Part 9 out of 13
come to say farewell?"
Phoebus was delighted with the first question, which helped
him to avoid the second.
"But that is quite close by, monsieur. Why did you not
come to see me a single time?"
Here Phoebus was rather seriously embarrassed.
"Because--the service--and then, charming cousin, I have
"Ill!" she repeated in alarm.
She poor child was completely upset.
"Oh! do not be frightened at that," said Phoebus, carelessly,
"it was nothing. A quarrel, a sword cut; what is that to you?"
"What is that to me?" exclaimed Fleur-de-Lys, raising her
beautiful eyes filled with tears. "Oh! you do not say what
you think when you speak thus. What sword cut was that?
I wish to know all."
"Well, my dear fair one, I had a falling out with Mahè Fédy,
you know? the lieutenant of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and we
ripped open a few inches of skin for each other. That is all."
The mendacious captain was perfectly well aware that an
affair of honor always makes a man stand well in the eyes of a
woman. In fact, Fleur-de-Lys looked him full in the face, all
agitated with fear, pleasure, and admiration. Still, she was
not completely reassured.
"Provided that you are wholly cured, my Phoebus!" said
she. "I do not know your Mahè Fédy, but he is a villanous
man. And whence arose this quarrel?"
Here Phoebus, whose imagination was endowed with but
mediocre power of creation, began to find himself in a
quandary as to a means of extricating himself for his prowess.
"Oh! how do I know?--a mere nothing, a horse, a remark!
Fair cousin," he exclaimed, for the sake of changing the
conversation, "what noise is this in the Cathedral Square?"
He approached the window.
"Oh! ~Mon Dieu~, fair cousin, how many people there are on
"I know not," said Fleur-de-Lys; "it appears that a witch
is to do penance this morning before the church, and thereafter
to be hung."
The captain was so thoroughly persuaded that la Esmeralda's
affair was concluded, that he was but little disturbed by Fleur-
de-Lys's words. Still, he asked her one or two questions.
"What is the name of this witch?"
"I do not know," she replied.
"And what is she said to have done?"
She shrugged her white shoulders.
"I know not."
"Oh, ~mon Dieu~ Jesus!" said her mother; "there are so
many witches nowadays that I dare say they burn them without
knowing their names. One might as well seek the name
of every cloud in the sky. After all, one may be tranquil.
The good God keeps his register." Here the venerable dame
rose and came to the window. "Good Lord! you are right,
Phoebus," said she. "The rabble is indeed great. There are
people on all the roofs, blessed be God! Do you know,
Phoebus, this reminds me of my best days. The entrance of
King Charles VII., when, also, there were many people. I no
longer remember in what year that was. When I speak of this
to you, it produces upon you the effect,--does it not?--the
effect of something very old, and upon me of something very
young. Oh! the crowd was far finer than at the present day.
They even stood upon the machicolations of the Porte Sainte-
Antoine. The king had the queen on a pillion, and after
their highnesses came all the ladies mounted behind all the
lords. I remember that they laughed loudly, because beside
Amanyon de Garlande, who was very short of stature, there
rode the Sire Matefelon, a chevalier of gigantic size, who had
killed heaps of English. It was very fine. A procession of
all the gentlemen of France, with their oriflammes waving
red before the eye. There were some with pennons and some
with banners. How can I tell? the Sire de Calm with a
pennon; Jean de Châteaumorant with a banner; the Sire de
Courcy with a banner, and a more ample one than any of the
others except the Duc de Bourbon. Alas! 'tis a sad thing
to think that all that has existed and exists no longer!"
The two lovers were not listening to the venerable
dowager. Phoebus had returned and was leaning on the back
of his betrothed's chair, a charming post whence his libertine
glance plunged into all the openings of Fleur-de-Lys's gorget.
This gorget gaped so conveniently, and allowed him to see so
many exquisite things and to divine so many more, that
Phoebus, dazzled by this skin with its gleams of satin, said
to himself, "How can any one love anything but a fair skin?"
Both were silent. The young girl raised sweet, enraptured
eyes to him from time to time, and their hair mingled in a
ray of spring sunshine.
"Phoebus," said Fleur-de-Lys suddenly, in a low voice, "we
are to be married three months hence; swear to me that you
have never loved any other woman than myself."
"I swear it, fair angel!" replied Phoebus, and his passionate
glances aided the sincere tone of his voice in convincing
Meanwhile, the good mother, charmed to see the betrothed
pair on terms of such perfect understanding, had just quitted
the apartment to attend to some domestic matter; Phoebus
observed it, and this so emboldened the adventurous captain
that very strange ideas mounted to his brain. Fleur-de-Lys
loved him, he was her betrothed; she was alone with him;
his former taste for her had re-awakened, not with all its fresh-
ness but with all its ardor; after all, there is no great harm
in tasting one's wheat while it is still in the blade; I do not
know whether these ideas passed through his mind, but one
thing is certain, that Fleur-de-Lys was suddenly alarmed by
the expression of his glance. She looked round and saw that
her mother was no longer there.
"Good heavens!" said she, blushing and uneasy, "how very warm
"I think, in fact," replied Phoebus, "that it cannot be far
from midday. The sun is troublesome. We need only lower
"No, no," exclaimed the poor little thing, "on the contrary,
I need air."
And like a fawn who feels the breath of the pack of
hounds, she rose, ran to the window, opened it, and rushed
upon the balcony.
Phoebus, much discomfited, followed her.
The Place du Parvis Notre-Dame, upon which the balcony
looked, as the reader knows, presented at that moment a
singular and sinister spectacle which caused the fright of the
timid Fleur-de-Lys to change its nature.
An immense crowd, which overflowed into all the neighboring
streets, encumbered the Place, properly speaking. The
little wall, breast high, which surrounded the Place, would
not have sufficed to keep it free had it not been lined with
a thick hedge of sergeants and hackbuteers, culverines in
hand. Thanks to this thicket of pikes and arquebuses, the
Parvis was empty. Its entrance was guarded by a force of
halberdiers with the armorial bearings of the bishop. The
large doors of the church were closed, and formed a contrast
with the innumerable windows on the Place, which, open to their
very gables, allowed a view of thousands of heads heaped up
almost like the piles of bullets in a park of artillery.
The surface of this rabble was dingy, dirty, earthy. The
spectacle which it was expecting was evidently one of the
sort which possess the privilege of bringing out and calling
together the vilest among the populace. Nothing is so hideous
as the noise which was made by that swarm of yellow caps
and dirty heads. In that throng there were more laughs than
cries, more women than men.
From time to time, a sharp and vibrating voice pierced
the general clamor.
"Ohé! Mahiet Baliffre! Is she to be hung yonder?"
"Fool! t'is here that she is to make her apology in her
shift! the good God is going to cough Latin in her face!
That is always done here, at midday. If 'tis the gallows that
you wish, go to the Grève."
"I will go there, afterwards."
"Tell me, la Boucanbry? Is it true that she has refused
"It appears so, La Bechaigne."
"You see what a pagan she is!"
"'Tis the custom, monsieur. The bailiff of the courts is
bound to deliver the malefactor ready judged for execution if
he be a layman, to the provost of Paris; if a clerk, to the
official of the bishopric."
"Thank you, sir."
"Oh, God!" said Fleur-de-Lys, "the poor creature!"
This thought filled with sadness the glance which she cast
upon the populace. The captain, much more occupied with
her than with that pack of the rabble, was amorously rumpling
her girdle behind. She turned round, entreating and smiling.
"Please let me alone, Phoebus! If my mother were to return,
she would see your hand!"
At that moment, midday rang slowly out from the clock of
Notre-Dame. A murmur of satisfaction broke out in the
crowd. The last vibration of the twelfth stroke had hardly
died away when all heads surged like the waves beneath a
squall, and an immense shout went up from the pavement,
the windows, and the roofs,
"There she is!"
Fleur-de-Lys pressed her hands to her eyes, that she might
"Charming girl," said Phoebus, "do you wish to withdraw?"
"No," she replied; and she opened through curiosity, the
eyes which she had closed through fear.
A tumbrel drawn by a stout Norman horse, and all surrounded
by cavalry in violet livery with white crosses, had
just debouched upon the Place through the Rue Saint-Pierre-
aux-Boeufs. The sergeants of the watch were clearing a passage
for it through the crowd, by stout blows from their clubs.
Beside the cart rode several officers of justice and police,
recognizable by their black costume and their awkwardness in
the saddle. Master Jacques Charmolue paraded at their head.
In the fatal cart sat a young girl with her arms tied behind
her back, and with no priest beside her. She was in her shift;
her long black hair (the fashion then was to cut it off only at
the foot of the gallows) fell in disorder upon her half-bared
throat and shoulders.
Athwart that waving hair, more glossy than the plumage of
a raven, a thick, rough, gray rope was visible, twisted and
knotted, chafing her delicate collar-bones and twining round
the charming neck of the poor girl, like an earthworm round
a flower. Beneath that rope glittered a tiny amulet ornamented
with bits of green glass, which had been left to her no
doubt, because nothing is refused to those who are about to
die. The spectators in the windows could see in the bottom
of the cart her naked legs which she strove to hide beneath
her, as by a final feminine instinct. At her feet lay a little
goat, bound. The condemned girl held together with her
teeth her imperfectly fastened shift. One would have said
that she suffered still more in her misery from being thus
exposed almost naked to the eyes of all. Alas! modesty is
not made for such shocks.
"Jesus!" said Fleur-de-Lys hastily to the captain. "Look
fair cousin, 'tis that wretched Bohemian with the goat."
So saying, she turned to Phoebus. His eyes were fixed on
the tumbrel. He was very pale.
"What Bohemian with the goat?" he stammered.
"What!" resumed Fleur-de-Lys, "do you not remember?"
Phoebus interrupted her.
"I do not know what you mean."
He made a step to re-enter the room, but Fleur-de-Lys,
whose jealousy, previously so vividly aroused by this same
gypsy, had just been re-awakened, Fleur-de-Lys gave him a
look full of penetration and distrust. She vaguely recalled at
that moment having heard of a captain mixed up in the trial
of that witch.
"What is the matter with you?" she said to Phoebus, "one
would say, that this woman had disturbed you."
Phoebus forced a sneer,--
"Me! Not the least in the world! Ah! yes, certainly!"
"Remain, then!" she continued imperiously, "and let us
see the end."
The unlucky captain was obliged to remain. He was somewhat
reassured by the fact that the condemned girl never removed
her eyes from the bottom of the cart. It was but too
surely la Esmeralda. In this last stage of opprobrium and
misfortune, she was still beautiful; her great black eyes
appeared still larger, because of the emaciation of her cheeks;
her pale profile was pure and sublime. She resembled what
she had been, in the same degree that a virgin by Masaccio,
resembles a virgin of Raphael,--weaker, thinner, more delicate.
Moreover, there was nothing in her which was not shaken
in some sort, and which with the exception of her modesty,
she did not let go at will, so profoundly had she been broken
by stupor and despair. Her body bounded at every jolt of
the tumbrel like a dead or broken thing; her gaze was dull and
imbecile. A tear was still visible in her eyes, but motionless
and frozen, so to speak.
Meanwhile, the lugubrious cavalcade has traversed the crowd
amid cries of joy and curious attitudes. But as a faithful
historian, we must state that on beholding her so beautiful,
so depressed, many were moved with pity, even among the hardest
The tumbrel had entered the Parvis.
It halted before the central portal. The escort ranged
themselves in line on both sides. The crowd became silent,
and, in the midst of this silence full of anxiety and solemnity,
the two leaves of the grand door swung back, as of themselves,
on their hinges, which gave a creak like the sound of
a fife. Then there became visible in all its length, the
deep, gloomy church, hung in black, sparely lighted with a
few candles gleaming afar off on the principal altar, opened
in the midst of the Place which was dazzling with light, like
the mouth of a cavern. At the very extremity, in the gloom of
the apse, a gigantic silver cross was visible against a black
drapery which hung from the vault to the pavement. The
whole nave was deserted. But a few heads of priests could
be seen moving confusedly in the distant choir stalls, and, at
the moment when the great door opened, there escaped from
the church a loud, solemn, and monotonous chanting, which
cast over the head of the condemned girl, in gusts, fragments
of melancholy psalms,--
"~Non timebo millia populi circumdantis me: exsurge, Domine;
salvum me fac, Deus~!"
"~Salvum me fac, Deus, quoniam intraverunt aquoe usque ad
"~Infixus sum in limo profundi; et non est substantia~."
At the same time, another voice, separate from the choir,
intoned upon the steps of the chief altar, this melancholy
"~Qui verbum meum audit, et credit ei qui misit me, habet
vitam oeternam et in judicium non venit; sed transit a morte
* "He that heareth my word and believeth on Him that sent me,
hath eternal life, and hath not come into condemnation; but is
passed from death to life."
This chant, which a few old men buried in the gloom sang
from afar over that beautiful creature, full of youth and life,
caressed by the warm air of spring, inundated with sunlight
was the mass for the dead.
The people listened devoutly.
The unhappy girl seemed to lose her sight and her
consciousness in the obscure interior of the church. Her white
lips moved as though in prayer, and the headsman's assistant
who approached to assist her to alight from the cart, heard
her repeating this word in a low tone,--"Phoebus."
They untied her hands, made her alight, accompanied by her
goat, which had also been unbound, and which bleated with
joy at finding itself free: and they made her walk barefoot on
the hard pavement to the foot of the steps leading to the door.
The rope about her neck trailed behind her. One would have
said it was a serpent following her.
Then the chanting in the church ceased. A great golden
cross and a row of wax candles began to move through the
gloom. The halberds of the motley beadles clanked; and, a
few moments later, a long procession of priests in chasubles,
and deacons in dalmatics, marched gravely towards the condemned
girl, as they drawled their song, spread out before her
view and that of the crowd. But her glance rested on the one
who marched at the head, immediately after the cross-bearer.
"Oh!" she said in a low voice, and with a shudder, "'tis
he again! the priest!"
It was in fact, the archdeacon. On his left he had the sub-
chanter, on his right, the chanter, armed with his official
wand. He advanced with head thrown back, his eyes fixed
and wide open, intoning in a strong voice,--
"~De ventre inferi clamavi, et exaudisti vocem meam~.
"~Et projecisti me in profundum in corde mans, et flumem
* "Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest
my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep in the
midst of the seas, and the floods compassed me about."
At the moment when he made his appearance in the full
daylight beneath the lofty arched portal, enveloped in an
ample cope of silver barred with a black cross, he was so pale
that more than one person in the crowd thought that one of
the marble bishops who knelt on the sepulchral stones of the
choir had risen and was come to receive upon the brink of
the tomb, the woman who was about to die.
She, no less pale, no less like a statue, had hardly noticed
that they had placed in her hand a heavy, lighted candle of
yellow wax; she had not heard the yelping voice of the clerk
reading the fatal contents of the apology; when they told her
to respond with Amen, she responded Amen. She only recovered
life and force when she beheld the priest make a sign to her
guards to withdraw, and himself advance alone towards her.
Then she felt her blood boil in her head, and a remnant of
indignation flashed up in that soul already benumbed and cold.
The archdeacon approached her slowly; even in that extremity,
she beheld him cast an eye sparkling with sensuality, jealousy,
and desire, over her exposed form. Then he said aloud,--
"Young girl, have you asked God's pardon for your faults
He bent down to her ear, and added (the spectators supposed
that he was receiving her last confession): "Will you
have me? I can still save you!"
She looked intently at him: "Begone, demon, or I will
He gave vent to a horrible smile: "You will not be believed.
You will only add a scandal to a crime. Reply quickly! Will
you have me?"
"What have you done with my Phoebus?"
"He is dead!" said the priest.
At that moment the wretched archdeacon raised his head
mechanically and beheld at the other end of the Place, in the
balcony of the Gondelaurier mansion, the captain standing
beside Fleur-de-Lys. He staggered, passed his hand across
his eyes, looked again, muttered a curse, and all his features
were violently contorted.
"Well, die then!" he hissed between his teeth. "No one
shall have you." Then, raising his hand over the gypsy, he
exclaimed in a funereal voice:--"~I nunc, anima anceps, et
sit tibi Deus misenicors~!"*
* "Go now, soul, trembling in the balance, and God have mercy
This was the dread formula with which it was the custom
to conclude these gloomy ceremonies. It was the signal
agreed upon between the priest and the executioner.
The crowd knelt.
"~Kyrie eleison~,"* said the priests, who had remained beneath
the arch of the portal.
* "Lord have mercy upon us."
"~Kyrie eleison~," repeated the throng in that murmur which
runs over all heads, like the waves of a troubled sea.
"Amen," said the archdeacon.
He turned his back on the condemned girl, his head sank
upon his breast once more, he crossed his hands and rejoined
his escort of priests, and a moment later he was seen to
disappear, with the cross, the candles, and the copes, beneath
the misty arches of the cathedral, and his sonorous voice was
extinguished by degrees in the choir, as he chanted this verse
"~Omnes gurgites tui et fluctus tui super me transierunt."*
* "All thy waves and thy billows have gone over me."
At the same time, the intermittent clash of the iron butts
of the beadles' halberds, gradually dying away among the
columns of the nave, produced the effect of a clock hammer
striking the last hour of the condemned.
The doors of Notre-Dame remained open, allowing a view
of the empty desolate church, draped in mourning, without
candles, and without voices.
The condemned girl remained motionless in her place, waiting
to be disposed of. One of the sergeants of police was
obliged to notify Master Charmolue of the fact, as the latter,
during this entire scene, had been engaged in studying the
bas-relief of the grand portal which represents, according to
some, the sacrifice of Abraham; according to others, the
philosopher's alchemical operation: the sun being figured forth
by the angel; the fire, by the fagot; the artisan, by Abraham.
There was considerable difficulty in drawing him away from
that contemplation, but at length he turned round; and, at a
signal which he gave, two men clad in yellow, the executioner's
assistants, approached the gypsy to bind her hands once more.
The unhappy creature, at the moment of mounting once
again the fatal cart, and proceeding to her last halting-place,
was seized, possibly, with some poignant clinging to life.
She raised her dry, red eyes to heaven, to the sun, to the
silvery clouds, cut here and there by a blue trapezium or
triangle; then she lowered them to objects around her, to the
earth, the throng, the houses; all at once, while the yellow
man was binding her elbows, she uttered a terrible cry, a cry
of joy. Yonder, on that balcony, at the corner of the Place,
she had just caught sight of him, of her friend, her lord,
Phoebus, the other apparition of her life!
The judge had lied! the priest had lied! it was certainly he,
she could not doubt it; he was there, handsome, alive, dressed
in his brilliant uniform, his plume on his head, his sword by
"Phoebus!" she cried, "my Phoebus!"
And she tried to stretch towards him arms trembling with
love and rapture, but they were bound.
Then she saw the captain frown, a beautiful young girl who
was leaning against him gazed at him with disdainful lips and
irritated eyes; then Phoebus uttered some words which did
not reach her, and both disappeared precipitately behind the
window opening upon the balcony, which closed after them.
"Phoebus!" she cried wildly, "can it be you believe it?"
A monstrous thought had just presented itself to her. She
remembered that she had been condemned to death for murder
committed on the person of Phoebus de Châteaupers.
She had borne up until that moment. But this last blow
was too harsh. She fell lifeless on the pavement.
"Come," said Charmolue, "carry her to the cart, and make
an end of it."
No one had yet observed in the gallery of the statues of the
kings, carved directly above the arches of the portal, a strange
spectator, who had, up to that time, observed everything with
such impassiveness, with a neck so strained, a visage so
hideous that, in his motley accoutrement of red and violet,
he might have been taken for one of those stone monsters
through whose mouths the long gutters of the cathedral have
discharged their waters for six hundred years. This spectator
had missed nothing that had taken place since midday in
front of the portal of Notre-Dame. And at the very beginning
he had securely fastened to one of the small columns a
large knotted rope, one end of which trailed on the flight of
steps below. This being done, he began to look on tranquilly,
whistling from time to time when a blackbird flitted past.
Suddenly, at the moment when the superintendent's assistants
were preparing to execute Charmolue's phlegmatic order,
he threw his leg over the balustrade of the gallery, seized the
rope with his feet, his knees and his hands; then he was seen
to glide down the façade, as a drop of rain slips down a window-
pane, rush to the two executioners with the swiftness of a
cat which has fallen from a roof, knock them down with two
enormous fists, pick up the gypsy with one hand, as a child
would her doll, and dash back into the church with a single
bound, lifting the young girl above his head and crying in a
This was done with such rapidity, that had it taken place at
night, the whole of it could have been seen in the space of a
single flash of lightning.
"Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" repeated the crowd; and the
clapping of ten thousand hands made Quasimodo's single eye
sparkle with joy and pride.
This shock restored the condemned girl to her senses. She
raised her eyelids, looked at Quasimodo, then closed them
again suddenly, as though terrified by her deliverer.
Charmolue was stupefied, as well as the executioners and the
entire escort. In fact, within the bounds of Notre-Dame, the
condemned girl could not be touched. The cathedral was a
place of refuge. All temporal jurisdiction expired upon
Quasimodo had halted beneath the great portal, his huge
feet seemed as solid on the pavement of the church as the
heavy Roman pillars. His great, bushy head sat low between
his shoulders, like the heads of lions, who also have a mane
and no neck. He held the young girl, who was quivering all
over, suspended from his horny hands like a white drapery;
but he carried her with as much care as though he feared
to break her or blight her. One would have said that he felt
that she was a delicate, exquisite, precious thing, made for
other hands than his. There were moments when he looked as if
not daring to touch her, even with his breath. Then, all at
once, he would press her forcibly in his arms, against his angular
bosom, like his own possession, his treasure, as the mother of
that child would have done. His gnome's eye, fastened upon
her, inundated her with tenderness, sadness, and pity, and was
suddenly raised filled with lightnings. Then the women
laughed and wept, the crowd stamped with enthusiasm, for,
at that moment Quasimodo had a beauty of his own. He was
handsome; he, that orphan, that foundling, that outcast, he
felt himself august and strong, he gazed in the face of that
society from which he was banished, and in which he had so
powerfully intervened, of that human justice from which he
had wrenched its prey, of all those tigers whose jaws were
forced to remain empty, of those policemen, those judges,
those executioners, of all that force of the king which he,
the meanest of creatures, had just broken, with the force
And then, it was touching to behold this protection which
had fallen from a being so hideous upon a being so unhappy,
a creature condemned to death saved by Quasimodo. They
were two extremes of natural and social wretchedness, coming
into contact and aiding each other.
Meanwhile, after several moments of triumph, Quasimodo
had plunged abruptly into the church with his burden. The
populace, fond of all prowess, sought him with their eyes,
beneath the gloomy nave, regretting that he had so speedily
disappeared from their acclamations. All at once, he was
seen to re-appear at one of the extremities of the gallery of
the kings of France; he traversed it, running like a madman,
raising his conquest high in his arms and shouting: "Sanctuary!"
The crowd broke forth into fresh applause. The gallery
passed, he plunged once more into the interior of the
church. A moment later, he re-appeared upon the upper
platform, with the gypsy still in his arms, still running
madly, still crying, "Sanctuary!" and the throng applauded.
Finally, he made his appearance for the third time upon the
summit of the tower where hung the great bell; from that
point he seemed to be showing to the entire city the girl
whom he had saved, and his voice of thunder, that voice
which was so rarely heard, and which he never heard himself,
repeated thrice with frenzy, even to the clouds: "Sanctuary!
"Noel! Noel!" shouted the populace in its turn; and that
immense acclamation flew to astonish the crowd assembled
at the Grève on the other bank, and the recluse who was
still waiting with her eyes riveted on the gibbet.
Claude Frollo was no longer in Notre-Dame when his
adopted son so abruptly cut the fatal web in which the
archdeacon and the gypsy were entangled. On returning to the
sacristy he had torn off his alb, cope, and stole, had flung all
into the hands of the stupefied beadle, had made his escape
through the private door of the cloister, had ordered a boatman
of the Terrain to transport him to the left bank of the
Seine, and had plunged into the hilly streets of the
University, not knowing whither he was going, encountering
at every step groups of men and women who were hurrying
joyously towards the Pont Saint-Michel, in the hope of still
arriving in time to see the witch hung there,--pale, wild,
more troubled, more blind and more fierce than a night bird
let loose and pursued by a troop of children in broad
daylight. He no longer knew where he was, what he thought,
or whether he were dreaming. He went forward, walking,
running, taking any street at haphazard, making no choice,
only urged ever onward away from the Grève, the horrible
Grève, which he felt confusedly, to be behind him.
In this manner he skirted Mount Sainte-Geneviève, and
finally emerged from the town by the Porte Saint-Victor.
He continued his flight as long as he could see, when he
turned round, the turreted enclosure of the University, and
the rare houses of the suburb; but, when, at length, a rise of
ground had completely concealed from him that odious Paris,
when he could believe himself to be a hundred leagues distant
from it, in the fields, in the desert, he halted, and it
seemed to him that he breathed more freely.
Then frightful ideas thronged his mind. Once more he
could see clearly into his soul, and he shuddered. He
thought of that unhappy girl who had destroyed him, and
whom he had destroyed. He cast a haggard eye over the
double, tortuous way which fate had caused their two destinies
to pursue up to their point of intersection, where it had
dashed them against each other without mercy. He meditated
on the folly of eternal vows, on the vanity of chastity,
of science, of religion, of virtue, on the uselessness of God.
He plunged to his heart's content in evil thoughts, and in
proportion as he sank deeper, he felt a Satanic laugh burst
forth within him.
And as he thus sifted his soul to the bottom, when he
perceived how large a space nature had prepared there for the
passions, he sneered still more bitterly. He stirred up in the
depths of his heart all his hatred, all his malevolence; and,
with the cold glance of a physician who examines a patient,
he recognized the fact that this malevolence was nothing but
vitiated love; that love, that source of every virtue in man,
turned to horrible things in the heart of a priest, and that
a man constituted like himself, in making himself a priest,
made himself a demon. Then he laughed frightfully, and
suddenly became pale again, when he considered the most
sinister side of his fatal passion, of that corrosive,
venomous malignant, implacable love, which had ended only
in the gibbet for one of them and in hell for the other;
condemnation for her, damnation for him.
And then his laughter came again, when he reflected that
Phoebus was alive; that after all, the captain lived, was gay
and happy, had handsomer doublets than ever, and a new
mistress whom he was conducting to see the old one hanged.
His sneer redoubled its bitterness when he reflected that out
of the living beings whose death he had desired, the gypsy,
the only creature whom he did not hate, was the only one who
had not escaped him.
Then from the captain, his thought passed to the people,
and there came to him a jealousy of an unprecedented sort.
He reflected that the people also, the entire populace,
had had before their eyes the woman whom he loved exposed
almost naked. He writhed his arms with agony as he thought
that the woman whose form, caught by him alone in the
darkness would have been supreme happiness, had been delivered
up in broad daylight at full noonday, to a whole people, clad
as for a night of voluptuousness. He wept with rage over all
these mysteries of love, profaned, soiled, laid bare, withered
forever. He wept with rage as he pictured to himself how
many impure looks had been gratified at the sight of that
badly fastened shift, and that this beautiful girl, this virgin
lily, this cup of modesty and delight, to which he would have
dared to place his lips only trembling, had just been transformed
into a sort of public bowl, whereat the vilest populace
of Paris, thieves, beggars, lackeys, had come to quaff in
common an audacious, impure, and depraved pleasure.
And when he sought to picture to himself the happiness
which he might have found upon earth, if she had not been a
gypsy, and if he had not been a priest, if Phoebus had not
existed and if she had loved him; when he pictured to himself
that a life of serenity and love would have been possible
to him also, even to him; that there were at that very moment,
here and there upon the earth, happy couples spending the
hours in sweet converse beneath orange trees, on the banks of
brooks, in the presence of a setting sun, of a starry night;
and that if God had so willed, he might have formed with her
one of those blessed couples,--his heart melted in tenderness
Oh! she! still she! It was this fixed idea which returned
incessantly, which tortured him, which ate into his brain, and
rent his vitals. He did not regret, he did not repent; all that
he had done he was ready to do again; he preferred to behold
her in the hands of the executioner rather than in the arms of
the captain. But he suffered; he suffered so that at intervals
he tore out handfuls of his hair to see whether it were not
Among other moments there came one, when it occurred to
him that it was perhaps the very minute when the hideous
chain which he had seen that morning, was pressing its iron
noose closer about that frail and graceful neck. This thought
caused the perspiration to start from every pore.
There was another moment when, while laughing diabolically
at himself, he represented to himself la Esmeralda as he
had seen her on that first day, lively, careless, joyous, gayly
attired, dancing, winged, harmonious, and la Esmeralda of the
last day, in her scanty shift, with a rope about her neck,
mounting slowly with her bare feet, the angular ladder of the
gallows; he figured to himself this double picture in such a
manner .that he gave vent to a terrible cry.
While this hurricane of despair overturned, broke, tore up,
bent, uprooted everything in his soul, he gazed at nature
around him. At his feet, some chickens were searching the
thickets and pecking, enamelled beetles ran about in the sun;
overhead, some groups of dappled gray clouds were floating
across the blue sky; on the horizon, the spire of the Abbey
Saint-Victor pierced the ridge of the hill with its slate
obelisk; and the miller of the Copeaue hillock was whistling as
he watched the laborious wings of his mill turning. All this
active, organized, tranquil life, recurring around him under
a thousand forms, hurt him. He resumed his flight.
He sped thus across the fields until evening. This flight
from nature, life, himself, man, God, everything, lasted all day
long. Sometimes he flung himself face downward on the,
earth, and tore up the young blades of wheat with his nails.
Sometimes he halted in the deserted street of a village, and
his thoughts were so intolerable that he grasped his head in
both hands and tried to tear it from his shoulders in order
to dash it upon the pavement.
Towards the hour of sunset, he examined himself again,
and found himself nearly mad. The tempest which had raged
within him ever since the instant when he had lost the hope
and the will to save the gypsy,--that tempest had not left in
his conscience a single healthy idea, a single thought which
maintained its upright position. His reason lay there almost
entirely destroyed. There remained but two distinct images
in his mind, la Esmeralda and the gallows; all the rest was
blank. Those two images united, presented to him a frightful
group; and the more he concentrated what attention and
thought was left to him, the more he beheld them grow, in
accordance with a fantastic progression, the one in grace, in
charm, in beauty, in light, the other in deformity and horror;
so that at last la Esmeralda appeared to him like a star, the
gibbet like an enormous, fleshless arm.
One remarkable fact is, that during the whole of this torture,
the idea of dying did not seriously occur to him. The
wretch was made so. He clung to life. Perhaps he really
saw hell beyond it.
Meanwhile, the day continued to decline. The living being
which still existed in him reflected vaguely on retracing its
steps. He believed himself to be far away from Paris; on
taking his bearings, he perceived that he had only circled the
enclosure of the University. The spire of Saint-Sulpice, and
the three lofty needles of Saint Germain-des-Prés, rose above
the horizon on his right. He turned his steps in that
direction. When he heard the brisk challenge of the men-at-arms
of the abbey, around the crenelated, circumscribing wall of
Saint-Germain, he turned aside, took a path which presented
itself between the abbey and the lazar-house of the bourg, and
at the expiration of a few minutes found himself on the
verge of the Pré-aux-Clercs. This meadow was celebrated by
reason of the brawls which went on there night and day; it
was the hydra of the poor monks of Saint-Germain: ~quod
mouachis Sancti-Germaini pratensis hydra fuit, clericis nova
semper dissidiorum capita suscitantibus~. The archdeacon was
afraid of meeting some one there; he feared every human
countenance; he had just avoided the University and the Bourg
Saint-Germain; he wished to re-enter the streets as late as
possible. He skirted the Pré-aux-Clercs, took the deserted path
which separated it from the Dieu-Neuf, and at last reached the
water's edge. There Dom Claude found a boatman, who, for
a few farthings in Parisian coinage, rowed him up the Seine as
far as the point of the city, and landed him on that tongue
of abandoned land where the reader has already beheld
Gringoire dreaming, and which was prolonged beyond the
king's gardens, parallel to the Ile du Passeur-aux-Vaches.
The monotonous rocking of the boat and the ripple of the
water had, in some sort, quieted the unhappy Claude. When
the boatman had taken his departure, he remained standing
stupidly on the strand, staring straight before him and
perceiving objects only through magnifying oscillations which
rendered everything a sort of phantasmagoria to him. The
fatigue of a great grief not infrequently produces this effect
on the mind.
The sun had set behind the lofty Tour-de-Nesle. It was the
twilight hour. The sky was white, the water of the river was
white. Between these two white expanses, the left bank of
the Seine, on which his eyes were fixed, projected its gloomy
mass and, rendered ever thinner and thinner by perspective, it
plunged into the gloom of the horizon like a black spire. It
was loaded with houses, of which only the obscure outline
could be distinguished, sharply brought out in shadows against
the light background of the sky and the water. Here and
there windows began to gleam, like the holes in a brazier.
That immense black obelisk thus isolated between the two
white expanses of the sky and the river, which was very broad
at this point, produced upon Dom Claude a singular effect,
comparable to that which would be experienced by a man
who, reclining on his back at the foot of the tower of
Strasburg, should gaze at the enormous spire plunging into the
shadows of the twilight above his head. Only, in this case,
it was Claude who was erect and the obelisk which was lying
down; but, as the river, reflecting the sky, prolonged the abyss
below him, the immense promontory seemed to be as boldly
launched into space as any cathedral spire; and the impression
was the same. This impression had even one stronger and
more profound point about it, that it was indeed the tower
of Strasbourg, but the tower of Strasbourg two leagues in
height; something unheard of, gigantic, immeasurable; an
edifice such as no human eye has ever seen; a tower of Babel.
The chimneys of the houses, the battlements of the walls, the
faceted gables of the roofs, the spire of the Augustines, the
tower of Nesle, all these projections which broke the profile
of the colossal obelisk added to the illusion by displaying in
eccentric fashion to the eye the indentations of a luxuriant
and fantastic sculpture.
Claude, in the state of hallucination in which he found
himself, believed that he saw, that he saw with his actual
eyes, the bell tower of hell; the thousand lights scattered
over the whole height of the terrible tower seemed to him so
many porches of the immense interior furnace; the voices and
noises which escaped from it seemed so many shrieks, so
many death groans. Then he became alarmed, he put his
hands on his ears that he might no longer hear, turned his
back that he might no longer see, and fled from the frightful
vision with hasty strides.
But the vision was in himself.
When he re-entered the streets, the passers-by elbowing each
other by the light of the shop-fronts, produced upon him the
effect of a constant going and coming of spectres about him.
There were strange noises in his ears; extraordinary fancies
disturbed his brain. He saw neither houses, nor pavements,
nor chariots, nor men and women, but a chaos of indeterminate
objects whose edges melted into each other. At the corner
of the Rue de la Barillerie, there was a grocer's shop whose
porch was garnished all about, according to immemorial
custom, with hoops of tin from which hung a circle of wooden
candles, which came in contact with each other in the wind,
and rattled like castanets. He thought he heard a cluster of
skeletons at Montfauçon clashing together in the gloom.
"Oh!" he muttered, "the night breeze dashes them against
each other, and mingles the noise of their chains with the
rattle of their bones! Perhaps she is there among them!"
In his state of frenzy, he knew not whither he was going.
After a few strides he found himself on the Pont Saint-
Michel. There was a light in the window of a ground-floor
room; he approached. Through a cracked window he beheld
a mean chamber which recalled some confused memory to his
mind. In that room, badly lighted by a meagre lamp, there
was a fresh, light-haired young man, with a merry face, who
amid loud bursts of laughter was embracing a very audaciously
attired young girl; and near the lamp sat an old crone spinning
and singing in a quavering voice. As the young man did
not laugh constantly, fragments of the old woman's ditty
reached the priest; it was something unintelligible yet
"~Grève, aboie, Grève, grouille!
File, file, ma quenouille,
File sa corde au bourreau,
Qui siffle dans le pre(au,
Grève, aboie, Grève, grouille~!
"~La belle corde de chanvre!
Semez d'Issy jusqu'á Vanvre
Du chanvre et non pas du ble(.
Le voleur n'a pas vole(
La belle corde de chanvre~.
"~Grève, grouille, Grève, aboie!
Pour voir la fille de joie,
Prendre au gibet chassieux,
Les fenêtres sont des yeux.
Grève, grouille, Grève, aboie!"*
* Bark, Grève, grumble, Grève! Spin, spin, my distaff, spin
her rope for the hangman, who is whistling in the meadow. What
a beautiful hempen rope! Sow hemp, not wheat, from Issy to
Vanvre. The thief hath not stolen the beautiful hempen rope.
Grumble, Grève, bark, Grève! To see the dissolute wench hang
on the blear-eyed gibbet, windows are eyes.
Thereupon the young man laughed and caressed the wench.
The crone was la Falourdel; the girl was a courtesan; the
young man was his brother Jehan.
He continued to gaze. That spectacle was as good as any other.
He saw Jehan go to a window at the end of the room, open
it, cast a glance on the quay, where in the distance blazed a
thousand lighted casements, and he heard him say as he
closed the sash,--
"'Pon my soul! How dark it is; the people are lighting
their candles, and the good God his stars."
Then Jehan came back to the hag, smashed a bottle standing
on the table, exclaiming,--
"Already empty, ~cor-boeuf~! and I have no more money!
Isabeau, my dear, I shall not be satisfied with Jupiter until
he has changed your two white nipples into two black bottles,
where I may suck wine of Beaune day and night."
This fine pleasantry made the courtesan laugh, and Jehan
left the room.
Dom Claude had barely time to fling himself on the ground
in order that he might not be met, stared in the face and
recognized by his brother. Luckily, the street was dark, and
the scholar was tipsy. Nevertheless, he caught sight of the
archdeacon prone upon the earth in the mud.
"Oh! oh!" said he; "here's a fellow who has been leading
a jolly life, to-day."
He stirred up Dom Claude with his foot, and the latter held
"Dead drunk," resumed Jehan. "Come, he's full. A
regular leech detached from a hogshead. He's bald," he
added, bending down, "'tis an old man! ~Fortunate senex~!"
Then Dom Claude heard him retreat, saying,--
"'Tis all the same, reason is a fine thing, and my brother
the archdeacon is very happy in that he is wise and has money."
Then the archdeacon rose to his feet, and ran without halting,
towards Notre-Dame, whose enormous towers he beheld rising above
the houses through the gloom.
At the instant when he arrived, panting, on the Place du
Parvis, he shrank back and dared not raise his eyes to the
"Oh!" he said, in a low voice, "is it really true that such
a thing took place here, to-day, this very morning?"
Still, he ventured to glance at the church. The front was
sombre; the sky behind was glittering with stars. The
crescent of the moon, in her flight upward from the horizon,
had paused at the moment, on the summit of the light hand
tower, and seemed to have perched itself, like a luminous
bird, on the edge of the balustrade, cut out in black trefoils.
The cloister door was shut; but the archdeacon always
carried with him the key of the tower in which his laboratory
was situated. He made use of it to enter the church.
In the church he found the gloom and silence of a cavern.
By the deep shadows which fell in broad sheets from all
directions, he recognized the fact that the hangings for
the ceremony of the morning had not yet been removed. The
great silver cross shone from the depths of the gloom,
powdered with some sparkling points, like the milky way of
that sepulchral night. The long windows of the choir showed
the upper extremities of their arches above the black draperies,
and their painted panes, traversed by a ray of moonlight
had no longer any hues but the doubtful colors of night, a
sort of violet, white and blue, whose tint is found only on
the faces of the dead. The archdeacon, on perceiving these
wan spots all around the choir, thought he beheld the mitres
of damned bishops. He shut his eyes, and when he opened
them again, he thought they were a circle of pale visages
gazing at him.
He started to flee across the church. Then it seemed to
him that the church also was shaking, moving, becoming
endued with animation, that it was alive; that each of the
great columns was turning into an enormous paw, which was
beating the earth with its big stone spatula, and that the
gigantic cathedral was no longer anything but a sort of
prodigious elephant, which was breathing and marching with
its pillars for feet, its two towers for trunks and the
immense black cloth for its housings.
This fever or madness had reached such a degree of intensity
that the external world was no longer anything more for
the unhappy man than a sort of Apocalypse,- visible, palpable,
For one moment, he was relieved. As he plunged into the
side aisles, he perceived a reddish light behind a cluster of
pillars. He ran towards it as to a star. It was the poor lamp
which lighted the public breviary of Notre-Dame night and
day, beneath its iron grating. He flung himself eagerly upon
the holy book in the hope of finding some consolation, or some
encouragement there. The hook lay open at this passage of
Job, over which his staring eye glanced,--
"And a spirit passed before my face, and I heard a small
voice, and the hair of my flesh stood up."
On reading these gloomy words, he felt that which a blind
man feels when he feels himself pricked by the staff which he
has picked up. His knees gave way beneath him, and he sank
upon the pavement, thinking of her who had died that day.
He felt so many monstrous vapors pass and discharge themselves
in his brain, that it seemed to him that his head had
become one of the chimneys of hell.
It would appear that he remained a long time in this
attitude, no longer thinking, overwhelmed and passive beneath
the hand of the demon. At length some strength returned to
him; it occurred to him to take refuge in his tower beside
his faithful Quasimodo. He rose; and, as he was afraid, he
took the lamp from the breviary to light his way. It was
a sacrilege; but he had got beyond heeding such a trifle now.
He slowly climbed the stairs of the towers, filled with a
secret fright which must have been communicated to the rare
passers-by in the Place du Parvis by the mysterious light of
his lamp, mounting so late from loophole to loophole of the
All at once, he felt a freshness on his face, and found himself
at the door of the highest gallery. The air was cold; the
sky was filled with hurrying clouds, whose large, white
flakes drifted one upon another like the breaking up of river
ice after the winter. The crescent of the moon, stranded in
the midst of the clouds, seemed a celestial vessel caught in
the ice-cakes of the air.
He lowered his gaze, and contemplated for a moment,
through the railing of slender columns which unites the two
towers, far away, through a gauze of mists and smoke, the
silent throng of the roofs of Paris, pointed, innumerable,
crowded and small like the waves of a tranquil sea on a sum-
The moon cast a feeble ray, which imparted to earth and
heaven an ashy hue.
At that moment the clock raised its shrill, cracked voice.
Midnight rang out. The priest thought of midday; twelve
o'clock had come back again.
"Oh!" he said in a very low tone, "she must be cold now."
All at once, a gust of wind extinguished his lamp, and
almost at the same instant, he beheld a shade, a whiteness, a
form, a woman, appear from the opposite angle of the tower.
He started. Beside this woman was a little goat, which mingled
its bleat with the last bleat of the clock.
He had strength enough to look. It was she.
She was pale, she was gloomy. Her hair fell over her
shoulders as in the morning; but there was no longer a rope
on her neck, her hands were no longer bound; she was free,
she was dead.
She was dressed in white and had a white veil on her head.
She came towards him, slowly, with her gaze fixed on the
sky. The supernatural goat followed her. He felt as though
made of stone and too heavy to flee. At every step which
she took in advance, he took one backwards, and that was all.
In this way he retreated once more beneath the gloomy arch
of the stairway. He was chilled by the thought that she
might enter there also; had she done so, he would have died
She did arrive, in fact, in front of the door to the stairway,
and paused there for several minutes, stared intently into the
darkness, but without appearing to see the priest, and passed
on. She seemed taller to him than when she had been alive;
he saw the moon through her white robe; he heard her
When she had passed on, he began to descend the staircase
again, with the slowness which he had observed in the spectre,
believing himself to be a spectre too, haggard, with hair on
end, his extinguished lamp still in his hand; and as he descended
the spiral steps, he distinctly heard in his ear a voice
laughing and repeating,--
"A spirit passed before my face, and I heard a small voice,
and the hair of my flesh stood up."
HUNCHBACKED, ONE EYED, LAME.
Every city during the Middle Ages, and every city in France
down to the time of Louis XII. had its places of asylum.
These sanctuaries, in the midst of the deluge of penal and
barbarous jurisdictions which inundated the city, were a
species of islands which rose above the level of human justice.
Every criminal who landed there was safe. There were in
every suburb almost as many places of asylum as gallows.
It was the abuse of impunity by the side of the abuse of
punishment; two bad things which strove to correct each
other. The palaces of the king, the hotels of the princes, and
especially churches, possessed the right of asylum. Sometimes
a whole city which stood in need of being repeopled was
temporarily created a place of refuge. Louis XI. made
all Paris a refuge in 1467.
His foot once within the asylum, the criminal was sacred;
but he must beware of leaving it; one step outside the sanctuary,
and he fell back into the flood. The wheel, the gibbet,
the strappado, kept good guard around the place of refuge, and
lay in watch incessantly for their prey, like sharks around a
vessel. Hence, condemned men were to be seen whose hair
had grown white in a cloister, on the steps of a palace, in the
enclosure of an abbey, beneath the porch of a church; in this
manner the asylum was a prison as much as any other. It
sometimes happened that a solemn decree of parliament
violated the asylum and restored the condemned man to the
executioner; but this was of rare occurrence. Parliaments
were afraid of the bishops, and when there was friction
between these two robes, the gown had but a poor chance
against the cassock. Sometimes, however, as in the affair of
the assassins of Petit-Jean, the headsman of Paris, and in
that of Emery Rousseau, the murderer of Jean Valleret, justice
overleaped the church and passed on to the execution of
its sentences; but unless by virtue of a decree of Parliament,
woe to him who violated a place of asylum with armed force!
The reader knows the manner of death of Robert de Clermont,
Marshal of France, and of Jean de Châlons, Marshal of
Champagne; and yet the question was only of a certain Perrin
Marc, the clerk of a money-changer, a miserable assassin;
but the two marshals had broken the doors of St. Méry.
Therein lay the enormity.
Such respect was cherished for places of refuge that, according
to tradition, animals even felt it at times. Aymoire
relates that a stag, being chased by Dagobert, having taken
refuge near the tomb of Saint-Denis, the pack of hounds
stopped short and barked.
Churches generally had a small apartment prepared for the
reception of supplicants. In 1407, Nicolas Flamel caused to
be built on the vaults of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie, a
chamber which cost him four livres six sous, sixteen farthings,
At Notre-Dame it was a tiny cell situated on the roof of the
side aisle, beneath the flying buttresses, precisely at the spot
where the wife of the present janitor of the towers has made
for herself a garden, which is to the hanging gardens of Babylon
what a lettuce is to a palm-tree, what a porter's wife is
to a Semiramis.
It was here that Quasimodo had deposited la Esmeralda,
after his wild and triumphant course. As long as that course
lasted, the young girl had been unable to recover her senses,
half unconscious, half awake, no longer feeling anything,
except that she was mounting through the air, floating in it,
flying in it, that something was raising her above the earth.
From time to time she heard the loud laughter, the noisy voice
of Quasimodo in her ear; she half opened her eyes; then
below her she confusedly beheld Paris checkered with its
thousand roofs of slate and tiles, like a red and blue mosaic,
above her head the frightful and joyous face of Quasimodo.
Then her eyelids drooped again; she thought that all was
over, that they had executed her during her swoon, and that
the misshapen spirit which had presided over her destiny,
had laid hold of her and was bearing her away. She dared
not look at him, and she surrendered herself to her fate.
But when the bellringer, dishevelled and panting, had deposited
her in the cell of refuge, when she felt his huge hands
gently detaching the cord which bruised her arms, she felt
that sort of shock which awakens with a start the passengers
of a vessel which runs aground in the middle of a dark
night. Her thoughts awoke also, and returned to her one by
one. She saw that she was in Notre-Dame; she remembered
having been torn from the hands of the executioner; that
Phoebus was alive, that Phoebus loved her no longer; and
as these two ideas, one of which shed so much bitterness over
the other, presented themselves simultaneously to the poor
condemned girl; she turned to Quasimodo, who was standing
in front of her, and who terrified her; she said to him,--"Why
have you saved me?"
He gazed at her with anxiety, as though seeking to divine
what she was saying to him. She repeated her question.
Then he gave her a profoundly sorrowful glance and fled.
She was astonished.
A few moments later he returned, bearing a package which
he cast at her feet. It was clothing which some charitable
women had left on the threshold of the church for her.
Then she dropped her eyes upon herself and saw that she
was almost naked, and blushed. Life had returned.
Quasimodo appeared to experience something of this modesty.
He covered his eyes with his large hand and retired
once more, but slowly.
She made haste to dress herself. The robe was a white
one with a white veil,--the garb of a novice of the Hôtel-Dien.
She had barely finished when she beheld Quasimodo returning.
He carried a basket under one arm and a mattress under
the other. In the basket there was a bottle, bread, and some
provisions. He set the basket on the floor and said, "Eat!"
He spread the mattress on the flagging and said, "Sleep."
It was his own repast, it was his own bed, which the bellringer
had gone in search of.
The gypsy raised her eyes to thank him, but she could not
articulate a word. She dropped her head with a quiver of terror.
Then he said to her. -
"I frighten you. I am very ugly, am I not? Do not look
at me; only listen to me. During the day you will remain
here; at night you can walk all over the church. But do not
leave the church either by day or by night. You would be
lost. They would kill you, and I should die."
She was touched and raised her head to answer him. He
had disappeared. She found herself alone once more, meditating
upon the singular words of this almost monstrous being,
and struck by the sound of his voice, which was so hoarse yet
Then she examined her cell. It was a chamber about six
feet square, with a small window and a door on the slightly
sloping plane of the roof formed of flat stones. Many gutters
with the figures of animals seemed to be bending down around
her, and stretching their necks in order to stare at her through
the window. Over the edge of her roof she perceived the tops
of thousands of chimneys which caused the smoke of all the
fires in Paris to rise beneath her eyes. A sad sight for the
poor gypsy, a foundling, condemned to death, an unhappy
creature, without country, without family, without a hearthstone.
At the moment when the thought of her isolation thus appeared
to her more poignant than ever, she felt a bearded and
hairy head glide between her hands, upon her knees. She
started (everything alarmed her now) and looked. It was the
poor goat, the agile Djali, which had made its escape after
her, at the moment when Quasimodo had put to flight Charmolue's
brigade, and which had been lavishing caresses on her
feet for nearly an hour past, without being able to win a
glance. The gypsy covered him with kisses.
"Oh! Djali!" she said, "how I have forgotten thee! And
so thou still thinkest of me! Oh! thou art not an ingrate!"
At the same time, as though an invisible hand had lifted
the weight which had repressed her tears in her heart for so
long, she began to weep, and, in proportion as her tears flowed,
she felt all that was most acrid and bitter in her grief depart
Evening came, she thought the night so beautiful that she
made the circuit of the elevated gallery which surrounds the
church. It afforded her some relief, so calm did the earth
appear when viewed from that height.
On the following morning, she perceived on awaking, that
she had been asleep. This singular thing astonished her.
She had been so long unaccustomed to sleep! A joyous ray
of the rising sun entered through her window and touched
her face. At the same time with the sun, she beheld at that
window an object which frightened her, the unfortunate face
of Quasimodo. She involuntarily closed her eyes again, but
in vain; she fancied that she still saw through the rosy lids
that gnome's mask, one-eyed and gap-toothed. Then, while
she still kept her eyes closed, she heard a rough voice saying,
"Be not afraid. I am your friend. I came to watch you
sleep. It does not hurt you if I come to see you sleep, does
it? What difference does it make to you if I am here when
your eyes are closed! Now I am going. Stay, I have placed
myself behind the wall. You can open your eyes again."
There was something more plaintive than these words, and
that was the accent in which they were uttered. The gypsy,
much touched, opened her eyes. He was, in fact, no longer
at the window. She approached the opening, and beheld the
poor hunchback crouching in an angle of the wall, in a sad
and resigned attitude. She made an effort to surmount the
repugnance with which he inspired her. "Come," she said
to him gently. From the movement of the gypsy's lips,
Quasimodo thought that she was driving him away; then he
rose and retired limping, slowly, with drooping head, without
even daring to raise to the young girl his gaze full of despair.
"Do come," she cried, but he continued to retreat. Then
she darted from her cell, ran to him, and grasped his arm.
On feeling her touch him, Quasimodo trembled in every limb.
He raised his suppliant eye, and seeing that she was leading
him back to her quarters, his whole face beamed with joy and
tenderness. She tried to make him enter the cell; but he
persisted in remaining on the threshold. "No, no," said he;
"the owl enters not the nest of the lark."
Then she crouched down gracefully on her couch, with her
goat asleep at her feet. Both remained motionless for several
moments, considering in silence, she so much grace, he so
much ugliness. Every moment she discovered some fresh
deformity in Quasimodo. Her glance travelled from his
knock knees to his humped back, from his humped back to
his only eye. She could not comprehend the existence of a
being so awkwardly fashioned. Yet there was so much sadness
and so much gentleness spread over all this, that she
began to become reconciled to it.
He was the first to break the silence. "So you were telling
me to return?"
She made an affirmative sign of the head, and said, "Yes."
He understood the motion of the head. "Alas!" he said,
as though hesitating whether to finish, "I am--I am deaf."
"Poor man!" exclaimed the Bohemian, with an expression
of kindly pity.
He began to smile sadly.
"You think that that was all that I lacked, do you not?
Yes, I am deaf, that is the way I am made. 'Tis horrible, is
it not? You are so beautiful!"
There lay in the accents of the wretched man so profound a
consciousness of his misery, that she had not the strength to
say a word. Besides, he would not have heard her. He
"Never have I seen my ugliness as at the present moment.
When I compare myself to you, I feel a very great pity for
myself, poor unhappy monster that I am! Tell me, I must
look to you like a beast. You, you are a ray of sunshine, a
drop of dew, the song of a bird! I am something frightful,
neither man nor animal, I know not what, harder, more
trampled under foot, and more unshapely than a pebble
Then he began to laugh, and that laugh was the most
heartbreaking thing in the world. He continued,--
"Yes, I am deaf; but you shall talk to me by gestures, by
signs. I have a master who talks with me in that way.
And then, I shall very soon know your wish from the movement
of your lips, from your look."
"Well!" she interposed with a smile, "tell me why you
He watched her attentively while she was speaking.
"I understand," he replied. "You ask me why I saved
you. You have forgotten a wretch who tried to abduct you
one night, a wretch to whom you rendered succor on the
following day on their infamous pillory. A drop of water
and a little pity,--that is more than I can repay with my life.
You have forgotten that wretch; but he remembers it."
She listened to him with profound tenderness. A tear
swam in the eye of the bellringer, but did not fall. He
seemed to make it a sort of point of honor to retain it.
"Listen," he resumed, when he was no longer afraid that
the tear would escape; "our towers here are very high,
a man who should fall from them would be dead before
touching the pavement; when it shall please you to have
me fall, you will not have to utter even a word, a glance
Then he rose. Unhappy as was the Bohemian, this eccentric
being still aroused some compassion in her. She made
him a sign to remain.
"No, no," said he; "I must not remain too long. I am not
at my ease. It is out of pity that you do not turn away your
eyes. I shall go to some place where I can see you without
your seeing me: it will be better so."
He drew from his pocket a little metal whistle.
"Here," said he, "when you have need of me, when you
wish me to come, when you will not feel too ranch horror at
the sight of me, use this whistle. I can hear this sound."
He laid the whistle on the floor and fled.
EARTHENWARE AND CRYSTAL.
Day followed day. Calm gradually returned to the soul of
la Esmeralda. Excess of grief, like excess of joy is a violent
thing which lasts but a short time. The heart of man cannot
remain long in one extremity. The gypsy had suffered so
much, that nothing was left her but astonishment. With
security, hope had returned to her. She was outside the pale
of society, outside the pale of life, but she had a vague feeling
that it might not be impossible to return to it. She was like
a dead person, who should hold in reserve the key to her tomb.
She felt the terrible images which had so long persecuted
her, gradually departing. All the hideous phantoms, Pierrat
Torterue, Jacques Charmolue, were effaced from her mind,
all, even the priest.
And then, Phoebus was alive; she was sure of it, she had
seen him. To her the fact of Phoebus being alive was everything.
After the series of fatal shocks which had overturned
everything within her, she had found but one thing intact in
her soul, one sentiment,--her love for the captain. Love is
like a tree; it sprouts forth of itself, sends its roots out
deeply through our whole being, and often continues to flourish
greenly over a heart in ruins.
And the inexplicable point about it is that the more blind
is this passion, the more tenacious it is. It is never more
solid than when it has no reason in it.
La Esmeralda did not think of the captain without bitterness,
no doubt. No doubt it was terrible that he also should
have been deceived; that he should have believed that
impossible thing, that he could have conceived of a stab dealt
by her who would have given a thousand lives for him. But,
after all, she must not be too angry with him for it; had she
not confessed her crime? had she not yielded, weak woman
that she was, to torture? The fault was entirely hers. She
should have allowed her finger nails to be torn out rather
than such a word to be wrenched from her. In short, if she
could but see Phoebus once more, for a single minute, only
one word would be required, one look, in order to undeceive
him, to bring him back. She did not doubt it. She was
astonished also at many singular things, at the accident of
Phoebus's presence on the day of the penance, at the young
girl with whom he had been. She was his sister, no doubt.
An unreasonable explanation, but she contented herself with
it, because she needed to believe that Phoebus still loved
her, and loved her alone. Had he not sworn it to her? What
more was needed, simple and credulous as she was? And
then, in this matter, were not appearances much more against
her than against him? Accordingly, she waited. She hoped.
Let us add that the church, that vast church, which
surrounded her on every side, which guarded her, which saved
her, was itself a sovereign tranquillizer. The solemn lines
of that architecture, the religious attitude of all the
objects which surrounded the young girl, the serene and pious
thoughts which emanated, so to speak, from all the pores
of that stone, acted upon her without her being aware of it.
The edifice had also sounds fraught with such benediction and
such majesty, that they soothed this ailing soul. The monotonous
chanting of the celebrants, the responses of the people
to the priest, sometimes inarticulate, sometimes thunderous,
the harmonious trembling of the painted windows, the organ,
bursting forth like a hundred trumpets, the three belfries,
humming like hives of huge bees, that whole orchestra on
which bounded a gigantic scale, ascending, descending incessantly
from the voice of a throng to that of one bell, dulled
her memory, her imagination, her grief. The bells, in particular,
lulled her. It was something like a powerful magnetism
which those vast instruments shed over her in great waves.
Thus every sunrise found her more calm, breathing better,
less pale. In proportion as her inward wounds closed, her
grace and beauty blossomed once more on her countenance,
but more thoughtful, more reposeful. Her former character
also returned to her, somewhat even of her gayety, her pretty
pout, her love for her goat, her love for singing, her modesty.
She took care to dress herself in the morning in the corner of
her cell for fear some inhabitants of the neighboring attics
might see her through the window.
When the thought of Phoebus left her time, the gypsy sometimes
thought of Quasimodo. He was the sole bond, the sole
connection, the sole communication which remained to her
with men, with the living. Unfortunate girl! she was more
outside the world than Quasimodo. She understood not
in the least the strange friend whom chance had given her.
She often reproached herself for not feeling a gratitude which
should close her eyes, but decidedly, she could not accustom
herself to the poor bellringer. He was too ugly.
She had left the whistle which he had given her lying on
the ground. This did not prevent Quasimodo from making his
appearance from time to time during the first few days. She
did her best not to turn aside with too much repugnance when
he came to bring her her basket of provisions or her jug of
water, but he always perceived the slightest movement of
this sort, and then he withdrew sadly.
Once he came at the moment when she was caressing
Djali. He stood pensively for several minutes before this
graceful group of the goat and the gypsy; at last he said,
shaking his heavy and ill-formed head,--
"My misfortune is that I still resemble a man too much. I
should like to be wholly a beast like that goat."
She gazed at him in amazement.
He replied to the glance,--
"Oh! I well know why," and he went away.
On another occasion he presented himself at the door of the
cell (which he never entered) at the moment when la Esmeralda
was singing an old Spanish ballad, the words of which
she did not understand, but which had lingered in her ear
because the gypsy women had lulled her to sleep with it
when she was a little child. At the sight of that villanous
form which made its appearance so abruptly in the middle of
her song, the young girl paused with an involuntary gesture
of alarm. The unhappy bellringer fell upon his knees on the
threshold, and clasped his large, misshapen hands with a
suppliant air. "Oh!" he said, sorrowfully, "continue, I
implore you, and do not drive me away." She did not wish to
pain him, and resumed her lay, trembling all over. By degrees,
however, her terror disappeared, and she yielded herself
wholly to the slow and melancholy air which she was singing.
He remained on his knees with hands clasped, as in prayer,
attentive, hardly breathing, his gaze riveted upon the gypsy's
On another occasion, he came to her with an awkward and
timid air. "Listen," he said, with an effort; "I have
something to say to you." She made him a sign that she was
listening. Then he began to sigh, half opened his lips,
appeared for a moment to be on the point of speaking, then
he looked at her again, shook his head, and withdrew slowly,
with his brow in his hand, leaving the gypsy stupefied.
Among the grotesque personages sculptured on the wall,
there was one to whom he was particularly attached, and
with which he often seemed to exchange fraternal glances.
Once the gypsy heard him saying to it,--
"Oh! why am not I of stone, like you!"
At last, one morning, la Esmeralda had advanced to the
edge of the roof, and was looking into the Place over the
pointed roof of Saint-Jean le Rond. Quasimodo was standing
behind her. He had placed himself in that position in
order to spare the young girl, as far as possible, the
displeasure of seeing him. All at once the gypsy started,
a tear and a flash of joy gleamed simultaneously in her eyes,
she knelt on the brink of the roof and extended her arms towards
the Place with anguish, exclaiming: "Phoebus! come! come!
a word, a single word in the name of heaven! Phoebus!
Phoebus!" Her voice, her face, her gesture, her whole person
bore the heartrending expression of a shipwrecked man who
is making a signal of distress to the joyous vessel which is
passing afar off in a ray of sunlight on the horizon.
Quasimodo leaned over the Place, and saw that the object
of this tender and agonizing prayer was a young man, a captain,
a handsome cavalier all glittering with arms and decorations,
prancing across the end of the Place, and saluting with
his plume a beautiful lady who was smiling at him from her
balcony. However, the officer did not hear the unhappy girl
calling him; he was too far away.
But the poor deaf man heard. A profound sigh heaved his
breast; he turned round; his heart was swollen with all the
tears which he was swallowing; his convulsively-clenched fists
struck against his head, and when he withdrew them there
was a bunch of red hair in each hand.
The gypsy paid no heed to him. He said in a low voice as
he gnashed his teeth,--
"Damnation! That is what one should be like! 'Tis only
necessary to be handsome on the outside!"
Meanwhile, she remained kneeling, and cried with extraor-
"Oh! there he is alighting from his horse! He is about to
enter that house!--Phoebus!--He does not hear me! Phoebus!--How
wicked that woman is to speak to him at the same time with
me! Phoebus! Phoebus!"
The deaf man gazed at her. He understood this pantomime.
The poor bellringer's eye filled with tears, but he let none
fall. All at once he pulled her gently by the border of her
sleeve. She turned round. He had assumed a tranquil air;
he said to her,--
"Would you like to have me bring him to you?"
She uttered a cry of joy.
"Oh! go! hasten! run! quick! that captain! that captain!
bring him to me! I will love you for it!"
She clasped his knees. He could not refrain from shaking
his head sadly.
"I will bring him to you," he said, in a weak voice. Then
he turned his head and plunged down the staircase with great
strides, stifling with sobs.
When he reached the Place, he no longer saw anything except
the handsome horse hitched at the door of the Gondelaurier
house; the captain had just entered there.
He raised his eyes to the roof of the church. La Esmeralda
was there in the same spot, in the same attitude. He made
her a sad sign with his head; then he planted his back against
one of the stone posts of the Gondelaurier porch, determined
to wait until the captain should come forth.
In the Gondelaurier house it was one of those gala days
which precede a wedding. Quasimodo beheld many people
enter, but no one come out. He cast a glance towards the
roof from time to time; the gypsy did not stir any more than
himself. A groom came and unhitched the horse and led it to
the stable of the house.
The entire day passed thus, Quasimodo at his post, la
Esmeralda on the roof, Phoebus, no doubt, at the feet of
At length night came, a moonless night, a dark night.
Quasimodo fixed his gaze in vain upon la Esmeralda; soon
she was no more than a whiteness amid the twilight; then
nothing. All was effaced, all was black.
Quasimodo beheld the front windows from top to bottom of
the Gondelaurier mansion illuminated; he saw the other
casements in the Place lighted one by one, he also saw them
extinguished to the very last, for he remained the whole
evening at his post. The officer did not come forth. When
the last passers-by had returned home, when the windows of all
the other houses were extinguished, Quasimodo was left
entirely alone, entirely in the dark. There were at that
time no lamps in the square before Notre-Dame.
Meanwhile, the windows of the Gondelaurier mansion remained
lighted, even after midnight. Quasimodo, motionless
and attentive, beheld a throng of lively, dancing shadows
pass athwart the many-colored painted panes. Had he not
been deaf, he would have heard more and more distinctly,
in proportion as the noise of sleeping Paris died away, a
sound of feasting, laughter, and music in the Gondelaurier
Towards one o'clock in the morning, the guests began to
take their leave. Quasimodo, shrouded in darkness watched
them all pass out through the porch illuminated with torches.
None of them was the captain.
He was filled with sad thoughts; at times he looked upwards
into the air, like a person who is weary of waiting. Great
black clouds, heavy, torn, split, hung like crape hammocks
beneath the starry dome of night. One would have pronounced
them spiders' webs of the vault of heaven.
In one of these moments he suddenly beheld the long window
on the balcony, whose stone balustrade projected above
his head, open mysteriously. The frail glass door gave
passage to two persons, and closed noiselessly behind them;
it was a man and a woman.
It was not without difficulty that Quasimodo succeeded in
recognizing in the man the handsome captain, in the woman
the young lady whom he had seen welcome the officer in the
morning from that very balcony. The place was perfectly
dark, and a double crimson curtain which had fallen across
the door the very moment it closed again, allowed no light to
reach the balcony from the apartment.
The young man and the young girl, so far as our deaf man
could judge, without hearing a single one of their words,
appeared to abandon themselves to a very tender tête-a-tête.
The young girl seemed to have allowed the officer to make a
girdle for her of his arm, and gently repulsed a kiss.
Quasimodo looked on from below at this scene which was
all the more pleasing to witness because it was not meant to be
seen. He contemplated with bitterness that beauty, that
happiness. After all, nature was not dumb in the poor fellow,
and his human sensibility, all maliciously contorted as it
was, quivered no less than any other. He thought of the
miserable portion which Providence had allotted to him; that
woman and the pleasure of love, would pass forever before his
eyes, and that he should never do anything but behold the
felicity of others. But that which rent his heart most in this
sight, that which mingled indignation with his anger, was the
thought of what the gypsy would suffer could she behold it.
It is true that the night was very dark, that la Esmeralda, if
she had remained at her post (and he had no doubt of this),
was very far away, and that it was all that he himself could
do to distinguish the lovers on the balcony. This consoled him.
Meanwhile, their conversation grew more and more animated.
The young lady appeared to be entreating the officer
to ask nothing more of her. Of all this Quasimodo could
distinguish only the beautiful clasped hands, the smiles
mingled with tears, the young girl's glances directed to
the stars, the eyes of the captain lowered ardently upon her.
Fortunately, for the young girl was beginning to resist but
feebly, the door of the balcony suddenly opened once more
and an old dame appeared; the beauty seemed confused, the
officer assumed an air of displeasure, and all three withdrew.
A moment later, a horse was champing his bit under the
porch, and the brilliant officer, enveloped in his night cloak,
passed rapidly before Quasimodo.
The bellringer allowed him to turn the corner of the street,
then he ran after him with his ape-like agility, shouting:
"Hey there! captain!"
The captain halted.
"What wants this knave with me?" he said, catching sight
through the gloom of that hipshot form which ran limping
Meanwhile, Quasimodo had caught up with him, and had
boldly grasped his horse's bridle: "Follow me, captain; there
is one here who desires to speak with you!
"~Cornemahom~!" grumbled Phoebus, "here's a villanous;
ruffled bird which I fancy I have seen somewhere. Holà
master, will you let my horse's bridle alone?"
"Captain," replied the deaf man, "do you not ask me who it is?"
"I tell you to release my horse," retorted Phoebus, impatiently.
"What means the knave by clinging to the bridle of my steed?
Do you take my horse for a gallows?"
Quasimodo, far from releasing the bridle, prepared to force
him to retrace his steps. Unable to comprehend the captain's
resistance, he hastened to say to him,--
"Come, captain, 'tis a woman who is waiting for you." He
added with an effort: "A woman who loves you."
"A rare rascal!" said the captain, "who thinks me obliged
to go to all the women who love me! or who say they do.
And what if, by chance, she should resemble you, you face of
a screech-owl? Tell the woman who has sent you that I am
about to marry, and that she may go to the devil!"
"Listen," exclaimed Quasimodo, thinking to overcome his
hesitation with a word, "come, monseigneur! 'tis the gypsy
whom you know!"
This word did, indeed, produce a great effect on Phoebus,
but not of the kind which the deaf man expected. It will be
remembered that our gallant officer had retired with Fleur-
de-Lys several moments before Quasimodo had rescued the
condemned girl from the hands of Charmolue. Afterwards, in
all his visits to the Gondelaurier mansion he had taken care
not to mention that woman, the memory of whom was, after
all, painful to him; and on her side, Fleur-de-Lys had not
deemed it politic to tell him that the gypsy was alive.
Hence Phoebus believed poor "Similar" to be dead, and that
a month or two had elapsed since her death. Let us add that
for the last few moments the captain had been reflecting on
the profound darkness of the night, the supernatural ugliness,
the sepulchral voice of the strange messenger; that it was past
midnight; that the street was deserted, as on the evening when
the surly monk had accosted him; and that his horse snorted
as it looked at Quasimodo.
"The gypsy!" he exclaimed, almost frightened. "Look here, do you
come from the other world?"
And he laid his hand on the hilt of his dagger.
"Quick, quick," said the deaf man, endeavoring to drag the
horse along; "this way!"
Phoebus dealt him a vigorous kick in the breast.
Quasimodo's eye flashed. He made a motion to fling himself
on the captain. Then he drew himself up stiffly and said,--
"Oh! how happy you are to have some one who loves you!"
He emphasized the words "some one," and loosing the
Phoebus spurred on in all haste, swearing. Quasimodo watched
him disappear in the shades of the street.
"Oh!" said the poor deaf man, in a very low voice; "to
He re-entered Notre-Dame, lighted his lamp and climbed to
the tower again. The gypsy was still in the same place, as
he had supposed.
She flew to meet him as far off as she could see him.
"Alone!" she cried, clasping her beautiful hands sorrowfully.
"I could not find him," said Quasimodo coldly.
"You should have waited all night," she said angrily.
He saw her gesture of wrath, and understood the reproach.
"I will lie in wait for him better another time," he said,
dropping his head.
"Begone!" she said to him.
He left her. She was displeased with him. He preferred
to have her abuse him rather than to have afflicted her. He
had kept all the pain to himself.
From that day forth, the gypsy no longer saw him. He
ceased to come to her cell. At the most she occasionally
caught a glimpse at the summit of the towers, of the
bellringer's face turned sadly to her. But as soon as she
perceived him, he disappeared.
We must admit that she was not much grieved by this
voluntary absence on the part of the poor hunchback. At
the bottom of her heart she was grateful to him for it.
Moreover, Quasimodo did not deceive himself on this point.
She no longer saw him, but she felt the presence of a good
genius about her. Her provisions were replenished by an
invisible hand during her slumbers. One morning she found
a cage of birds on her window. There was a piece of
sculpture above her window which frightened her. She had
shown this more than once in Quasimodo's presence. One
morning, for all these things happened at night, she no longer
saw it, it had been broken. The person who had climbed up
to that carving must have risked his life.
Sometimes, in the evening, she heard a voice, concealed
beneath the wind screen of the bell tower, singing a sad,
strange song, as though to lull her to sleep. The lines were
unrhymed, such as a deaf person can make.
~Ne regarde pas la figure,
Jeune fille, regarde le coeur.
Le coeur d'un beau jeune homme est souvent difforme.
Il y a des coeurs ou l'amour ne se conserve pas~.
~Jeune fille, le sapin n'est pas beau,
N'est pas beau comme le peuplier,
Mais il garde son feuillage l'hiver~.
~Hélas! a quoi bon dire cela?
Ce qui n'est pas beau a tort d'être;
La beauté n'aime que la beauté,
Avril tourne le dos a Janvier~.
~La beauté est parfaite,
La beauté peut tout,
La beauté est la seule chose qui n'existe pàs a demi~.