed an enormous
two-headed sphinx, seated in the middle of the city.
The archdeacon gazed at the gigantic edifice for some time
in silence, then extending his right hand, with a sigh, towards
the printed book which lay open on the table, and his left
towards Notre-Dame, and turning a sad glance from the book
to the church,--"Alas," he said, "this will kill that."
Coictier, who had eagerly approached the book, could not
repress an exclamation. "Hé, but now, what is there so
formidable in this: 'GLOSSA IN EPISTOLAS D. PAULI, ~Norimbergoe,
Antonius Koburger~, 1474.' This is not new. 'Tis a book of
Pierre Lombard, the Master of Sentences. Is it because it is
"You have said it," replied Claude, who seemed absorbed
in a profound meditation, and stood resting, his forefinger
bent backward on the folio which had come from the famous
press of Nuremberg. Then he added these mysterious words:
"Alas! alas! small things come at the end of great things; a
tooth triumphs over a mass. The Nile rat kills the crocodile,
the swordfish kills the whale, the book will kill the edifice."
The curfew of the cloister sounded at the moment when
Master Jacques was repeating to his companion in low tones,
his eternal refrain, "He is mad!" To which his companion
this time replied, "I believe that he is."
It was the hour when no stranger could remain in the
cloister. The two visitors withdrew. "Master," said Gossip
Tourangeau, as he took leave of the archdeacon, "I love wise
men and great minds, and I hold you in singular esteem.
Come to-morrow to the Palace des Tournelles, and inquire for
the Abbé de Sainte-Martin, of Tours."