Part 5 out of 13
The archdeacon returned to his chamber dumbfounded,
comprehending at last who Gossip Tourangeau was, and recalling
that passage of the register of Sainte-Martin, of Tours:--
~Abbas beati Martini, SCILICET REX FRANCIAE, est canonicus de
consuetudine et habet parvam proebendam quam habet sanctus
Venantius, et debet sedere in sede thesaurarii~.
It is asserted that after that epoch the archdeacon had
frequent conferences with Louis XI., when his majesty came
to Paris, and that Dom Claude's influence quite overshadowed
that of Olivier le Daim and Jacques Coictier, who, as was his
habit, rudely took the king to task on that account.
THIS WILL KILL THAT.
Our lady readers will pardon us if we pause for a moment
to seek what could have been the thought concealed beneath
those enigmatic words of the archdeacon: "This will kill
that. The book will kill the edifice."
To our mind, this thought had two faces. In the first place,
it was a priestly thought. It was the affright of the priest in
the presence of a new agent, the printing press. It was the
terror and dazzled amazement of the men of the sanctuary, in
the presence of the luminous press of Gutenberg. It was
the pulpit and the manuscript taking the alarm at the printed
word: something similar to the stupor of a sparrow which
should behold the angel Legion unfold his six million wings.
It was the cry of the prophet who already hears emancipated
humanity roaring and swarming; who beholds in the future,
intelligence sapping faith, opinion dethroning belief, the world
shaking off Rome. It was the prognostication of the philosopher
who sees human thought, volatilized by the press, evaporating
from the theocratic recipient. It was the terror of
the soldier who examines the brazen battering ram, and says:--"The
tower will crumble." It signified that one power was about to
succeed another power. It meant, "The press will kill the church."
But underlying this thought, the first and most simple one,
no doubt, there was in our opinion another, newer one, a corollary
of the first, less easy to perceive and more easy to contest,
a view as philosophical and belonging no longer to the
priest alone but to the savant and the artist. It was a
presentiment that human thought, in changing its form, was
about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant
idea of each generation would no longer be written with the
same matter, and in the same manner; that the book of stone,
so solid and so durable, was about to make way for the book
of paper, more solid and still more durable. In this
connection the archdeacon's vague formula had a second sense.
It meant, "Printing will kill architecture."
In fact, from the origin of things down to the fifteenth century
of the Christian era, inclusive, architecture is the great
book of humanity, the principal expression of man in his
different stages of development, either as a force or as
When the memory of the first races felt itself overloaded,
when the mass of reminiscences of the human race became
so heavy and so confused that speech naked and flying, ran
the risk of losing them on the way, men transcribed them on
the soil in a manner which was at once the most visible, most
durable, and most natural. They sealed each tradition beneath
The first monuments were simple masses of rock, "which the
iron had not touched," as Moses says. Architecture began like
all writing. It was first an alphabet. Men planted a stone
upright, it was a letter, and each letter was a hieroglyph, and
upon each hieroglyph rested a group of ideas, like the capital
on the column. This is what the earliest races did everywhere,
at the same moment, on the surface of the entire world. We
find the "standing stones" of the Celts in Asian Siberia; in
the pampas of America.
Later on, they made words; they placed stone upon stone,
they coupled those syllables of granite, and attempted some
combinations. The Celtic dolmen and cromlech, the Etruscan
tumulus, the Hebrew galgal, are words. Some, especially the
tumulus, are proper names. Sometimes even, when men had
a great deal of stone, and a vast plain, they wrote a phrase.
The immense pile of Karnac is a complete sentence.
At last they made books. Traditions had brought forth
symbols, beneath which they disappeared like the trunk of a
tree beneath its foliage; all these symbols in which humanity
placed faith continued to grow, to multiply, to intersect, to
become more and more complicated; the first monuments
no longer sufficed to contain them, they were overflowing in
every part; these monuments hardly expressed now the primitive
tradition, simple like themselves, naked and prone upon
the earth. The symbol felt the need of expansion in the edifice.
Then architecture was developed in proportion with human
thought; it became a giant with a thousand heads and
a thousand arms, and fixed all this floating symbolism in an
eternal, visible, palpable form. While Daedalus, who is force,
measured; while Orpheus, who is intelligence, sang;--the pillar,
which is a letter; the arcade, which is a syllable; the pyramid,
which is a word,--all set in movement at once by a law of
geometry and by a law of poetry, grouped themselves, combined,
amalgamated, descended, ascended, placed themselves
side by side on the soil, ranged themselves in stories in the
sky, until they had written under the dictation of the general
idea of an epoch, those marvellous books which were also
marvellous edifices: the Pagoda of Eklinga, the Rhamseion of
Egypt, the Temple of Solomon.
The generating idea, the word, was not only at the foundation
of all these edifices, but also in the form. The temple
of Solomon, for example, was not alone the binding of the
holy book; it was the holy book itself. On each one of its
concentric walls, the priests could read the word translated and
manifested to the eye, and thus they followed its transformations
from sanctuary to sanctuary, until they seized it in its last
tabernacle, under its most concrete form, which still belonged to
architecture: the arch. Thus the word was enclosed in an
edifice, but its image was upon its envelope, like the human
form on the coffin of a mummy.
And not only the form of edifices, but the sites selected for
them, revealed the thought which they represented, according
as the symbol to be expressed was graceful or grave.
Greece crowned her mountains with a temple harmonious to
the eye; India disembowelled hers, to chisel therein those
monstrous subterranean pagodas, borne up by gigantic rows of
Thus, during the first six thousand years of the world, from
the most immemorial pagoda of Hindustan, to the cathedral
of Cologne, architecture was the great handwriting of the
human race. And this is so true, that not only every religious
symbol, but every human thought, has its page and its monument
in that immense book.
All civilization begins in theocracy and ends in democracy.
This law of liberty following unity is written in architecture.
For, let us insist upon this point, masonry must not be thought
to be powerful only in erecting the temple and in expressing
the myth and sacerdotal symbolism; in inscribing in hieroglyphs
upon its pages of stone the mysterious tables of the
law. If it were thus,--as there comes in all human society a
moment when the sacred symbol is worn out and becomes
obliterated under freedom of thought, when man escapes from
the priest, when the excrescence of philosophies and systems
devour the face of religion,--architecture could not reproduce
this new state of human thought; its leaves, so crowded on the
face, would be empty on the back; its work would be mutilated;
its book would he incomplete. But no.
Let us take as an example the Middle Ages, where we see
more clearly because it is nearer to us. During its first
period, while theocracy is organizing Europe, while the Vatican
is rallying and reclassing about itself the elements of a
Rome made from the Rome which lies in ruins around the
Capitol, while Christianity is seeking all the stages of society
amid the rubbish of anterior civilization, and rebuilding with
its ruins a new hierarchic universe, the keystone to whose
vault is the priest--one first hears a dull echo from that
chaos, and then, little by little, one sees, arising from beneath
the breath of Christianity, from beneath the hand of the
barbarians, from the fragments of the dead Greek and Roman
architectures, that mysterious Romanesque architecture, sister
of the theocratic masonry of Egypt and of India, inalterable
emblem of pure catholicism, unchangeable hieroglyph of the
papal unity. All the thought of that day is written, in fact,
in this sombre, Romanesque style. One feels everywhere in
it authority, unity, the impenetrable, the absolute, Gregory
VII.; always the priest, never the man; everywhere caste,
never the people.
But the Crusades arrive. They are a great popular
movement, and every great popular movement, whatever may be
its cause and object, always sets free the spirit of liberty
from its final precipitate. New things spring into life every
day. Here opens the stormy period of the Jacqueries, Pragueries,
and Leagues. Authority wavers, unity is divided.
Feudalism demands to share with theocracy, while awaiting
the inevitable arrival of the people, who will assume the part
of the lion: ~Quia nominor leo~. Seignory pierces through
sacerdotalism; the commonality, through seignory. The face
of Europe is changed. Well! the face of architecture is
changed also. Like civilization, it has turned a page, and the
new spirit of the time finds her ready to write at its dictation.
It returns from the crusades with the pointed arch, like the
nations with liberty.
Then, while Rome is undergoing gradual dismemberment,
Romanesque architecture dies. The hieroglyph deserts the
cathedral, and betakes itself to blazoning the donjon keep,
in order to lend prestige to feudalism. The cathedral itself,
that edifice formerly so dogmatic, invaded henceforth by the
bourgeoisie, by the community, by liberty, escapes the priest and
falls into the power of the artist. The artist builds it after
his own fashion. Farewell to mystery, myth, law. Fancy
and caprice, welcome. Provided the priest has his basilica
and his altar, he has nothing to say. The four walls belong
to the artist. The architectural book belongs no longer to the
priest, to religion, to Rome; it is the property of poetry, of
imagination, of the people. Hence the rapid and innumerable
transformations of that architecture which owns but three
centuries, so striking after the stagnant immobility
of the Romanesque architecture, which owns six or seven.
Nevertheless, art marches on with giant strides. Popular genius
amid originality accomplish the task which the bishops formerly
fulfilled. Each race writes its line upon the book, as it
passes; it erases the ancient Romanesque hieroglyphs on the
frontispieces of cathedrals, and at the most one only sees
dogma cropping out here and there, beneath the new symbol
which it has deposited. The popular drapery hardly permits
the religious skeleton to be suspected. One cannot even form
an idea of the liberties which the architects then take, even
toward the Church. There are capitals knitted of nuns and
monks, shamelessly coupled, as on the hall of chimney pieces
in the Palais de Justice, in Paris. There is Noah's adventure
carved to the last detail, as under the great portal of Bourges.
There is a bacchanalian monk, with ass's ears and glass in
hand, laughing in the face of a whole community, as on the
lavatory of the Abbey of Bocherville. There exists at that
epoch, for thought written in stone, a privilege exactly
comparable to our present liberty of the press. It is
the liberty of architecture.
This liberty goes very far. Sometimes a portal, a façade,
an entire church, presents a symbolical sense absolutely foreign
to worship, or even hostile to the Church. In the thirteenth
century, Guillaume de Paris, and Nicholas Flamel, in the
fifteenth, wrote such seditious pages. Saint-Jacques de la
Boucherie was a whole church of the opposition.
Thought was then free only in this manner; hence it never
wrote itself out completely except on the books called edifices.
Thought, under the form of edifice, could have beheld itself
burned in the public square by the hands of the executioner,
in its manuscript form, if it had been sufficiently imprudent
to risk itself thus; thought, as the door of a church, would
have been a spectator of the punishment of thought as
a book. Having thus only this resource, masonry, in order to
make its way to the light, flung itself upon it from all quarters.
Hence the immense quantity of cathedrals which have
covered Europe--a number so prodigious that one can hardly
believe it even after having verified it. All the material
forces, all the intellectual forces of society converged towards
the same point: architecture. In this manner, under the pretext
of building churches to God, art was developed in its
Then whoever was born a poet became an architect.
Genius, scattered in the masses, repressed in every quarter
under feudalism as under a ~testudo~ of brazen bucklers, finding
no issue except in the direction of architecture,--gushed
forth through that art, and its Iliads assumed the form of
cathedrals. All other arts obeyed, and placed themselves under
the discipline of architecture. They were the workmen of the
great work. The architect, the poet, the master, summed up
in his person the sculpture which carved his façades, painting
which illuminated his windows, music which set his bells to
pealing, and breathed into his organs. There was nothing
down to poor poetry,--properly speaking, that which
persisted in vegetating in manuscripts,--which was not forced,
in order to make something of itself, to come and frame itself
in the edifice in the shape of a hymn or of prose; the same
part, after all, which the tragedies of AEschylus had played
in the sacerdotal festivals of Greece; Genesis, in the temple
Thus, down to the time of Gutenberg, architecture is the
principal writing, the universal writing. In that granite
book, begun by the Orient, continued by Greek and Roman
antiquity, the Middle Ages wrote the last page. Moreover,
this phenomenon of an architecture of the people following
an architecture of caste, which we have just been observing
in the Middle Ages, is reproduced with every analogous
movement in the human intelligence at the other great
epochs of history. Thus, in order to enunciate here only
summarily, a law which it would require volumes to develop:
in the high Orient, the cradle of primitive times, after
Hindoo architecture came Phoenician architecture, that opulent
mother of Arabian architecture; in antiquity, after Egyptian
architecture, of which Etruscan style and cyclopean monuments
are but one variety, came Greek architecture (of which the
Roman style is only a continuation), surcharged with the
Carthaginian dome; in modern times, after Romanesque
architecture came Gothic architecture. And by separating there
three series into their component parts, we shall find in the
three eldest sisters, Hindoo architecture, Egyptian architecture,
Romanesque architecture, the same symbol; that is to
say, theocracy, caste, unity, dogma, myth, God: and for
the three younger sisters, Phoenician architecture, Greek
architecture, Gothic architecture, whatever, nevertheless,
may be the diversity of form inherent in their nature, the same
signification also; that is to say, liberty, the people, man.
In the Hindu, Egyptian, or Romanesque architecture, one
feels the priest, nothing but the priest, whether he calls
himself Brahmin, Magian, or Pope. It is not the same in the
architectures of the people. They are richer and less sacred.
In the Phoenician, one feels the merchant; in the Greek, the
republican; in the Gothic, the citizen.
The general characteristics of all theocratic architecture are
immutability, horror of progress, the preservation of traditional
lines, the consecration of the primitive types, the constant
bending of all the forms of men and of nature to the
incomprehensible caprices of the symbol. These are dark
books, which the initiated alone understand how to decipher.
Moreover, every form, every deformity even, has there a
sense which renders it inviolable. Do not ask of Hindoo,
Egyptian, Romanesque masonry to reform their design, or
to improve their statuary. Every attempt at perfecting is
an impiety to them. In these architectures it seems as
though the rigidity of the dogma had spread over the
stone like a sort of second petrifaction. The general
characteristics of popular masonry, on the contrary, are progress,
originality, opulence, perpetual movement. They are already
sufficiently detached from religion to think of their beauty,
to take care of it, to correct without relaxation their parure
of statues or arabesques. They are of the age. They have
something human, which they mingle incessantly with the
divine symbol under which they still produce. Hence, edifices
comprehensible to every soul, to every intelligence, to
every imagination, symbolical still, but as easy to understand
as nature. Between theocratic architecture and this there is
the difference that lies between a sacred language and a
vulgar language, between hieroglyphics and art, between
Solomon and Phidias.
If the reader will sum up what we have hitherto briefly,
very briefly, indicated, neglecting a thousand proofs and also
a thousand objections of detail, be will be led to this: that
architecture was, down to the fifteenth century, the chief
register of humanity; that in that interval not a thought which
is in any degree complicated made its appearance in the
world, which has not been worked into an edifice; that every
popular idea, and every religious law, has had its monumental
records; that the human race has, in short, had no important
thought which it has not written in stone. And why?
Because every thought, either philosophical or religious, is
interested in perpetuating itself; because the idea which has
moved one generation wishes to move others also, and leave
a trace. Now, what a precarious immortality is that of the
manuscript! How much more solid, durable, unyielding, is a
book of stone! In order to destroy the written word, a torch
and a Turk are sufficient. To demolish the constructed word,
a social revolution, a terrestrial revolution are required.
The barbarians passed over the Coliseum; the deluge, perhaps,
passed over the Pyramids.
In the fifteenth century everything changes.
Human thought discovers a mode of perpetuating itself,
not only more durable and more resisting than architecture,
but still more simple and easy. Architecture is dethroned.
Gutenberg's letters of lead are about to supersede Orpheus's
letters of stone.
*The book is about to kill the edifice*.
The invention of printing is the greatest event in history.
It is the mother of revolution. It is the mode of expression
of humanity which is totally renewed; it is human thought
stripping off one form and donning another; it is the complete
and definitive change of skin of that symbolical serpent which
since the days of Adam has represented intelligence.
In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than
ever; it is volatile, irresistible, indestructible. It is mingled
with the air. In the days of architecture it made a mountain
of itself, and took powerful possession of a century and
a place. Now it converts itself into a flock of birds, scatters
itself to the four winds, and occupies all points of air and
space at once.
We repeat, who does not perceive that in this form it is
far more indelible? It was solid, it has become alive.
It passes from duration in time to immortality. One can
demolish a mass; bow can one extirpate ubiquity? If a flood
comes, the mountains will have long disappeared beneath the
waves, while the birds will still be flying about; and if a
single ark floats on the surface of the cataclysm, they will
alight upon it, will float with it, will be present with it at
the ebbing of the waters; and the new world which emerges
from this chaos will behold, on its awakening, the thought of
the world which has been submerged soaring above it, winged
And when one observes that this mode of expression is not
only the most conservative, but also the most simple, the
most convenient, the most practicable for all; when one
reflects that it does not drag after it bulky baggage, and
does not set in motion a heavy apparatus; when one compares
thought forced, in order to transform itself into an edifice,
to put in motion four or five other arts and tons of gold, a
whole mountain of stones, a whole forest of timber-work, a
whole nation of workmen; when one compares it to the thought
which becomes a book, and for which a little paper, a little
ink, and a pen suffice,--how can one be surprised that human
intelligence should have quitted architecture for printing?
Cut the primitive bed of a river abruptly with a canal
hollowed out below its level, and the river will desert
Behold how, beginning with the discovery of printing,
architecture withers away little by little, becomes lifeless
and bare. How one feels the water sinking, the sap departing,
the thought of the times and of the people withdrawing from
it! The chill is almost imperceptible in the fifteenth
century; the press is, as yet, too weak, and, at the most,
draws from powerful architecture a superabundance of life. But
practically beginning with the sixteenth century, the malady of
architecture is visible; it is no longer the expression of society;
it becomes classic art in a miserable manner; from being
Gallic, European, indigenous, it becomes Greek and Roman;
from being true and modern, it becomes pseudo-classic. It is
this decadence which is called the Renaissance. A magnificent
decadence, however, for the ancient Gothic genius, that
sun which sets behind the gigantic press of Mayence, still
penetrates for a while longer with its rays that whole hybrid
pile of Latin arcades and Corinthian columns.
It is that setting sun which we mistake for the dawn.
Nevertheless, from the moment when architecture is no
longer anything but an art like any other; as soon as it is no
longer the total art, the sovereign art, the tyrant art,--it
has no longer the power to retain the other arts. So they
emancipate themselves, break the yoke of the architect, and take
themselves off, each one in its own direction. Each one of
them gains by this divorce. Isolation aggrandizes everything.
Sculpture becomes statuary, the image trade becomes painting,
the canon becomes music. One would pronounce it an empire
dismembered at the death of its Alexander, and whose provinces
Hence Raphael, Michael Angelo, Jean Goujon, Palestrina,
those splendors of the dazzling sixteenth century.
Thought emancipates itself in all directions at the same time
as the arts. The arch-heretics of the Middle Ages had already
made large incisions into Catholicism. The sixteenth century
breaks religious unity. Before the invention of printing,
reform would have been merely a schism; printing converted
it into a revolution. Take away the press; heresy is enervated.
Whether it be Providence or Fate, Gutenburg is the precursor
Nevertheless, when the sun of the Middle Ages is completely
set, when the Gothic genius is forever extinct upon
the horizon, architecture grows dim, loses its color, becomes
more and more effaced. The printed book, the gnawing worm
of the edifice, sucks and devours it. It becomes bare, denuded
of its foliage, and grows visibly emaciated. It is petty, it
is poor, it is nothing. It no longer expresses anything, not
even the memory of the art of another time. Reduced to itself,
abandoned by the other arts, because human thought is abandoning
it, it summons bunglers in place of artists. Glass replaces
the painted windows. The stone-cutter succeeds the sculptor.
Farewell all sap, all originality, all life, all intelligence.
It drags along, a lamentable workshop mendicant, from copy to
copy. Michael Angelo, who, no doubt, felt even in the sixteenth
century that it was dying, had a last idea, an idea of
despair. That Titan of art piled the Pantheon on the
Parthenon, and made Saint-Peter's at Rome. A great work,
which deserved to remain unique, the last originality of
architecture, the signature of a giant artist at the bottom of
the colossal register of stone which was closed forever. With
Michael Angelo dead, what does this miserable architecture,
which survived itself in the state of a spectre, do? It takes
Saint-Peter in Rome, copies it and parodies it. It is a mania.
It is a pity. Each century has its Saint-Peter's of Rome; in
the seventeenth century, the Val-de-Grâce; in the eighteenth,
Sainte-Geneviève. Each country has its Saint-Peter's of
Rome. London has one; Petersburg has another; Paris has
two or three. The insignificant testament, the last dotage of
a decrepit grand art falling back into infancy before it dies.
If, in place of the characteristic monuments which we have
just described, we examine the general aspect of art from the
sixteenth to the eighteenth century, we notice the same
phenomena of decay and phthisis. Beginning with François II.,
the architectural form of the edifice effaces itself more and
more, and allows the geometrical form, like the bony structure
of an emaciated invalid, to become prominent. The fine
lines of art give way to the cold and inexorable lines of
geometry. An edifice is no longer an edifice; it is a
polyhedron. Meanwhile, architecture is tormented in her
struggles to conceal this nudity. Look at the Greek pediment
inscribed upon the Roman pediment, and vice versa. It is still
the Pantheon on the Parthenon: Saint-Peter's of Rome. Here
are the brick houses of Henri IV., with their stone corners;
the Place Royale, the Place Dauphine. Here are the churches
of Louis XIII., heavy, squat, thickset, crowded together,
loaded with a dome like a hump. Here is the Mazarin
architecture, the wretched Italian pasticcio of the Four Nations.
Here are the palaces of Louis XIV., long barracks for courtiers,
stiff, cold, tiresome. Here, finally, is Louis XV., with
chiccory leaves and vermicelli, and all the warts, and all the
fungi, which disfigure that decrepit, toothless, and coquettish
old architecture. From François II. to Louis XV., the evil
has increased in geometrical progression. Art has no longer
anything but skin upon its bones. It is miserably perishing.
Meanwhile what becomes of printing? All the life which
is leaving architecture comes to it. In proportion as
architecture ebbs, printing swells and grows. That capital
of forces which human thought had been expending in edifices,
it henceforth expends in books. Thus, from the sixteenth
century onward, the press, raised to the level of decaying
architecture, contends with it and kills it. In the seventeenth
century it is already sufficiently the sovereign, sufficiently
triumphant, sufficiently established in its victory, to
give to the world the feast of a great literary century. In
the eighteenth, having reposed for a long time at the Court
of Louis XIV., it seizes again the old sword of Luther, puts it
into the hand of Voltaire, and rushes impetuously to the
attack of that ancient Europe, whose architectural expression
it has already killed. At the moment when the eighteenth
century comes to an end, it has destroyed everything.
In the nineteenth, it begins to reconstruct.
Now, we ask, which of the three arts has really represented
human thought for the last three centuries? which translates
it? which expresses not only its literary and scholastic
vagaries, but its vast, profound, universal movement? which
constantly superposes itself, without a break, without a gap,
upon the human race, which walks a monster with a thousand
legs?--Architecture or printing?
It is printing. Let the reader make no mistake; architecture
is dead; irretrievably slain by the printed book,--slain
because it endures for a shorter time,--slain because it costs
more. Every cathedral represents millions. Let the reader
now imagine what an investment of funds it would require to
rewrite the architectural book; to cause thousands of edifices
to swarm once more upon the soil; to return to those epochs
when the throng of monuments was such, according to the
statement of an eye witness, "that one would have said that
the world in shaking itself, had cast off its old garments in
order to cover itself with a white vesture of churches." ~Erat
enim ut si mundus, ipse excutiendo semet, rejecta vetustate,
candida ecclesiarum vestem indueret~. (GLABER RADOLPHUS.)
A book is so soon made, costs so little, and can go so far!
How can it surprise us that all human thought flows in this
channel? This does not mean that architecture will not
still have a fine monument, an isolated masterpiece, here and
there. We may still have from time to time, under the reign
of printing, a column made I suppose, by a whole army from
melted cannon, as we had under the reign of architecture,
Iliads and Romanceros, Mahabâhrata, and Nibelungen Lieds,
made by a whole people, with rhapsodies piled up and melted
together. The great accident of an architect of genius may
happen in the twentieth century, like that of Dante in the
thirteenth. But architecture will no longer be the social art,
the collective art, the dominating art. The grand poem, the
grand edifice, the grand work of humanity will no longer be
built: it will be printed.
And henceforth, if architecture should arise again accidentally,
it will no longer be mistress. It will be subservient
to the law of literature, which formerly received the
law from it. The respective positions of the two arts will be
inverted. It is certain that in architectural epochs, the poems,
rare it is true, resemble the monuments. In India, Vyasa is
branching, strange, impenetrable as a pagoda. In Egyptian
Orient, poetry has like the edifices, grandeur and tranquillity
of line; in antique Greece, beauty, serenity, calm; in
Christian Europe, the Catholic majesty, the popular naivete,
the rich and luxuriant vegetation of an epoch of renewal.
The Bible resembles the Pyramids; the Iliad, the Parthenon;
Homer, Phidias. Dante in the thirteenth century is the last
Romanesque church; Shakespeare in the sixteenth, the last
Thus, to sum up what we have hitherto said, in a fashion
which is necessarily incomplete and mutilated, the human
race has two books, two registers, two testaments: masonry
and printing; the Bible of stone and the Bible of paper. No
doubt, when one contemplates these two Bibles, laid so broadly
open in the centuries, it is permissible to regret the visible
majesty of the writing of granite, those gigantic alphabets
formulated in colonnades, in pylons, in obelisks, those sorts
of human mountains which cover the world and the past, from
the pyramid to the bell tower, from Cheops to Strasburg.
The past must be reread upon these pages of marble. This
book, written by architecture, must be admired and perused
incessantly; but the grandeur of the edifice which printing
erects in its turn must not be denied.
That edifice is colossal. Some compiler of statistics has
calculated, that if all the volumes which have issued from the
press since Gutenberg's day were to be piled one upon another,
they would fill the space between the earth and the moon;
but it is not that sort of grandeur of which we wished to
speak. Nevertheless, when one tries to collect in one's mind
a comprehensive image of the total products of printing down
to our own days, does not that total appear to us like an
immense construction, resting upon the entire world, at which
humanity toils without relaxation, and whose monstrous crest
is lost in the profound mists of the future? It is the anthill
of intelligence. It is the hive whither come all imaginations,
those golden bees, with their honey.
The edifice has a thousand stories. Here and there one
beholds on its staircases the gloomy caverns of science which
pierce its interior. Everywhere upon its surface, art causes
its arabesques, rosettes, and laces to thrive luxuriantly before
the eyes. There, every individual work, however capricious
and isolated it may seem, has its place and its projection.
Harmony results from the whole. From the cathedral of
Shakespeare to the mosque of Byron, a thousand tiny bell
towers are piled pell-mell above this metropolis of universal
thought. At its base are written some ancient titles of
humanity which architecture had not registered. To the left
of the entrance has been fixed the ancient bas-relief, in white
marble, of Homer; to the right, the polyglot Bible rears its
seven heads. The hydra of the Romancero and some other
hybrid forms, the Vedas and the Nibelungen bristle further on.
Nevertheless, the prodigious edifice still remains incomplete.
The press, that giant machine, which incessantly pumps all
the intellectual sap of society, belches forth without pause
fresh materials for its work. The whole human race is on the
scaffoldings. Each mind is a mason. The humblest fills his
hole, or places his stone. Retif dè le Bretonne brings his hod
of plaster. Every day a new course rises. Independently of
the original and individual contribution of each writer, there
are collective contingents. The eighteenth century gives the
_Encyclopedia_, the revolution gives the _Moniteur_. Assuredly,
it is a construction which increases and piles up in endless
spirals; there also are confusion of tongues, incessant
activity, indefatigable labor, eager competition of all
humanity, refuge promised to intelligence, a new Flood against
an overflow of barbarians. It is the second tower of Babel
of the human race.
AN IMPARTIAL GLANCE AT THE ANCIENT MAGISTRACY.
A very happy personage in the year of grace 1482, was the
noble gentleman Robert d'Estouteville, chevalier, Sieur de
Beyne, Baron d'Ivry and Saint Andry en la Marche, counsellor
and chamberlain to the king, and guard of the provostship of
Paris. It was already nearly seventeen years since he had
received from the king, on November 7, 1465, the comet
year,* that fine charge of the provostship of Paris, which was
reputed rather a seigneury than an office. ~Dignitas~, says
Joannes Loemnoeus, ~quoe cum non exigua potestate politiam
concernente, atque proerogativis multis et juribus conjuncta
est~. A marvellous thing in '82 was a gentleman bearing the
king's commission, and whose letters of institution ran back
to the epoch of the marriage of the natural daughter of Louis
XI. with Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon.
* This comet against which Pope Calixtus, uncle of Borgia,
ordered public prayers, is the same which reappeared in 1835.
The same day on which Robert d'Estouteville took the place
of Jacques de Villiers in the provostship of Paris, Master
Jehan Dauvet replaced Messire Helye de Thorrettes in the
first presidency of the Court of Parliament, Jehan Jouvenel
des Ursins supplanted Pierre de Morvilliers in the office of
chancellor of France, Regnault des Dormans ousted Pierre
Puy from the charge of master of requests in ordinary of the
king's household. Now, upon how many heads had the presidency,
the chancellorship, the mastership passed since Robert
d'Estouteville had held the provostship of Paris. It had been
"granted to him for safekeeping," as the letters patent said;
and certainly he kept it well. He had clung to it, he had
incorporated himself with it, he had so identified himself
with it that he had escaped that fury for change which
possessed Louis XI., a tormenting and industrious king, whose
policy it was to maintain the elasticity of his power by
frequent appointments and revocations. More than this; the
brave chevalier had obtained the reversion of the office for his
son, and for two years already, the name of the noble man
Jacques d'Estouteville, equerry, had figured beside his at the
head of the register of the salary list of the provostship of
Paris. A rare and notable favor indeed! It is true that
Robert d'Estouteville was a good soldier, that he had loyally
raised his pennon against "the league of public good," and
that he had presented to the queen a very marvellous stag in
confectionery on the day of her entrance to Paris in 14...
Moreover, he possessed the good friendship of Messire Tristan
l'Hermite, provost of the marshals of the king's household.
Hence a very sweet and pleasant existence was that of Messire
Robert. In the first place, very good wages, to which
were attached, and from which hung, like extra bunches of
grapes on his vine, the revenues of the civil and criminal
registries of the provostship, plus the civil and criminal
revenues of the tribunals of Embas of the Châtelet, without
reckoning some little toll from the bridges of Mantes and of
Corbeil, and the profits on the craft of Shagreen-makers of
Paris, on the corders of firewood and the measurers of salt.
Add to this the pleasure of displaying himself in rides about
the city, and of making his fine military costume, which
you may still admire sculptured on his tomb in the abbey
of Valmont in Normandy, and his morion, all embossed at
Montlhéry, stand out a contrast against the parti-colored
red and tawny robes of the aldermen and police. And then,
was it nothing to wield absolute supremacy over the sergeants
of the police, the porter and watch of the Châtelet, the two
auditors of the Châtelet, ~auditores castelleti~, the sixteen
commissioners of the sixteen quarters, the jailer of the Châtelet,
the four enfeoffed sergeants, the hundred and twenty mounted
sergeants, with maces, the chevalier of the watch with his
watch, his sub-watch, his counter-watch and his rear-watch?
Was it nothing to exercise high and low justice, the right
to interrogate, to hang and to draw, without reckoning petty
jurisdiction in the first resort (~in prima instantia~, as the
charters say), on that viscomty of Paris, so nobly appanaged
with seven noble bailiwicks? Can anything sweeter be imagined
than rendering judgments and decisions, as Messire Robert
d'Estouteville daily did in the Grand Châtelet, under the large
and flattened arches of Philip Augustus? and going, as he
was wont to do every evening, to that charming house situated
in the Rue Galilee, in the enclosure of the royal palace, which
he held in right of his wife, Madame Ambroise de Lore, to
repose after the fatigue of having sent some poor wretch to
pass the night in "that little cell of the Rue de Escorcherie,
which the provosts and aldermen of Paris used to make their
prison; the same being eleven feet long, seven feet and four
inches wide, and eleven feet high?"*
* Comptes du domaine, 1383.
And not only had Messire Robert d'Estouteville his special
court as provost and vicomte of Paris; but in addition he
had a share, both for eye and tooth, in the grand court of the
king. There was no head in the least elevated which had not
passed through his hands before it came to the headsman. It
was he who went to seek M. de Nemours at the Bastille Saint
Antoine, in order to conduct him to the Halles; and to conduct
to the Grève M. de Saint-Pol, who clamored and resisted,
to the great joy of the provost, who did not love monsieur the
Here, assuredly, is more than sufficient to render a life
happy and illustrious, and to deserve some day a notable page
in that interesting history of the provosts of Paris, where
one learns that Oudard de Villeneuve had a house in the Rue
des Boucheries, that Guillaume de Hangest purchased the
great and the little Savoy, that Guillaume Thiboust gave the
nuns of Sainte-Geneviève his houses in the Rue Clopin, that
Hugues Aubriot lived in the Hôtel du Pore-Epic, and other
Nevertheless, with so many reasons for taking life patiently
and joyously, Messire Robert d'Estouteville woke up on the
morning of the seventh of January, 1482, in a very surly and
peevish mood. Whence came this ill temper? He could not
have told himself. Was it because the sky was gray? or was
the buckle of his old belt of Montlhéry badly fastened, so
that it confined his provostal portliness too closely? had he
beheld ribald fellows, marching in bands of four, beneath his
window, and setting him at defiance, in doublets but no shirts,
hats without crowns, with wallet and bottle at their side?
Was it a vague presentiment of the three hundred and seventy
livres, sixteen sous, eight farthings, which the future King
Charles VII. was to cut off from the provostship in the
following year? The reader can take his choice; we, for
our part, are much inclined to believe that he was in a bad
humor, simply because he was in a bad humor.
Moreover, it was the day after a festival, a tiresome day
for every one, and above all for the magistrate who is charged
with sweeping away all the filth, properly and figuratively
speaking, which a festival day produces in Paris. And then
he had to hold a sitting at the Grand Châtelet. Now, we
have noticed that judges in general so arrange matters that
their day of audience shall also be their day of bad humor,
so that they may always have some one upon whom to vent
it conveniently, in the name of the king, law, and justice.
However, the audience had begun without him. His lieutenants,
civil, criminal, and private, were doing his work,
according to usage; and from eight o'clock in the morning,
some scores of bourgeois and ~bourgeoises~, heaped and crowded
into an obscure corner of the audience chamber of Embas du
Châtelet, between a stout oaken barrier and the wall, had been
gazing blissfully at the varied and cheerful spectacle of civil
and criminal justice dispensed by Master Florian Barbedienne,
auditor of the Châtelet, lieutenant of monsieur the provost, in
a somewhat confused and utterly haphazard manner.
The hall was small, low, vaulted. A table studded with
fleurs-de-lis stood at one end, with a large arm-chair of carved
oak, which belonged to the provost and was empty, and a stool
on the left for the auditor, Master Florian. Below sat the
clerk of the court, scribbling; opposite was the populace; and
in front of the door, and in front of the table were many
sergeants of the provostship in sleeveless jackets of violet
camlet, with white crosses. Two sergeants of the Parloir-
aux-Bourgeois, clothed in their jackets of Toussaint, half red,
half blue, were posted as sentinels before a low, closed door,
which was visible at the extremity of the hall, behind the
table. A single pointed window, narrowly encased in the
thick wall, illuminated with a pale ray of January sun two
grotesque figures,--the capricious demon of stone carved as
a tail-piece in the keystone of the vaulted ceiling, and the
judge seated at the end of the hall on the fleurs-de-lis.
Imagine, in fact, at the provost's table, leaning upon his
elbows between two bundles of documents of cases, with his
foot on the train of his robe of plain brown cloth, his face
buried in his hood of white lamb's skin, of which his brows
seemed to be of a piece, red, crabbed, winking, bearing
majestically the load of fat on his cheeks which met under his
chin, Master Florian Barbedienne, auditor of the Châtelet.
Now, the auditor was deaf. A slight defect in an auditor.
Master Florian delivered judgment, none the less, without
appeal and very suitably. It is certainly quite sufficient
for a judge to have the .air of listening; and the venerable
auditor fulfilled this condition, the sole one in justice, all
the better because his attention could not be distracted by
Moreover, he had in the audience, a pitiless censor of his
deeds and gestures, in the person of our friend Jehan Frollo
du Moulin, that little student of yesterday, that "stroller,"
whom one was sure of encountering all over Paris, anywhere
except before the rostrums of the professors.
"Stay," he said in a low tone to his companion, Robin
Poussepain, who was grinning at his side, while he was
making his comments on the scenes which were being unfolded
before his eyes, "yonder is Jehanneton du Buisson. The
beautiful daughter of the lazy dog at the Marché-Neuf!--Upon
my soul, he is condemning her, the old rascal! he has no more
eyes than ears. Fifteen sous, four farthings, parisian,
for having worn two rosaries! 'Tis somewhat dear. ~Lex
duri carminis~. Who's that? Robin Chief-de-Ville,
hauberkmaker. For having been passed and received master of
the said trade! That's his entrance money. He! two gentlemen
among these knaves! Aiglet de Soins, Hutin de Mailly
Two equerries, ~Corpus Christi~! Ah! they have been playing
at dice. When shall I see our rector here? A hundred livres
parisian, fine to the king! That Barbedienne strikes like a
deaf man,--as he is! I'll be my brother the archdeacon, if
that keeps me from gaming; gaming by day, gaming by night,
living at play, dying at play, and gaming away my soul after
my shirt. Holy Virgin, what damsels! One after the other
my lambs. Ambroise Lécuyere, Isabeau la Paynette, Bérarde
Gironin! I know them all, by Heavens! A fine! a fine!
That's what will teach you to wear gilded girdles! ten sous
parisis! you coquettes! Oh! the old snout of a judge! deaf
and imbecile! Oh! Florian the dolt! Oh! Barbedienne the
blockhead! There he is at the table! He's eating the
plaintiff, he's eating the suits, he eats, he chews, he crams,
he fills himself. Fines, lost goods, taxes, expenses, loyal
charges, salaries, damages, and interests, gehenna, prison, and
jail, and fetters with expenses are Christmas spice cake and
marchpanes of Saint-John to him! Look at him, the pig!--Come!
Good! Another amorous woman! Thibaud-la-Thibaude,
neither more nor less! For having come from the Rue
Glatigny! What fellow is this? Gieffroy Mabonne, gendarme
bearing the crossbow. He has cursed the name of the
Father. A fine for la Thibaude! A fine for Gieffroy! A
fine for them both! The deaf old fool! he must have mixed
up the two cases! Ten to one that he makes the wench pay
for the oath and the gendarme for the amour! Attention,
Robin Poussepain! What are they going to bring in? Here
are many sergeants! By Jupiter! all the bloodhounds of the
pack are there. It must be the great beast of the hunt--a
wild boar. And 'tis one, Robin, 'tis one. And a fine one too!
~Hercle~! 'tis our prince of yesterday, our Pope of the Fools,
our bellringer, our one-eyed man, our hunchback, our grimace!
It was he indeed.
It was Quasimodo, bound, encircled, roped, pinioned, and
under good guard. The squad of policemen who surrounded
him was assisted by the chevalier of the watch in person,
wearing the arms of France embroidered on his breast,
and the arms of the city on his back. There was nothing,
however, about Quasimodo, except his deformity, which could
justify the display of halberds and arquebuses; he was
gloomy, silent, and tranquil. Only now and then did his
single eye cast a sly and wrathful glance upon the bonds
with which he was loaded.
He cast the same glance about him, but it was so dull and
sleepy that the women only pointed him out to each other
Meanwhile Master Florian, the auditor, turned over
attentively the document in the complaint entered against
Quasimodo, which the clerk handed him, and, having thus
glanced at it, appeared to reflect for a moment. Thanks to
this precaution, which he always was careful to take at the
moment when on the point of beginning an examination, he knew
beforehand the names, titles, and misdeeds of the accused,
made cut and dried responses to questions foreseen, and
succeeded in extricating himself from all the windings of
the interrogation without allowing his deafness to be too
apparent. The written charges were to him what the dog is to
the blind man. If his deafness did happen to betray him here
and there, by some incoherent apostrophe or some unintelligible
question, it passed for profundity with some, and for
imbecility with others. In neither case did the honor of the
magistracy sustain any injury; for it is far better that a judge
should be reputed imbecile or profound than deaf. Hence he
took great care to conceal his deafness from the eyes of all,
and he generally succeeded so well that he had reached the
point of deluding himself, which is, by the way, easier than
is supposed. All hunchbacks walk with their heads held
high, all stutterers harangue, all deaf people speak low. As
for him, he believed, at the most, that his ear was a little
refractory. It was the sole concession which he made on this
point to public opinion, in his moments of frankness and
examination of his conscience.
Having, then, thoroughly ruminated Quasimodo's affair, he
threw back his head and half closed his eyes, for the sake of
more majesty and impartiality, so that, at that moment, he was
both deaf and blind. A double condition, without which no
judge is perfect. It was in this magisterial attitude that he
began the examination.
Now this was a case which had not been "provided for by
law," where a deaf man should be obliged to question a
Quasimodo, whom nothing warned that a question had been
addressed to him, continued to stare intently at the judge,
and made no reply. The judge, being deaf, and being in no way
warned of the deafness of the accused, thought that the latter
had answered, as all accused do in general, and therefore he
pursued, with his mechanical and stupid self-possession,--
"Very well. And your age?"
Again Quasimodo made no reply to this question. The judge
supposed that it had been replied to, and continued,--
"Now, your profession?"
Still the same silence. The spectators had begun, meanwhile,
to whisper together, and to exchange glances.
"That will do," went on the imperturbable auditor, when he
supposed that the accused had finished his third reply. "You
are accused before us, ~primo~, of nocturnal disturbance;
~secundo~, of a dishonorable act of violence upon the person of
a foolish woman, ~in proejudicium meretricis; tertio~, of rebellion
and disloyalty towards the archers of the police of our lord,
the king. Explain yourself upon all these points.---Clerk,
have you written down what the prisoner has said thus far?"
At this unlucky question, a burst of laughter rose from the
clerk's table caught by the audience, so violent, so wild, so
contagious, so universal, that the two deaf men were forced
to perceive it. Quasimodo turned round, shrugging his hump
with disdain, while Master Florian, equally astonished, and
supposing that the laughter of the spectators had been
provoked by some irreverent reply from the accused, rendered
visible to him by that shrug of the shoulders, apostrophized
"You have uttered a reply, knave, which deserves the halter.
Do you know to whom you are speaking?"
This sally was not fitted to arrest the explosion of general
merriment. It struck all as so whimsical, and so ridiculous,
that the wild laughter even attacked the sergeants of the Parloi-
aux-Bourgeois, a sort of pikemen, whose stupidity was part
of their uniform. Quasimodo alone preserved his seriousness,
for the good reason that he understood nothing of what was
going on around him. The judge, more and more irritated,
thought it his duty to continue in the same tone, hoping
thereby to strike the accused with a terror which should react
upon the audience, and bring it back to respect.
"So this is as much as to say, perverse and thieving knave
that you are, that you permit yourself to be lacking in
respect towards the Auditor of the Châtelet, to the magistrate
committed to the popular police of Paris, charged with searching
out crimes, delinquencies, and evil conduct; with controlling
all trades, and interdicting monopoly; with maintaining the
pavements; with debarring the hucksters of chickens, poultry,
and water-fowl; of superintending the measuring of fagots and
other sorts of wood; of purging the city of mud, and the air
of contagious maladies; in a word, with attending continually
to public affairs, without wages or hope of salary! Do you
know that I am called Florian Barbedienne, actual lieutenant
to monsieur the provost, and, moreover, commissioner, inquisitor,
controller, and examiner, with equal power in provostship,
bailiwick, preservation, and inferior court of judicature?--"
There is no reason why a deaf man talking to a deaf man
should stop. God knows where and when Master Florian
would have landed, when thus launched at full speed in lofty
eloquence, if the low door at the extreme end of the room had
not suddenly opened, and given entrance to the provost in
person. At his entrance Master Florian did not stop short,
but, making a half-turn on his heels, and aiming at the provost
the harangue with which he had been withering Quasimodo a
"Monseigneur," said he, "I demand such penalty as you
shall deem fitting against the prisoner here present, for
grave and aggravated offence against the court."
And he seated himself, utterly breathless, wiping away the
great drops of sweat which fell from his brow and drenched,
like tears, the parchments spread out before him. Messire
Robert d'Estouteville frowned and made a gesture so imperious
and significant to Quasimodo, that the deaf man in some
measure understood it.
The provost addressed him with severity, "What have you
done that you have been brought hither, knave?"
The poor fellow, supposing that the provost was asking his
name, broke the silence which he habitually preserved, and
replied, in a harsh and guttural voice, "Quasimodo."
The reply matched the question so little that the wild
laugh began to circulate once more, and Messire Robert
exclaimed, red with wrath,--
"Are you mocking me also, you arrant knave?"
"Bellringer of Notre-Dame," replied Quasimodo, supposing
that what was required of him was to explain to the judge
who he was.
"Bellringer!" interpolated the provost, who had waked up
early enough to be in a sufficiently bad temper, as we have
said, not to require to have his fury inflamed by such strange
responses. "Bellringer! I'll play you a chime of rods on
your back through the squares of Paris! Do you hear, knave?"
"If it is my age that you wish to know," said Quasimodo,
"I think that I shall be twenty at Saint Martin's day."
This was too much; the provost could no longer restrain
"Ah! you are scoffing at the provostship, wretch! Messieurs
the sergeants of the mace, you will take me this knave
to the pillory of the Grève, you will flog him, and turn
him for an hour. He shall pay me for it, ~tête Dieu~! And I
order that the present judgment shall be cried, with the
assistance of four sworn trumpeters, in the seven castellanies
of the viscomty of Paris."
The clerk set to work incontinently to draw up the account
of the sentence.
"~Ventre Dieu~! 'tis well adjudged!" cried the little scholar,
Jehan Frollo du Moulin, from his corner.
The provost turned and fixed his flashing eyes once more on
Quasimodo. "I believe the knave said '~Ventre Dieu~' Clerk,
add twelve deniers Parisian for the oath, and let the vestry
of Saint Eustache have the half of it; I have a particular
devotion for Saint Eustache."
In a few minutes the sentence was drawn up. Its tenor
was simple and brief. The customs of the provostship and
the viscomty had not yet been worked over by President
Thibaut Baillet, and by Roger Barmne, the king's advocate;
they had not been obstructed, at that time, by that lofty
hedge of quibbles and procedures, which the two jurisconsults
planted there at the beginning of the sixteenth century. All
was clear, expeditious, explicit. One went straight to the
point then, and at the end of every path there was immediately
visible, without thickets and without turnings; the wheel, the
gibbet, or the pillory. One at least knew whither one was
The clerk presented the sentence to the provost, who
affixed his seal to it, and departed to pursue his round of
the audience hall, in a frame of mind which seemed destined
to fill all the jails in Paris that day. Jehan Frollo and
Robin Poussepain laughed in their sleeves. Quasimodo gazed
on the whole with an indifferent and astonished air.
However, at the moment when Master Florian Barbedienne
was reading the sentence in his turn, before signing it, the
clerk felt himself moved with pity for the poor wretch of a
prisoner, and, in the hope of obtaining some mitigation of the
penalty, he approached as near the auditor's ear as possible,
and said, pointing to Quasimodo, "That man is deaf."
He hoped that this community of infirmity would awaken
Master Florian's interest in behalf of the condemned man.
But, in the first place, we have already observed that Master
Florian did not care to have his deafness noticed. In the
next place, he was so hard of hearing That he did not catch a
single word of what the clerk said to him; nevertheless, he
wished to have the appearance of hearing, and replied, "Ah!
ah! that is different; I did not know that. An hour more of
the pillory, in that case."
And he signed the sentence thus modified.
"'Tis well done," said Robin Poussepain, who cherished a
grudge against Quasimodo. "That will teach him to handle
The reader must permit us to take him back to the Place
de Grève, which we quitted yesterday with Gringoire, in
order to follow la Esmeralda.
It is ten o'clock in the morning; everything is indicative of
the day after a festival. The pavement is covered with rubbish;
ribbons, rags, feathers from tufts of plumes, drops of wax
from the torches, crumbs of the public feast. A goodly
number of bourgeois are "sauntering," as we say, here and
there, turning over with their feet the extinct brands of
the bonfire, going into raptures in front of the Pillar House,
over the memory of the fine hangings of the day before, and
to-day staring at the nails that secured them a last pleasure.
The venders of cider and beer are rolling their barrels among
the groups. Some busy passers-by come and go. The merchants
converse and call to each other from the thresholds of
their shops. The festival, the ambassadors, Coppenole, the
Pope of the Fools, are in all mouths; they vie with each
other, each trying to criticise it best and laugh the most.
And, meanwhile, four mounted sergeants, who have just
posted themselves at the four sides of the pillory, have
already concentrated around themselves a goodly proportion
of the populace scattered on the Place, who condemn themselves
to immobility and fatigue in the hope of a small execution.
If the reader, after having contemplated this lively and
noisy scene which is being enacted in all parts of the Place,
will now transfer his gaze towards that ancient demi-Gothic,
demi-Romanesque house of the Tour-Roland, which forms the
corner on the quay to the west, he will observe, at the angle
of the façade, a large public breviary, with rich illuminations,
protected from the rain by a little penthouse, and from thieves
by a small grating, which, however, permits of the leaves being
turned. Beside this breviary is a narrow, arched window,
closed by two iron bars in the form of a cross, and looking on
the square; the only opening which admits a small quantity
of light and air to a little cell without a door, constructed on
the ground-floor, in the thickness of the walls of the old house,
and filled with a peace all the more profound, with a silence
all the more gloomy, because a public place, the most populous
and most noisy in Paris swarms and shrieks around it.
This little cell had been celebrated in Paris for nearly three
centuries, ever since Madame Rolande de la Tour-Roland, in
mourning for her father who died in the Crusades, had caused
it to be hollowed out in the wall of her own house, in order
to immure herself there forever, keeping of all her palace
only this lodging whose door was walled up, and whose window
stood open, winter and summer, giving all the rest to the
poor and to God. The afflicted damsel had, in fact, waited
twenty years for death in this premature tomb, praying night
and day for the soul of her father, sleeping in ashes, without
even a stone for a pillow, clothed in a black sack, and
subsisting on the bread and water which the compassion of the
passers-by led them to deposit on the ledge of her window,
thus receiving charity after having bestowed it. At her death,
at the moment when she was passing to the other sepulchre,
she had bequeathed this one in perpetuity to afflicted women,
mothers, widows, or maidens, who should wish to pray much
for others or for themselves, and who should desire to inter
themselves alive in a great grief or a great penance. The
poor of her day had made her a fine funeral, with tears and
benedictions; but, to their great regret, the pious maid had
not been canonized, for lack of influence. Those among them
who were a little inclined to impiety, had hoped that the matter
might be accomplished in Paradise more easily than at Rome,
and had frankly besought God, instead of the pope, in behalf
of the deceased. The majority had contented themselves with
holding the memory of Rolande sacred, and converting her
rags into relics. The city, on its side, had founded in honor
of the damoiselle, a public breviary, which had been fastened
near the window of the cell, in order that passers-by might
halt there from time to time, were it only to pray; that prayer
might remind them of alms, and that the poor recluses, heiresses
of Madame Rolande's vault, might not die outright of
hunger and forgetfulness.
Moreover, this sort of tomb was not so very rare a thing in
the cities of the Middle Ages. One often encountered in
the most frequented street, in the most crowded and noisy
market, in the very middle, under the feet of the horses,
under the wheels of the carts, as it were, a cellar, a well, a
tiny walled and grated cabin, at the bottom of which a human
being prayed night and day, voluntarily devoted to some eternal
lamentation, to some great expiation. And all the reflections
which that strange spectacle would awaken in us to-day;
that horrible cell, a sort of intermediary link between a house
and the tomb, the cemetery and the city; that living being
cut off from the human community, and thenceforth reckoned
among the dead; that lamp consuming its last drop of oil in
the darkness; that remnant of life flickering in the grave;
that breath, that voice, that eternal prayer in a box of stone;
that face forever turned towards the other world; that eye
already illuminated with another sun; that ear pressed to the
walls of a tomb; that soul a prisoner in that body; that body
a prisoner in that dungeon cell, and beneath that double
envelope of flesh and granite, the murmur of that soul in
pain;--nothing of all this was perceived by the crowd.
The piety of that age, not very subtle nor much given to
reasoning, did not see so many facets in an act of religion.
It took the thing in the block, honored, venerated, hallowed
the sacrifice at need, but did not analyze the sufferings, and
felt but moderate pity for them. It brought some pittance to
the miserable penitent from time to time, looked through the
hole to see whether he were still living, forgot his name,
hardly knew how many years ago he had begun to die, and to
the stranger, who questioned them about the living skeleton
who was perishing in that cellar, the neighbors replied simply,
"It is the recluse."
Everything was then viewed without metaphysics, without
exaggeration, without magnifying glass, with the naked eye.
The microscope had not yet been invented, either for things of
matter or for things of the mind.
Moreover, although people were but little surprised by it,
the examples of this sort of cloistration in the hearts of cities
were in truth frequent, as we have just said. There were in
Paris a considerable number of these cells, for praying to God
and doing penance; they were nearly all occupied. It is true
that the clergy did not like to have them empty, since that
implied lukewarmness in believers, and that lepers were put
into them when there were no penitents on hand. Besides the
cell on the Grève, there was one at Montfauçon, one at the
Charnier des Innocents, another I hardly know where,--at
the Clichon House, I think; others still at many spots where
traces of them are found in traditions, in default of memorials.
The University had also its own. On Mount Sainte-Geneviève
a sort of Job of the Middle Ages, for the space of thirty
years, chanted the seven penitential psalms on a dunghill
at the bottom of a cistern, beginning anew when he had
finished, singing loudest at night, ~magna voce per umbras~,
and to-day, the antiquary fancies that he hears his voice
as he enters the Rue du Puits-qui-parle--the street of the
To confine ourselves to the cell in the Tour-Roland, we must
say that it had never lacked recluses. After the death of
Madame Roland, it had stood vacant for a year or two,
though rarely. Many women had come thither to mourn,
until their death, for relatives, lovers, faults. Parisian
malice, which thrusts its finger into everything, even into
things which concern it the least, affirmed that it had beheld
but few widows there.
In accordance with the fashion of the epoch, a Latin
inscription on the wall indicated to the learned passer-by the
pious purpose of this cell. The custom was retained until
the middle of the sixteenth century of explaining an edifice
by a brief device inscribed above the door. Thus, one still
reads in France, above the wicket of the prison in the seignorial
mansion of Tourville, ~Sileto et spera~; in Ireland, beneath
the armorial bearings which surmount the grand door to
Fortescue Castle, ~Forte scutum, salus ducum~; in England,
over the principal entrance to the hospitable mansion of the
Earls Cowper: ~Tuum est~. At that time every edifice was
As there was no door to the walled cell of the Tour-Roland,
these two words had been carved in large Roman capitals
over the window,--
And this caused the people, whose good sense does not
perceive so much refinement in things, and likes to translate
_Ludovico Magno_ by "Porte Saint-Denis," to give to this dark,
gloomy, damp cavity, the name of "The Rat-Hole." An explanation
less sublime, perhaps, than the other; but, on the other hand,
HISTORY OF A LEAVENED CAKE OF MAIZE.
At the epoch of this history, the cell in the Tour-Roland
was occupied. If the reader desires to know by whom, he
has only to lend an ear to the conversation of three worthy
gossips, who, at the moment when we have directed his
attention to the Rat-Hole, were directing their steps
towards the same spot, coming up along the water's edge
from the Châtelet, towards the Grève.
Two of these women were dressed like good ~bourgeoises~ of
Paris. Their fine white ruffs; their petticoats of linsey-
woolsey, striped red and blue; their white knitted stockings,
with clocks embroidered in colors, well drawn upon their
legs; the square-toed shoes of tawny leather with black soles,
and, above all, their headgear, that sort of tinsel horn,
loaded down with ribbons and laces, which the women of Champagne
still wear, in company with the grenadiers of the imperial
guard of Russia, announced that they belonged to that class
wives which holds the middle ground
between what the lackeys call a woman and what they term a
lady. They wore neither rings nor gold crosses, and it was
easy to see that, in their ease, this did not proceed from
poverty, but simply from fear of being fined. Their companion
was attired in very much the same manner; but there was
that indescribable something about her dress and bearing
which suggested the wife of a provincial notary. One could
see, by the way in which her girdle rose above her hips, that
she had not been long in Paris.--Add to this a plaited tucker,
knots of ribbon on her shoes--and that the stripes of her
petticoat ran horizontally instead of vertically, and a
thousand other enormities which shocked good taste.
The two first walked with that step peculiar to Parisian
ladies, showing Paris to women from the country. The
provincial held by the hand a big boy, who held in his a
large, flat cake.
We regret to be obliged to add, that, owing to the rigor of
the season, he was using his tongue as a handkerchief.
The child was making them drag him along, ~non passibus
Cequis~, as Virgil says, and stumbling at every moment, to the
great indignation of his mother. It is true that he was
looking at his cake more than at the pavement. Some serious
motive, no doubt, prevented his biting it (the cake), for he
contented himself with gazing tenderly at it. But the mother
should have rather taken charge of the cake. It was cruel to
make a Tantalus of the chubby-checked boy.
Meanwhile, the three demoiselles (for the name of dames
was then reserved for noble women) were all talking at once.
"Let us make haste, Demoiselle Mahiette," said the youngest
of the three, who was also the largest, to the provincial,
"I greatly fear that we shall arrive too late; they told us at
the Châtelet that they were going to take him directly to
"Ah, bah! what are you saying, Demoiselle Oudarde
Musnier?" interposed the other Parisienne. "There are two
hours yet to the pillory. We have time enough. Have you
ever seen any one pilloried, my dear Mahiette?"
"Yes," said the provincial, "at Reims."
"Ah, bah! What is your pillory at Reims? A miserable
cage into which only peasants are turned. A great affair,
"Only peasants!" said Mahiette, "at the cloth market in
Reims! We have seen very fine criminals there, who have
killed their father and mother! Peasants! For what do you
take us, Gervaise?"
It is certain that the provincial was on the point of taking
offence, for the honor of her pillory. Fortunately, that
discreet damoiselle, Oudarde Musnier, turned the conversation
"By the way, Damoiselle Mahiette, what say you to our
Flemish Ambassadors? Have you as fine ones at Reims?"
"I admit," replied Mahiette, "that it is only in Paris that
such Flemings can be seen."
"Did you see among the embassy, that big ambassador who
is a hosier?" asked Oudarde.
"Yes," said Mahiette. "He has the eye of a Saturn."
"And the big fellow whose face resembles a bare belly?"
resumed Gervaise. "And the little one, with small eyes
framed in red eyelids, pared down and slashed up like a
"'Tis their horses that are worth seeing," said Oudarde,
"caparisoned as they are after the fashion of their country!"
"Ah my dear," interrupted provincial Mahiette, assuming
in her turn an air of superiority, "what would you say then,
if you had seen in '61, at the consecration at Reims, eighteen
years ago, the horses of the princes and of the king's
company? Housings and caparisons of all sorts; some of
damask cloth, of fine cloth of gold, furred with sables; others
of velvet, furred with ermine; others all embellished with
goldsmith's work and large bells of gold and silver! And what
money that had cost! And what handsome boy pages rode upon them!"
"That," replied Oudarde dryly, "does not prevent the Flemings
having very fine horses, and having had a superb supper
yesterday with monsieur, the provost of the merchants, at the
Hôtel-de-Ville, where they were served with comfits and
hippocras, and spices, and other singularities."
"What are you saying, neighbor!" exclaimed Gervaise.
"It was with monsieur the cardinal, at the Petit Bourbon
that they supped."
"Not at all. At the Hôtel-de-Ville.
"Yes, indeed. At the Petit Bourbon!"
"It was at the Hôtel-de-Ville," retorted Oudarde sharply,
"and Dr. Scourable addressed them a harangue in Latin,
which pleased them greatly. My husband, who is sworn
bookseller told me."
"It was at the Petit Bourbon," replied Gervaise, with no
less spirit, "and this is what monsieur the cardinal's
procurator presented to them: twelve double quarts of hippocras,
white, claret, and red; twenty-four boxes of double Lyons
marchpane, gilded; as many torches, worth two livres a piece;
and six demi-queues* of Beaune wine, white and claret, the
best that could be found. I have it from my husband, who is
a cinquantenier**, at the Parloir-aux Bourgeois, and who was
this morning comparing the Flemish ambassadors with those
of Prester John and the Emperor of Trebizond, who came
from Mesopotamia to Paris, under the last king, and who wore
rings in their ears."
* A Queue was a cask which held a hogshead and a half.
** A captain of fifty men.
"So true is it that they supped at the Hôtel-de-Ville,"
replied Oudarde but little affected by this catalogue, "that
such a triumph of viands and comfits has never been seen."
"I tell you that they were served by Le Sec, sergeant of the
city, at the Hôtel du Petit-Bourbon, and that that is where
you are mistaken."
"At the Hôtel-de-Ville, I tell you!"
"At the Petit-Bourbon, my dear! and they had illuminated
with magic glasses the word hope, which is written on the
"At the Hôtel-de-Ville! At the Hôtel-de-Ville! And
Husson-le-Voir played the flute!"
"I tell you, no!"
"I tell you, yes!"
"I say, no!"
Plump and worthy Oudarde was preparing to retort, and
the quarrel might, perhaps, have proceeded to a pulling of
caps, had not Mahiette suddenly exclaimed,--"Look at those
people assembled yonder at the end of the bridge! There is
something in their midst that they are looking at!"
"In sooth," said Gervaise, "I hear the sounds of a
tambourine. I believe 'tis the little Esmeralda, who plays
her mummeries with her goat. Eh, be quick, Mahiette! redouble
your pace and drag along your boy. You are come hither to
visit the curiosities of Paris. You saw the Flemings
yesterday; you must see the gypsy to-day."
"The gypsy!" said Mahiette, suddenly retracing her steps,
and clasping her son's arm forcibly. "God preserve me from
it! She would steal my child from me! Come, Eustache!"
And she set out on a run along the quay towards the Grève,
until she had left the bridge far behind her. In the
meanwhile, the child whom she was dragging after her fell
upon his knees; she halted breathless. Oudarde and Gervaise
"That gypsy steal your child from you!" said Gervaise.
"That's a singular freak of yours!"
Mahiette shook her head with a pensive air.
"The singular point is," observed Oudarde, "that ~la sachette~
has the same idea about the Egyptian woman."
"What is ~la sachette~?" asked Mahiette.
"Hé!" said Oudarde, "Sister Gudule."
"And who is Sister Gudule?" persisted Mahiette.
"You are certainly ignorant of all but your Reims, not
to know that!" replied Oudarde. "'Tis the recluse of
"What!" demanded Mahiette, "that poor woman to whom
we are carrying this cake?"
Oudarde nodded affirmatively.
"Precisely. You will see her presently at her window on
the Grève. She has the same opinion as yourself of these
vagabonds of Egypt, who play the tambourine and tell
fortunes to the public. No one knows whence comes her
horror of the gypsies and Egyptians. But you, Mahiette--why
do you run so at the mere sight of them?"
"Oh!" said Mahiette, seizing her child's round head in both
hands, "I don't want that to happen to me which happened to
Paquette la Chantefleurie."
"Oh! you must tell us that story, my good Mahiette," said
Gervaise, taking her arm.
"Gladly," replied Mahiette, "but you must be ignorant of
all but your Paris not to know that! I will tell you then (but
'tis not necessary for us to halt that I may tell you the tale),
that Paquette la Chantefleurie was a pretty maid of eighteen
when I was one myself, that is to say, eighteen years ago, and
'tis her own fault if she is not to-day, like me, a good, plump,
fresh mother of six and thirty, with a husband and a son.
However, after the age of fourteen, it was too late! Well, she
was the daughter of Guybertant, minstrel of the barges at
Reims, the same who had played before King Charles VII., at
his coronation, when he descended our river Vesle from Sillery
to Muison, when Madame the Maid of Orleans was also in the
boat. The old father died when Paquette was still a mere
child; she had then no one but her mother, the sister of M.
Pradon, master-brazier and coppersmith in Paris, Rue Farm-
Garlin, who died last year. You see she was of good family.
The mother was a good simple woman, unfortunately, and
she taught Paquette nothing but a bit of embroidery and
toy-making which did not prevent the little one from growing
very large and remaining very poor. They both dwelt at
Reims, on the river front, Rue de Folle-Peine. Mark this:
For I believe it was this which brought misfortune to Paquette.
In '61, the year of the coronation of our King Louis XI.
whom God preserve! Paquette was so gay and so pretty that
she was called everywhere by no other name than "la
Chantefleurie"--blossoming song. Poor girl! She had handsome
teeth, she was fond of laughing and displaying them. Now, a
maid who loves to laugh is on the road to weeping; handsome teeth
ruin handsome eyes. So she was la Chantefleurie. She and
her mother earned a precarious living; they had been very
destitute since the death of the minstrel; their embroidery
did not bring them in more than six farthings a week, which
does not amount to quite two eagle liards. Where were the
days when Father Guybertant had earned twelve sous parisian,
in a single coronation, with a song? One winter (it was
in that same year of '61), when the two women had neither
fagots nor firewood, it was very cold, which gave la
Chantefleurie such a fine color that the men called
her Paquette!* and many called her Pàquerette!** and she was
ruined.--Eustache, just let me see you bite that cake if you
dare!--We immediately perceived that she was ruined, one Sunday
when she came to church with a gold cross about her neck.
At fourteen years of age! do you see? First it was the
young Vicomte de Cormontreuil, who has his bell tower three
leagues distant from Reims; then Messire Henri de Triancourt,
equerry to the King; then less than that, Chiart de
Beaulion, sergeant-at-arms; then, still descending, Guery
Aubergeon, carver to the King; then, Mace de Frépus, barber
to monsieur the dauphin; then, Thévenin le Moine, King's
cook; then, the men growing continually younger and less
noble, she fell to Guillaume Racine, minstrel of the hurdy
gurdy and to Thierry de Mer, lamplighter. Then, poor
Chantefleurie, she belonged to every one: she had reached
the last sou of her gold piece. What shall I say to you, my
damoiselles? At the coronation, in the same year, '61, 'twas
she who made the bed of the king of the debauchees! In the
* Ox-eye daisy.
** Easter daisy.
Mahiette sighed, and wiped away a tear which trickled from
"This is no very extraordinary history," said Gervaise, "and
in the whole of it I see nothing of any Egyptian women or
"Patience!" resumed Mahiette, "you will see one child.--In
'66, 'twill be sixteen years ago this month, at Sainte-
Paule's day, Paquette was brought to bed of a little girl.
The unhappy creature! it was a great joy to her; she had long
wished for a child. Her mother, good woman, who had never
known what to do except to shut her eyes, her mother was
dead. Paquette had no longer any one to love in the world
or any one to love her. La Chantefleurie had been a poor
creature during the five years since her fall. She was alone,
alone in this life, fingers were pointed at her, she was hooted
at in the streets, beaten by the sergeants, jeered at by the
little boys in rags. And then, twenty had arrived: and twenty
is an old age for amorous women. Folly began to bring her
in no more than her trade of embroidery in former days; for
every wrinkle that came, a crown fled; winter became hard to
her once more, wood became rare again in her brazier, and
bread in her cupboard. She could no longer work because,
in becoming voluptuous, she had grown lazy; and she suffered
much more because, in growing lazy, she had become voluptuous.
At least, that is the way in which monsieur the cure of
Saint-Remy explains why these women are colder and hungrier
than other poor women, when they are old."
"Yes," remarked Gervaise, "but the gypsies?"
"One moment, Gervaise!" said Oudarde, whose attention
was less impatient. "What would be left for the end if all
were in the beginning? Continue, Mahiette, I entreat you.
That poor Chantefleurie!"
Mahiette went on.
"So she was very sad, very miserable, and furrowed her
cheeks with tears. But in the midst of her shame, her folly,
her debauchery, it seemed to her that she should be less wild,
less shameful, less dissipated, if there were something or
some one in the world whom she could love, and who could love
her. It was necessary that it should be a child, because only
a child could be sufficiently innocent for that. She had
recognized this fact after having tried to love a thief, the
only man who wanted her; but after a short time, she perceived
that the thief despised her. Those women of love require either
a lover or a child to fill their hearts. Otherwise, they are
very unhappy. As she could not have a lover, she turned
wholly towards a desire for a child, and as she had not ceased
to be pious, she made her constant prayer to the good God
for it. So the good God took pity on her, and gave her a
little daughter. I will not speak to you of her joy; it was a
fury of tears, and caresses, and kisses. She nursed her child
herself, made swaddling-bands for it out of her coverlet, the
only one which she had on her bed, and no longer felt either
cold or hunger. She became beautiful once more, in consequence
of it. An old maid makes a young mother. Gallantry claimed
her once more; men came to see la Chantefleurie; she found
customers again for her merchandise, and out of all
these horrors she made baby clothes, caps and bibs, bodices
with shoulder-straps of lace, and tiny bonnets of satin, without
even thinking of buying herself another coverlet.--Master
Eustache, I have already told you not to eat that cake.--It
is certain that little Agnes, that was the child's name, a
baptismal name, for it was a long time since la Chantefleurie
had had any surname--it is certain that that little one
was more swathed in ribbons and embroideries than a
dauphiness of Dauphiny! Among other things, she had a pair
of little shoes, the like of which King Louis XI. certainly
never had! Her mother had stitched and embroidered them
herself; she had lavished on them all the delicacies of her
art of embroideress, and all the embellishments of a robe for
the good Virgin. They certainly were the two prettiest little
pink shoes that could be seen. They were no longer than my
thumb, and one had to see the child's little feet come out of
them, in order to believe that they had been able to get into
them. 'Tis true that those little feet were so small, so pretty,
so rosy! rosier than the satin of the shoes! When you have
children, Oudarde, you will find that there is nothing prettier
than those little hands and feet."
"I ask no better," said Oudarde with a sigh, "but I am
waiting until it shall suit the good pleasure of M. Andry Musnier."
"However, Paquette's child had more that was pretty about
it besides its feet. I saw her when she was only four months
old; she was a love! She had eyes larger than her mouth,
and the most charming black hair, which already curled. She
would have been a magnificent brunette at the age of sixteen!
Her mother became more crazy over her every day. She
kissed her, caressed her, tickled her, washed her, decked her
out, devoured her! She lost her head over her, she thanked
God for her. Her pretty, little rosy feet above all were an
endless source of wonderment, they were a delirium of joy!
She was always pressing her lips to them, and she could never
recover from her amazement at their smallness. She put
them into the tiny shoes, took them out, admired them, marvelled
at them, looked at the light through them, was curious
to see them try to walk on her bed, and would gladly have
passed her life on her knees, putting on and taking off the
shoes from those feet, as though they had been those of an
"The tale is fair and good," said Gervaise in a low tone;
"but where do gypsies come into all that?"
"Here," replied Mahiette. "One day there arrived in
Reims a very queer sort of people. They were beggars and
vagabonds who were roaming over the country, led by their
duke and their counts. They were browned by exposure to
the sun, they had closely curling hair, and silver rings in
their ears. The women were still uglier than the men. They
had blacker faces, which were always uncovered, a miserable
frock on their bodies, an old cloth woven of cords bound
upon their shoulder, and their hair hanging like the tail of a
horse. The children who scrambled between their legs would
have frightened as many monkeys. A band of excommunicates.
All these persons came direct from lower Egypt to
Reims through Poland. The Pope had confessed them, it was
said, and had prescribed to them as penance to roam through
the world for seven years, without sleeping in a bed; and so
they were called penancers, and smelt horribly. It appears
that they had formerly been Saracens, which was why they
believed in Jupiter, and claimed ten livres of Tournay from
all archbishops, bishops, and mitred abbots with croziers.
A bull from the Pope empowered them to do that. They came
to Reims to tell fortunes in the name of the King of Algiers,
and the Emperor of Germany. You can readily imagine that
no more was needed to cause the entrance to the town to be
forbidden them. Then the whole band camped with good
grace outside the gate of Braine, on that hill where stands
a mill, beside the cavities of the ancient chalk pits. And
everybody in Reims vied with his neighbor in going to see them.
They looked at your hand, and told you marvellous prophecies;
they were equal to predicting to Judas that he would become
Pope. Nevertheless, ugly rumors were in circulation in
regard to them; about children stolen, purses cut, and human
flesh devoured. The wise people said to the foolish: "Don't
go there!" and then went themselves on the sly. It was an
infatuation. The fact is, that they said things fit to astonish
a cardinal. Mothers triumphed greatly over their little ones
after the Egyptians had read in their hands all sorts of
marvels written in pagan and in Turkish. One had an emperor;
another, a pope; another, a captain. Poor Chantefleurie was
seized with curiosity; she wished to know about herself, and
whether her pretty little Agnes would not become some day
Empress of Armenia, or something else. So she carried her to
the Egyptians; and the Egyptian women fell to admiring the
child, and to caressing it, and to kissing it with their black
mouths, and to marvelling over its little band, alas! to the
great joy of the mother. They were especially enthusiastic
over her pretty feet and shoes. The child was not yet a year
old. She already lisped a little, laughed at her mother like a
little mad thing, was plump and quite round, and possessed a
thousand charming little gestures of the angels of paradise.
She was very much frightened by the Egyptians, and wept.
But her mother kissed her more warmly and went away enchanted
with the good fortune which the soothsayers had foretold
for her Agnes. She was to be a beauty, virtuous, a queen.
So she returned to her attic in the Rue Folle-Peine, very
proud of bearing with her a queen. The next day she took
advantage of a moment when the child was asleep on her bed,
(for they always slept together), gently left the door a
little way open, and ran to tell a neighbor in the Rue de la
Séchesserie, that the day would come when her daughter Agnes
would be served at table by the King of England and the
Archduke of Ethiopia, and a hundred other marvels. On
her return, hearing no cries on the staircase, she said to
herself: 'Good! the child is still asleep!' She found her door
wider open than she had left it, but she entered, poor mother,
and ran to the bed.---The child was no longer there, the
place was empty. Nothing remained of the child, but one of
her pretty little shoes. She flew out of the room, dashed
down the stairs, and began to beat her head against the wall,
crying: 'My child! who has my child? Who has taken my
child?' The street was deserted, the house isolated; no
one could tell her anything about it. She went about the
town, searched all the streets, ran hither and thither the
whole day long, wild, beside herself, terrible, snuffing at doors
and windows like a wild beast which has lost its young. She
was breathless, dishevelled, frightful to see, and there was a
fire in her eyes which dried her tears. She stopped the
passers-by and cried: 'My daughter! my daughter! my
pretty little daughter! If any one will give me back my
daughter, I will he his servant, the servant of his dog, and he
shall eat my heart if he will.' She met M. le Curé of Saint-
Remy, and said to him: 'Monsieur, I will till the earth
with my finger-nails, but give me back my child!' It was
heartrending, Oudarde; and IL saw a very hard man, Master
Ponce Lacabre, the procurator, weep. Ah! poor mother! In
the evening she returned home. During her absence, a neighbor
had seen two gypsies ascend up to it with a bundle in their
arms, then descend again, after closing the door. After their
departure, something like the cries of a child were heard in
Paquette's room. The mother, burst into shrieks of laughter,
ascended the stairs as though on wings, and entered.--A
frightful thing to tell, Oudarde! Instead of her pretty little
Agnes, so rosy and so fresh, who was a gift of the good God, a
sort of hideous little monster, lame, one-eyed, deformed, was
crawling and squalling over the floor. She hid her eyes in
horror. 'Oh!' said she, 'have the witches transformed my
daughter into this horrible animal?' They hastened to carry
away the little club-foot; he would have driven her mad. It
was the monstrous child of some gypsy woman, who had given
herself to the devil. He appeared to be about four years old,
and talked a language which was no human tongue; there
were words in it which were impossible. La Chantefleurie
flung herself upon the little shoe, all that remained to her of
all that she loved. She remained so long motionless over it,
mute, and without breath, that they thought she was dead.
Suddenly she trembled all over, covered her relic with furious
kisses, and burst out sobbing as though her heart were broken.
I assure you that we were all weeping also. She said: 'Oh,
my little daughter! my pretty little daughter! where art
thou?'--and it wrung your very heart. I weep still when I
think of it. Our children are the marrow of our bones, you
see.---My poor Eustache! thou art so fair!--If you only
knew how nice he is! yesterday he said to me: 'I want to be
a gendarme, that I do.' Oh! my Eustache! if I were to lose
thee!--All at once la Chantefleurie rose, and set out to run
through Reims, screaming: 'To the gypsies' camp! to the
gypsies' camp! Police, to burn the witches!' The gypsies
were gone. It was pitch dark. They could not be followed.
On the morrow, two leagues from Reims, on a heath between
Gueux and Tilloy, the remains of a large fire were found,
some ribbons which had belonged to Paquette's child, drops of
blood, and the dung of a ram. The night just past had been
a Saturday. There was no longer any doubt that the Egyptians
had held their Sabbath on that heath, and that they had
devoured the child in company with Beelzebub, as the practice
is among the Mahometans. When La Chantefleurie learned
these horrible things, she did not weep, she moved her lips as
though to speak, but could not. On the morrow, her hair was
gray. On the second day, she had disappeared.
"'Tis in truth, a frightful tale," said Oudarde, "and one
which would make even a Burgundian weep."
"I am no longer surprised," added Gervaise, "that fear of
the gypsies should spur you on so sharply."
"And you did all the better," resumed Oudarde, "to flee
with your Eustache just now, since these also are gypsies
"No," said Gervais, "'tis said that they come from Spain
"Catalonia? 'tis possible," replied Oudarde. "Pologne,
Catalogue, Valogne, I always confound those three provinces,
One thing is certain, that they are gypsies."
"Who certainly," added Gervaise, "have teeth long enough
to eat little children. I should not be surprised if la Sméralda
ate a little of them also, though she pretends to be dainty.
Her white goat knows tricks that are too malicious for there
not to be some impiety underneath it all."
Mahiette walked on in silence. She was absorbed in that
revery which is, in some sort, the continuation of a mournful
tale, and which ends only after having communicated the
emotion, from vibration to vibration, even to the very last
fibres of the heart. Nevertheless, Gervaise addressed her,
"And did they ever learn what became of la Chantefleurie?"
Mahiette made no reply. Gervaise repeated her question, and
shook her arm, calling her by name. Mahiette appeared to
awaken from her thoughts.
"What became of la Chantefleurie?" she said, repeating
mechanically the words whose impression was still fresh in
her ear; then, ma king an effort to recall her attention to
the meaning of her words, "Ah!" she continued briskly, "no
one ever found out."
She added, after a pause,--
"Some said that she had been seen to quit Reims at nightfall
by the Fléchembault gate; others, at daybreak, by the old
Basée gate. A poor man found her gold cross hanging on the
stone cross in the field where the fair is held. It was that
ornament which had wrought her ruin, in '61. It was a gift
from the handsome Vicomte de Cormontreuil, her first lover.
Paquette had never been willing to part with it, wretched as
she had been. She had clung to it as to life itself. So, when
we saw that cross abandoned, we all thought that she was
dead. Nevertheless, there were people of the Cabaret les
Vantes, who said that they had seen her pass along the road
to Paris, walking on the pebbles with her bare feet. But,
in that case, she must have gone out through the Porte de
Vesle, and all this does not agree. Or, to speak more truly,
I believe that she actually did depart by the Porte de Vesle,
but departed from this world."
"I do not understand you," said Gervaise.
"La Vesle," replied Mahiette, with a melancholy smile, "is
"Poor Chantefleurie!" said Oudarde, with a shiver,--"drowned!"
"Drowned!" resumed Mahiette, "who could have told
good Father Guybertant, when he passed under the bridge of
Tingueux with the current, singing in his barge, that one day
his dear little Paquette would also pass beneath that bridge,
but without song or boat.
"And the little shoe?" asked Gervaise.
"Disappeared with the mother," replied Mahiette.
"Poor little shoe!" said Oudarde.
Oudarde, a big and tender woman, would have been well
pleased to sigh in company with Mahiette. But Gervaise,
more curious, had not finished her questions.
"And the monster?" she said suddenly, to Mahiette.
"What monster?" inquired the latter.
"The little gypsy monster left by the sorceresses in
Chantefleurie's chamber, in exchange for her daughter. What
did you do with it? I hope you drowned it also."
"No." replied Mahiette.
"What? You burned it then? In sooth, that is more just.
A witch child!"
"Neither the one nor the other, Gervaise. Monseigneur the
archbishop interested himself in the child of Egypt, exorcised
it, blessed it, removed the devil carefully from its body, and
sent it to Paris, to be exposed on the wooden bed at Notre-
Dame, as a foundling."
"Those bishops!" grumbled Gervaise, "because they are
learned, they do nothing like anybody else. I just put
it to you, Oudarde, the idea of placing the devil among the
foundlings! For that little monster was assuredly the devil.
Well, Mahiette, what did they do with it in Paris? I am
quite sure that no charitable person wanted it."
"I do not know," replied the Rémoise, "'twas just at that
time that my husband bought the office of notary, at Bern,
two leagues from the town, and we were no longer occupied
with that story; besides, in front of Bern, stand the two
hills of Cernay, which hide the towers of the cathedral in
Reims from view."
While chatting thus, the three worthy ~bourgeoises~ had
arrived at the Place de Grève. In their absorption, they
had passed the public breviary of the Tour-Roland without
stopping, and took their way mechanically towards the pillory
around which the throng was growing more dense with every
moment. It is probable that the spectacle which at that
moment attracted all looks in that direction, would have made
them forget completely the Rat-Hole, and the halt which
they intended to make there, if big Eustache, six years of
age, whom Mahiette was dragging along by the hand, had not
abruptly recalled the object to them: "Mother," said he, as
though some instinct warned him that the Rat-Hole was
behind him, "can I eat the cake now?"
If Eustache had been more adroit, that is to say, less
greedy, he would have continued to wait, and would only have
hazarded that simple question, "Mother, can I eat the cake,
now?" on their return to the University, to Master Andry
Musnier's, Rue Madame la Valence, when he had the two
arms of the Seine and the five bridges of the city between
the Rat-Hole and the cake.
This question, highly imprudent at the moment when
Eustache put it, aroused Mahiette's attention.
"By the way," she exclaimed, "we are forgetting the
recluse! Show me the Rat-Hole, that I may carry her
"Immediately," said Oudarde, "'tis a charity."
But this did not suit Eustache.
"Stop! my cake!" said he, rubbing both ears alternatively