Notre-Dame de Paris
Also known as:
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo
A few years ago, while visiting or, rather, rummaging about
Notre-Dame, the author of this book found, in an obscure
nook of one of the towers, the following word, engraved by
hand upon the wall:--
These Greek capitals, black with age, and quite deeply
graven in the stone, with I know not what signs peculiar
to Gothic caligraphy imprinted upon their forms and upon
their attitudes, as though with the purpose of revealing that
it had been a hand of the Middle Ages which had inscribed
them there, and especially the fatal and melancholy meaning
contained in them, struck the author deeply.
He questioned himself; he sought to divine who could have
been that soul in torment which had not been willing to quit
this world without leaving this stigma of crime or unhappiness
upon the brow of the ancient church.
Afterwards, the wall was whitewashed or scraped down, I
know not which, and the inscription disappeared. For it is
thus that people have been in the habit of proceeding with
the marvellous churches of the Middle Ages for the last two
hundred years. Mutilations come to them from every quarter,
from within as well as from without. The priest whitewashes
them, the archdeacon scrapes them down; then the
populace arrives and demolishes them.
Thus, with the exception of the fragile memory which the
author of this book here consecrates to it, there remains
to-day nothing whatever of the mysterious word engraved
within the gloomy tower of Notre-Dame,--nothing of the
destiny which it so sadly summed up. The man who wrote
that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the
generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn,
has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church
will, perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the
It is upon this word that this book is founded.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. The Grand Hall
II. Pierre Gringoire
III. Monsieur the Cardinal
IV. Master Jacques Coppenole
I. From Charybdis to Scylla
II. The Place de Grève
III. Kisses for Blows
IV. The Inconveniences of Following a Pretty Woman through
the Streets in the Evening
V. Result of the Dangers
VI. The Broken Jug
VII. A Bridal Night
II. A Bird's-eye View of Paris
I. Good Souls
II. Claude Frollo
III. Immanis Pecoris Custos, Immanior Ipse
IV. The Dog and his Master
V. More about Claude Frollo
I. Abbas Beati Martini
II. This will Kill That
I. An Impartial Glance at the Ancient Magistracy
II. The Rat-hole
III. History of a Leavened Cake of Maize
IV. A Tear for a Drop of Water
V. End of the Story of the Cake
THE GRAND HALL.
Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen
days ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all
the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and
the town ringing a full peal.
The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of which
history has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable
in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois
of Paris in a ferment from early morning. It was neither an
assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led
along in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of
Laas, nor an entry of "our much dread lord, monsieur the
king," nor even a pretty hanging of male and female thieves
by the courts of Paris. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent
in the fifteenth century, of some plumed and bedizened embassy.
It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of
that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with
concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite
of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance
of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleasing the
king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien
towards this whole rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and
to regale them at his Hôtel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty
morality, allegorical satire, and farce," while a driving rain
drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.
What put the "whole population of Paris in commotion," as
Jehan de Troyes expresses it, on the sixth of January, was
the double solemnity, united from time immemorial, of the
Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.
On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place de
Grève, a maypole at the Chapelle de Braque, and a mystery at
the Palais de Justice. It had been cried, to the sound of the
trumpet, the preceding evening at all the cross roads, by the
provost's men, clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats of
violet camelot, with large white crosses upon their breasts.
So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed
their houses and shops, thronged from every direction, at
early morn, towards some one of the three spots designated.
Each had made his choice; one, the bonfire; another, the
maypole; another, the mystery play. It must be stated, in
honor of the good sense of the loungers of Paris, that the
greater part of this crowd directed their steps towards the
bonfire, which was quite in season, or towards the mystery
play, which was to be presented in the grand hall of the
Palais de Justice (the courts of law), which was well roofed
and walled; and that the curious left the poor, scantily flowered
maypole to shiver all alone beneath the sky of January,
in the cemetery of the Chapel of Braque.
The populace thronged the avenues of the law courts in
particular, because they knew that the Flemish ambassadors,
who had arrived two days previously, intended to be present
at the representation of the mystery, and at the election of
the Pope of the Fools, which was also to take place in the
It was no easy matter on that day, to force one's way into
that grand hall, although it was then reputed to be the largest
covered enclosure in the world (it is true that Sauval had not
yet measured the grand hall of the Château of Montargis).
The palace place, encumbered with people, offered to the
curious gazers at the windows the aspect of a sea; into which
five or six streets, like so many mouths of rivers, discharged
every moment fresh floods of heads. The waves of this
crowd, augmented incessantly, dashed against the angles of
the houses which projected here and there, like so many
promontories, into the irregular basin of the place. In the
centre of the lofty Gothic* façade of the palace, the grand
staircase, incessantly ascended and descended by a double
current, which, after parting on the intermediate landing-place,
flowed in broad waves along its lateral slopes,--the grand
staircase, I say, trickled incessantly into the place, like a
cascade into a lake. The cries, the laughter, the trampling
of those thousands of feet, produced a great noise and a great
clamor. From time to time, this noise and clamor redoubled;
the current which drove the crowd towards the grand staircase
flowed backwards, became troubled, formed whirlpools.
This was produced by the buffet of an archer, or the horse of
one of the provost's sergeants, which kicked to restore order;
an admirable tradition which the provostship has bequeathed
to the constablery, the constablery to the ~maréchaussée~, the
~maréchaussée~ to our ~gendarmeri~ of Paris.
* The word Gothic, in the sense in which it is generally employed,
is wholly unsuitable, but wholly consecrated. Hence we accept it
and we adopt it, like all the rest of the world, to characterize
the architecture of the second half of the Middle Ages, where the
ogive is the principle which succeeds the architecture of the first
period, of which the semi-circle is the father.
Thousands of good, calm, bourgeois faces thronged the windows,
the doors, the dormer windows, the roofs, gazing at the
palace, gazing at the populace, and asking nothing more; for
many Parisians content themselves with the spectacle of the
spectators, and a wall behind which something is going on
becomes at once, for us, a very curious thing indeed.
If it could be granted to us, the men of 1830, to mingle in
thought with those Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to
enter with them, jostled, elbowed, pulled about, into that
immense hall of the palace, which was so cramped on that
sixth of January, 1482, the spectacle would not be devoid of
either interest or charm, and we should have about us only
things that were so old that they would seem new.
With the reader's consent, we will endeavor to retrace in
thought, the impression which he would have experienced in
company with us on crossing the threshold of that grand hall,
in the midst of that tumultuous crowd in surcoats, short,
sleeveless jackets, and doublets.
And, first of all, there is a buzzing in the ears, a dazzlement
in the eyes. Above our heads is a double ogive vault, panelled
with wood carving, painted azure, and sown with golden
fleurs-de-lis; beneath our feet a pavement of black and white
marble, alternating. A few paces distant, an enormous pillar,
then another, then another; seven pillars in all, down the
length of the hall, sustaining the spring of the arches of the
double vault, in the centre of its width. Around four of
the pillars, stalls of merchants, all sparkling with glass and
tinsel; around the last three, benches of oak, worn and polished
by the trunk hose of the litigants, and the robes of the
attorneys. Around the hall, along the lofty wall, between the
doors, between the windows, between the pillars, the interminable
row of all the kings of France, from Pharamond down:
the lazy kings, with pendent arms and downcast eyes; the
valiant and combative kings, with heads and arms raised
boldly heavenward. Then in the long, pointed windows,
glass of a thousand hues; at the wide entrances to the hall,
rich doors, finely sculptured; and all, the vaults, pillars,
walls, jambs, panelling, doors, statues, covered from top to
bottom with a splendid blue and gold illumination, which, a
trifle tarnished at the epoch when we behold it, had almost
entirely disappeared beneath dust and spiders in the year of
grace, 1549, when du Breul still admired it from tradition.
Let the reader picture to himself now, this immense, oblong
hall, illuminated by the pallid light of a January day, invaded
by a motley and noisy throng which drifts along the walls,
and eddies round the seven pillars, and he will have a confused
idea of the whole effect of the picture, whose curious
details we shall make an effort to indicate with more precision.
It is certain, that if Ravaillac had not assassinated Henri
IV., there would have been no documents in the trial of
Ravaillac deposited in the clerk's office of the Palais de Justice,
no accomplices interested in causing the said documents
to disappear; hence, no incendiaries obliged, for lack of better
means, to burn the clerk's office in order to burn the documents,
and to burn the Palais de Justice in order to burn the
clerk's office; consequently, in short, no conflagration in 1618.
The old Palais would be standing still, with its ancient grand
hall; I should be able to say to the reader, "Go and look at
it," and we should thus both escape the necessity,--I of
making, and he of reading, a description of it, such as it is.
Which demonstrates a new truth: that great events have
It is true that it may be quite possible, in the first place,
that Ravaillac had no accomplices; and in the second, that if
he had any, they were in no way connected with the fire of
1618. Two other very plausible explanations exist: First,
the great flaming star, a foot broad, and a cubit high, which
fell from heaven, as every one knows, upon the law courts,
after midnight on the seventh of March; second, Théophile's
"Sure, 'twas but a sorry game
When at Paris, Dame Justice,
Through having eaten too much spice,
Set the palace all aflame."
Whatever may be thought of this triple explanation, political,
physical, and poetical, of the burning of the law courts in
1618, the unfortunate fact of the fire is certain. Very little
to-day remains, thanks to this catastrophe,--thanks, above
all, to the successive restorations which have completed what
it spared,--very little remains of that first dwelling of the
kings of France,--of that elder palace of the Louvre, already
so old in the time of Philip the Handsome, that they sought
there for the traces of the magnificent buildings erected by
King Robert and described by Helgaldus. Nearly everything
has disappeared. What has become of the chamber of the
chancellery, where Saint Louis consummated his marriage?
the garden where he administered justice, "clad in a coat of
camelot, a surcoat of linsey-woolsey, without sleeves, and a
sur-mantle of black sandal, as he lay upon the carpet with
Joinville?" Where is the chamber of the Emperor Sigismond?
and that of Charles IV.? that of Jean the Landless?
Where is the staircase, from which Charles VI. promulgated
his edict of pardon? the slab where Marcel cut the throats of
Robert de Clermont and the Marshal of Champagne, in the
presence of the dauphin? the wicket where the bulls of
Pope Benedict were torn, and whence those who had brought
them departed decked out, in derision, in copes and mitres,
and making an apology through all Paris? and the grand
hall, with its gilding, its azure, its statues, its pointed arches,
its pillars, its immense vault, all fretted with carvings? and
the gilded chamber? and the stone lion, which stood at the
door, with lowered head and tail between his legs, like the
lions on the throne of Solomon, in the humiliated attitude
which befits force in the presence of justice? and the beautiful
doors? and the stained glass? and the chased ironwork,
which drove Biscornette to despair? and the delicate woodwork
of Hancy? What has time, what have men done with
these marvels? What have they given us in return for all
this Gallic history, for all this Gothic art? The heavy flattened
arches of M. de Brosse, that awkward architect of the
Saint-Gervais portal. So much for art; and, as for history,
we have the gossiping reminiscences of the great pillar, still
ringing with the tattle of the Patru.
It is not much. Let us return to the veritable grand hall
of the veritable old palace. The two extremities of this
gigantic parallelogram were occupied, the one by the famous
marble table, so long, so broad, and so thick that, as the
ancient land rolls--in a style that would have given Gargantua
an appetite--say, "such a slice of marble as was never
beheld in the world"; the other by the chapel where Louis XI.
had himself sculptured on his knees before the Virgin, and
whither he caused to be brought, without heeding the two
gaps thus made in the row of royal statues, the statues of
Charlemagne and of Saint Louis, two saints whom he supposed
to be great in favor in heaven, as kings of France.
This chapel, quite new, having been built only six years, was
entirely in that charming taste of delicate architecture, of
marvellous sculpture, of fine and deep chasing, which marks
with us the end of the Gothic era, and which is perpetuated
to about the middle of the sixteenth century in the fairylike
fancies of the Renaissance. The little open-work rose window,
pierced above the portal, was, in particular, a masterpiece
of lightness and grace; one would have pronounced it a
star of lace.
In the middle of the hall, opposite the great door, a platform
of gold brocade, placed against the wall, a special
entrance to which had been effected through a window in
the corridor of the gold chamber, had been erected for the
Flemish emissaries and the other great personages invited to
the presentation of the mystery play.
It was upon the marble table that the mystery was to be
enacted, as usual. It had been arranged for the purpose,
early in the morning; its rich slabs of marble, all scratched
by the heels of law clerks, supported a cage of carpenter's
work of considerable height, the upper surface of which,
within view of the whole hall, was to serve as the theatre,
and whose interior, masked by tapestries, was to take the
place of dressing-rooms for the personages of the piece. A
ladder, naively placed on the outside, was to serve as means
of communication between the dressing-room and the stage,
and lend its rude rungs to entrances as well as to exits.
There was no personage, however unexpected, no sudden
change, no theatrical effect, which was not obliged to mount
that ladder. Innocent and venerable infancy of art and
Four of the bailiff of the palace's sergeants, perfunctory
guardians of all the pleasures of the people, on days of festival
as well as on days of execution, stood at the four corners
of the marble table.
The piece was only to begin with the twelfth stroke of the
great palace clock sounding midday. It was very late, no
doubt, for a theatrical representation, but they had been
obliged to fix the hour to suit the convenience of the ambassadors.
Now, this whole multitude had been waiting since morning.
A goodly number of curious, good people had been shivering
since daybreak before the grand staircase of the palace;
some even affirmed that they had passed the night across
the threshold of the great door, in order to make sure that
they should be the first to pass in. The crowd grew more
dense every moment, and, like water, which rises above its
normal level, began to mount along the walls, to swell around
the pillars, to spread out on the entablatures, on the cornices,
on the window-sills, on all the salient points of the architecture,
on all the reliefs of the sculpture. Hence, discomfort,
impatience, weariness, the liberty of a day of cynicism and
folly, the quarrels which break forth for all sorts of causes--a
pointed elbow, an iron-shod shoe, the fatigue of long waiting--had
already, long before the hour appointed for the
arrival of the ambassadors, imparted a harsh and bitter
accent to the clamor of these people who were shut in, fitted
into each other, pressed, trampled upon, stifled. Nothing
was to be heard but imprecations on the Flemish, the provost
of the merchants, the Cardinal de Bourbon, the bailiff of the
courts, Madame Marguerite of Austria, the sergeants with
their rods, the cold, the heat, the bad weather, the Bishop
of Paris, the Pope of the Fools, the pillars, the statues, that
closed door, that open window; all to the vast amusement of
a band of scholars and lackeys scattered through the mass,
who mingled with all this discontent their teasing remarks,
and their malicious suggestions, and pricked the general bad
temper with a pin, so to speak.
Among the rest there was a group of those merry imps, who,
after smashing the glass in a window, had seated themselves
hardily on the entablature, and from that point despatched
their gaze and their railleries both within and without,
upon the throng in the hall, and the throng upon the Place.
It was easy to see, from their parodied gestures, their
ringing laughter, the bantering appeals which they exchanged
with their comrades, from one end of the hall to the other,
that these young clerks did not share the weariness and
fatigue of the rest of the spectators, and that they understood
very well the art of extracting, for their own private diversion
from that which they had under their eyes, a spectacle
which made them await the other with patience.
"Upon my soul, so it's you, 'Joannes Frollo de Molendino!'"
cried one of them, to a sort of little, light-haired
imp, with a well-favored and malign countenance, clinging to
the acanthus leaves of a capital; "you are well named John
of the Mill, for your two arms and your two legs have the air
of four wings fluttering on the breeze. How long have you
"By the mercy of the devil," retorted Joannes Frollo,
"these four hours and more; and I hope that they will be
reckoned to my credit in purgatory. I heard the eight singers
of the King of Sicily intone the first verse of seven o'clock
mass in the Sainte-Chapelle."
"Fine singers!" replied the other, "with voices even more
pointed than their caps! Before founding a mass for Monsieur
Saint John, the king should have inquired whether
Monsieur Saint John likes Latin droned out in a Provençal
"He did it for the sake of employing those accursed singers
of the King of Sicily!" cried an old woman sharply from
among the crowd beneath the window. "I just put it to
you! A thousand ~livres parisi~ for a mass! and out of the tax
on sea fish in the markets of Paris, to boot!"
"Peace, old crone," said a tall, grave person, stopping up
his nose on the side towards the fishwife; "a mass had to be
founded. Would you wish the king to fall ill again?"
"Bravely spoken, Sire Gilles Lecornu, master furrier of
king's robes!" cried the little student, clinging to the
A shout of laughter from all the students greeted the
unlucky name of the poor furrier of the king's robes.
"Lecornu! Gilles Lecornu!" said some.
"~Cornutus et hirsutus~, horned and hairy," another went on.
"He! of course," continued the small imp on the capital,
"What are they laughing at? An honorable man is Gilles
Lecornu, brother of Master Jehan Lecornu, provost of the
king's house, son of Master Mahiet Lecornu, first porter of
the Bois de Vincennes,--all bourgeois of Paris, all married,
from father to son."
The gayety redoubled. The big furrier, without uttering a
word in reply, tried to escape all the eyes riveted upon him
from all sides; but he perspired and panted in vain; like a
wedge entering the wood, his efforts served only to bury still
more deeply in the shoulders of his neighbors, his large,
apoplectic face, purple with spite and rage.
At length one of these, as fat, short, and venerable as
himself, came to his rescue.
"Abomination! scholars addressing a bourgeois in that
fashion in my day would have been flogged with a fagot,
which would have afterwards been used to burn them."
The whole band burst into laughter.
"Holà hé! who is scolding so? Who is that screech owl of
"Hold, I know him" said one of them; "'tis Master
"Because he is one of the four sworn booksellers of the
university!" said the other.
"Everything goes by fours in that shop," cried a third;
"the four nations, the four faculties, the four feasts, the four
procurators, the four electors, the four booksellers."
"Well," began Jean Frollo once more," we must play the
devil with them."*
* ~Faire le diable a quatre~.
"Musnier, we'll burn your books."
"Musnier, we'll beat your lackeys."
"Musnier, we'll kiss your wife."
"That fine, big Mademoiselle Oudarde."
"Who is as fresh and as gay as though she were a widow."
"Devil take you!" growled Master Andry Musnier.
"Master Andry," pursued Jean Jehan, still clinging to his
capital, "hold your tongue, or I'll drop on your head!"
Master Andry raised his eyes, seemed to measure in an
instant the height of the pillar, the weight of the scamp,
mentally multiplied that weight by the square of the velocity
and remained silent.
Jehan, master of the field of battle, pursued triumphantly:
"That's what I'll do, even if I am the brother of an archdeacon!"
"Fine gentry are our people of the university, not to have
caused our privileges to be respected on such a day as this!
However, there is a maypole and a bonfire in the town; a
mystery, Pope of the Fools, and Flemish ambassadors in the
city; and, at the university, nothing!"
"Nevertheless, the Place Maubert is sufficiently large!"
interposed one of the clerks established on the window-sill.
"Down with the rector, the electors, and the procurators!"
"We must have a bonfire this evening in the Champ-Gaillard,"
went on the other, "made of Master Andry's books."
"And the desks of the scribes!" added his neighbor.
"And the beadles' wands!"
"And the spittoons of the deans!"
"And the cupboards of the procurators!"
"And the hutches of the electors!"
"And the stools of the rector!"
"Down with them!" put in little Jehan, as counterpoint;
"down with Master Andry, the beadles and the scribes; the
theologians, the doctors and the decretists; the procurators,
the electors and the rector!"
"The end of the world has come!,' muttered Master Andry,
stopping up his ears.
"By the way, there's the rector! see, he is passing through
the Place," cried one of those in the window.
Each rivalled his neighbor in his haste to turn towards the
"Is it really our venerable rector, Master Thibaut?" demanded
Jehan Frollo du Moulin, who, as he was clinging to
one of the inner pillars, could not see what was going on outside.
"Yes, yes," replied all the others, "it is really he, Master
Thibaut, the rector."
It was, in fact, the rector and all the dignitaries of the
university, who were marching in procession in front of the
embassy, and at that moment traversing the Place. The students
crowded into the window, saluted them as they passed
with sarcasms and ironical applause. The rector, who was
walking at the head of his company, had to support the first
broadside; it was severe.
"Good day, monsieur le recteur! Holà hé! good day there!"
"How does he manage to be here, the old gambler? Has
he abandoned his dice?"
"How he trots along on his mule! her ears are not so long
"Holà hé! good day, monsieur le recteur Thibaut! ~Tybalde
aleator~! Old fool! old gambler!"
"God preserve you! Did you throw double six often last
"Oh! what a decrepit face, livid and haggard and drawn
with the love of gambling and of dice!"
"Where are you bound for in that fashion, Thibaut, ~Tybalde
ad dados~, with your back turned to the university, and trotting
towards the town?"
"He is on his way, no doubt, to seek a lodging in the Rue
Thibautodé?"* cried Jehan du M. Moulin.
* ~Thibaut au des~,--Thibaut of the dice.
The entire band repeated this quip in a voice of thunder,
clapping their hands furiously.
"You are going to seek a lodging in the Rue Thibautodé,
are you not, monsieur le recteur, gamester on the side of the
Then came the turns of the other dignitaries.
"Down with the beadles! down with the mace-bearers!"
"Tell me, Robin Pouissepain, who is that yonder?"
"He is Gilbert de Suilly, ~Gilbertus de Soliaco~, the chancellor
of the College of Autun."
"Hold on, here's my shoe; you are better placed than I,
fling it in his face."
"~Saturnalitias mittimus ecce nuces~."
"Down with the six theologians, with their white surplices!"
"Are those the theologians? I thought they were the
white geese given by Sainte-Geneviève to the city, for the
fief of Roogny."
"Down with the doctors!"
"Down with the cardinal disputations, and quibblers!"
"My cap to you, Chancellor of Sainte-Geneviève! You
have done me a wrong. 'Tis true; he gave my place in the
nation of Normandy to little Ascanio Falzapada, who comes
from the province of Bourges, since he is an Italian."
"That is an injustice," said all the scholars. "Down with
the Chancellor of Sainte-Geneviève!"
"Ho hé! Master Joachim de Ladehors! Ho hé! Louis
Dahuille! Ho he Lambert Hoctement!"
"May the devil stifle the procurator of the German nation!"
"And the chaplains of the Sainte-Chapelle, with their gray
~amices; cum tunices grisis~!"
"~Seu de pellibus grisis fourratis~!"
"Holà hé! Masters of Arts! All the beautiful black copes!
all the fine red copes!"
"They make a fine tail for the rector."
"One would say that he was a Doge of Venice on his way
to his bridal with the sea."
"Say, Jehan! here are the canons of Sainte-Geneviève!"
"To the deuce with the whole set of canons!"
"Abbé Claude Choart! Doctor Claude Choart! Are you in
search of Marie la Giffarde?"
"She is in the Rue de Glatigny."
"She is making the bed of the king of the debauchees."
She is paying her four deniers* ~quatuor denarios~."
* An old French coin, equal to the two hundred and
fortieth part of a pound.
"~Aut unum bombum~."
"Would you like to have her pay you in the face?"
"Comrades! Master Simon Sanguin, the Elector of Picardy,
with his wife on the crupper!"
"~Post equitem seclet atra eura~--behind the horseman sits
"Courage, Master Simon!"
"Good day, Mister Elector!"
"Good night, Madame Electress!"
"How happy they are to see all that!" sighed Joannes de
Molendino, still perched in the foliage of his capital.
Meanwhile, the sworn bookseller of the university, Master
Andry Musnier, was inclining his ear to the furrier of the
king's robes, Master Gilles Lecornu.
"I tell you, sir, that the end of the world has come. No
one has ever beheld such outbreaks among the students! It is
the accursed inventions of this century that are ruining
everything,--artilleries, bombards, and, above all, printing,
that other German pest. No more manuscripts, no more
books! printing will kill bookselling. It is the end of the
world that is drawing nigh."
"I see that plainly, from the progress of velvet stuffs,"
said the fur-merchant.
At this moment, midday sounded.
"Ha!" exclaimed the entire crowd, in one voice.
The scholars held their peace. Then a great hurly-burly
ensued; a vast movement of feet, hands, and heads; a general
outbreak of coughs and handkerchiefs; each one arranged
himself, assumed his post, raised himself up, and grouped
himself. Then came a great silence; all necks remained
outstretched, all mouths remained open, all glances were
directed towards the marble table. Nothing made its appearance
there. The bailiff's four sergeants were still there, stiff,
motionless, as painted statues. All eyes turned to the estrade
reserved for the Flemish envoys. The door remained closed,
the platform empty. This crowd had been waiting since daybreak
for three things: noonday, the embassy from Flanders, the
mystery play. Noonday alone had arrived on time.
On this occasion, it was too much.
They waited one, two, three, five minutes, a quarter of an
hour; nothing came. The dais remained empty, the theatre
dumb. In the meantime, wrath had succeeded to impatience.
Irritated words circulated in a low tone, still, it is true.
"The mystery! the mystery!" they murmured, in hollow
voices. Heads began to ferment. A tempest, which was
only rumbling in the distance as yet, was floating on the
surface of this crowd. It was Jehan du Moulin who struck
the first spark from it.
"The mystery, and to the devil with the Flemings!" he
exclaimed at the full force of his lungs, twining like a serpent
around his pillar.
The crowd clapped their hands.
"The mystery!" it repeated, "and may all the devils take
"We must have the mystery instantly," resumed the student;
"or else, my advice is that we should hang the bailiff
of the courts, by way of a morality and a comedy."
"Well said," cried the people, "and let us begin the hanging
with his sergeants."
A grand acclamation followed. The four poor fellows
began to turn pale, and to exchange glances. The crowd
hurled itself towards them, and they already beheld the
frail wooden railing, which separated them from it, giving
way and bending before the pressure of the throng.
It was a critical moment.
"To the sack, to the sack!" rose the cry on all sides.
At that moment, the tapestry of the dressing-room, which
we have described above, was raised, and afforded passage to a
personage, the mere sight of whom suddenly stopped the crowd,
and changed its wrath into curiosity as by enchantment.
The personage, but little reassured, and trembling in every
limb, advanced to the edge of the marble table with a vast
amount of bows, which, in proportion as he drew nearer, more
and more resembled genuflections.
In the meanwhile, tranquillity had gradually been restored.
A1l that remained was that slight murmur which always rises
above the silence of a crowd.
"Messieurs the bourgeois," said he, "and mesdemoiselles
the ~bourgeoises~, we shall have the honor of declaiming and
representing, before his eminence, monsieur the cardinal, a
very beautiful morality which has for its title, 'The Good
Judgment of Madame the Virgin Mary.' I am to play Jupiter.
His eminence is, at this moment, escorting the very
honorable embassy of the Duke of Austria; which is detained,
at present, listening to the harangue of monsieur the
rector of the university, at the gate Baudets. As soon as his
illustrious eminence, the cardinal, arrives, we will begin."
It is certain, that nothing less than the intervention of
Jupiter was required to save the four unfortunate sergeants
of the bailiff of the courts. If we had the happiness of having
invented this very veracious tale, and of being, in consequence,
responsible for it before our Lady Criticism, it is not against
us that the classic precept, ~Nec deus intersit~, could be invoked.
Moreover, the costume of Seigneur Jupiter, was very handsome,
and contributed not a little towards calming the crowd, by
attracting all its attention. Jupiter was clad in a coat of
mail, covered with black velvet, with gilt nails; and had it
not been for the rouge, and the huge red beard, each of which
covered one-half of his face,--had it not been for the roll of
gilded cardboard, spangled, and all bristling with strips of
tinsel, which he held in his hand, and in which the eyes
of the initiated easily recognized thunderbolts,--had not his
feet been flesh-colored, and banded with ribbons in Greek
fashion, he might have borne comparison, so far as the severity
of his mien was concerned, with a Breton archer from
the guard of Monsieur de Berry.
Nevertheless, as be harangued them, the satisfaction and
admiration unanimously excited by his costume were dissipated
by his words; and when he reached that untoward conclusion:
"As soon as his illustrious eminence, the cardinal,
arrives, we will begin," his voice was drowned in a thunder
"Begin instantly! The mystery! the mystery immediately!"
shrieked the people. And above all the voices, that
of Johannes de Molendino was audible, piercing the uproar
like the fife's derisive serenade: "Commence instantly!"
yelped the scholar.
"Down with Jupiter and the Cardinal de Bourbon!" vociferated
Robin Poussepain and the other clerks perched in the window.
"The morality this very instant!" repeated the crowd;
"this very instant! the sack and the rope for the comedians,
and the cardinal!"
Poor Jupiter, haggard, frightened, pale beneath his rouge,
dropped his thunderbolt, took his cap in his hand; then he
bowed and trembled and stammered: "His eminence--the
ambassadors--Madame Marguerite of Flanders--." He did not
know what to say. In truth, he was afraid of being hung.
Hung by the populace for waiting, hung by the cardinal for
not having waited, he saw between the two dilemmas only an
abyss; that is to say, a gallows.
Luckily, some one came to rescue him from his embarrassment,
and assume the responsibility.
An individual who was standing beyond the railing, in the
free space around the marble table, and whom no one had yet
caught sight of, since his long, thin body was completely sheltered
from every visual ray by the diameter of the pillar
against which he was leaning; this individual, we say, tall,
gaunt, pallid, blond, still young, although already wrinkled
about the brow and cheeks, with brilliant eyes and a smiling
mouth, clad in garments of black serge, worn and shining
with age, approached the marble table, and made a sign to the
poor sufferer. But the other was so confused that he did not
see him. The new comer advanced another step.
"Jupiter," said he, "my dear Jupiter!"
The other did not hear.
At last, the tall blond, driven out of patience, shrieked
almost in his face,--
"Who calls me?" said Jupiter, as though awakened with a start.
"I," replied the person clad in black.
"Ah!" said Jupiter.
"Begin at once," went on the other. "Satisfy the populace;
I undertake to appease the bailiff, who will appease monsieur
Jupiter breathed once more.
"Messeigneurs the bourgeois," he cried, at the top of his
lungs to the crowd, which continued to hoot him, "we are
going to begin at once."
"~Evoe Jupiter! Plaudite cives~! All hail, Jupiter! Applaud,
citizens!" shouted the scholars.
"Noel! Noel! good, good," shouted the people.
The hand clapping was deafening, and Jupiter had already
withdrawn under his tapestry, while the hall still trembled
In the meanwhile, the personage who had so magically
turned the tempest into dead calm, as our old and dear Corneille
puts it, had modestly retreated to the half-shadow of
his pillar, and would, no doubt, have remained invisible there,
motionless, and mute as before, had he not been plucked by
the sleeve by two young women, who, standing in the front
row of the spectators, had noticed his colloquy with Michel
"Master," said one of them, making him a sign to approach.
"Hold your tongue, my dear Liénarde," said her neighbor,
pretty, fresh, and very brave, in consequence of being dressed
up in her best attire. "He is not a clerk, he is a layman;
you must not say master to him, but messire."
"Messire," said Liénarde.
The stranger approached the railing.
"What would you have of me, damsels?" he asked, with alacrity.
"Oh! nothing," replied Liénarde, in great confusion; "it
is my neighbor, Gisquette la Gencienne, who wishes to speak
"Not so," replied Gisquette, blushing; "it was Liénarde
who called you master; I only told her to say messire."
The two young girls dropped their eyes. The man, who
asked nothing better than to enter into conversation, looked
at them with a smile.
"So you have nothing to say to me, damsels?"
"Oh! nothing at all," replied Gisquette.
"Nothing," said Liénarde.
The tall, light-haired young man retreated a step; but the
two curious maidens had no mind to let slip their prize.
"Messire," said Gisquette, with the impetuosity of an
open sluice, or of a woman who has made up her mind,
"do you know that soldier who is to play the part of Madame
the Virgin in the mystery?"
"You mean the part of Jupiter?" replied the stranger.
"Hé! yes," said Liénarde, "isn't she stupid? So you know
"Michel Giborne?" replied the unknown; "yes, madam."
"He has a fine beard!" said Liénarde.
"Will what they are about to say here be fine?" inquired
"Very fine, mademoiselle," replied the unknown, without
the slightest hesitation.
"What is it to be?" said Liénarde.
"'The Good Judgment of Madame the Virgin,'--a morality,
if you please, damsel."
"Ah! that makes a difference," responded Liénarde.
A brief silence ensued--broken by the stranger.
"It is a perfectly new morality, and one which has never
yet been played."
"Then it is not the same one," said Gisquette, "that was
given two years ago, on the day of the entrance of monsieur
the legate, and where three handsome maids played the
"Of sirens," said Liénarde.
"And all naked," added the young man.
Liénarde lowered her eyes modestly. Gisquette glanced at
her and did the same. He continued, with a smile,--
"It was a very pleasant thing to see. To-day it is a morality
made expressly for Madame the Demoiselle of Flanders."
"Will they sing shepherd songs?" inquired Gisquette.
"Fie!" said the stranger, "in a morality? you must not
confound styles. If it were a farce, well and good."
"That is a pity," resumed Gisquette. "That day, at the
Ponceau Fountain, there were wild men and women, who
fought and assumed many aspects, as they sang little motets
"That which is suitable for a legate," returned the stranger,
with a good deal of dryness, "is not suitable for a princess."
"And beside them," resumed Liénarde, "played many brass
instruments, making great melodies."
"And for the refreshment of the passers-by," continued
Gisquette, "the fountain spouted through three mouths,
wine, milk, and hippocrass, of which every one drank who
"And a little below the Ponceau, at the Trinity," pursued
Liénarde, "there was a passion performed, and without
"How well I remember that!" exclaimed Gisquette; "God
on the cross, and the two thieves on the right and the left."
Here the young gossips, growing warm at the memory of
the entrance of monsieur the legate, both began to talk at
"And, further on, at the Painters' Gate, there were other
personages, very richly clad."
"And at the fountain of Saint-Innocent, that huntsman,
who was chasing a hind with great clamor of dogs and hunting-horns."
"And, at the Paris slaughter-houses, stages, representing
the fortress of Dieppe!"
"And when the legate passed, you remember, Gisquette?
they made the assault, and the English all had their
"And against the gate of the Châtelet, there were very fine
"And on the Port au Change, which was all draped above!"
"And when the legate passed, they let fly on the bridge
more than two hundred sorts of birds; wasn't it beautiful,
"It will be better to-day," finally resumed their interlocutor,
who seemed to listen to them with impatience.
"Do you promise us that this mystery will be fine?" said
"Without doubt," he replied; then he added, with a certain
emphasis,--"I am the author of it, damsels."
"Truly?" said the young girls, quite taken aback.
"Truly!" replied the poet, bridling a little; "that is, to
say, there are two of us; Jehan Marchand, who has sawed the
planks and erected the framework of the theatre and the
woodwork; and I, who have made the piece. My name is
The author of the "Cid" could not have said "Pierre Corneille"
with more pride.
Our readers have been able to observe, that a certain
amount of time must have already elapsed from the moment
when Jupiter had retired beneath the tapestry to the instant
when the author of the new morality had thus abruptly
revealed himself to the innocent admiration of Gisquette
and Liénarde. Remarkable fact: that whole crowd, so
tumultuous but a few moments before, now waited amiably
on the word of the comedian; which proves the eternal truth,
still experienced every day in our theatres, that the best
means of making the public wait patiently is to assure them
that one is about to begin instantly.
However, scholar Johannes had not fallen asleep.
"Holà hé!" he shouted suddenly, in the midst of the peaceable
waiting which had followed the tumult. "Jupiter, Madame the
Virgin, buffoons of the devil! are you jeering at us?
The piece! the piece! commence or we will commence again!"
This was all that was needed.
The music of high and low instruments immediately became
audible from the interior of the stage; the tapestry was
raised; four personages, in motley attire and painted faces,
emerged from it, climbed the steep ladder of the theatre, and,
arrived upon the upper platform, arranged themselves in a
line before the public, whom they saluted with profound reverences;
then the symphony ceased.
The mystery was about to begin.
The four personages, after having reaped a rich reward
of applause for their reverences, began, in the midst of
profound silence, a prologue, which we gladly spare the
reader. Moreover, as happens in our own day, the public
was more occupied with the costumes that the actors wore
than with the roles that they were enacting; and, in truth,
they were right. All four were dressed in parti-colored robes
of yellow and white, which were distinguished from each other
only by the nature of the stuff; the first was of gold and silver
brocade; the second, of silk; the third, of wool; the fourth,
of linen. The first of these personages carried in his right
hand a sword; the second, two golden keys; the third, a pair
of scales; the fourth, a spade: and, in order to aid sluggish
minds which would not have seen clearly through the transparency
of these attributes, there was to be read, in large,
black letters, on the hem of the robe of brocade, MY NAME
IS NOBILITY; on the hem of the silken robe, MY NAME IS
CLERGY; on the hem of the woolen robe, MY NAME IS MERCHANDISE;
on the hem of the linen robe, MY NAME IS LABOR.
The sex of the two male characters was briefly indicated to
every judicious spectator, by their shorter robes, and by the
cap which they wore on their heads; while the two female
characters, less briefly clad, were covered with hoods.
Much ill-will would also have been required, not to
comprehend, through the medium of the poetry of the prologue, that
Labor was wedded to Merchandise, and Clergy to Nobility,
and that the two happy couples possessed in common a magnificent
golden dolphin, which they desired to adjudge to the
fairest only. So they were roaming about the world seeking
and searching for this beauty, and, after having successively
rejected the Queen of Golconda, the Princess of Trebizonde,
the daughter of the Grand Khan of Tartary, etc., Labor and
Clergy, Nobility and Merchandise, had come to rest upon the
marble table of the Palais de Justice, and to utter, in the
presence of the honest audience, as many sentences and
maxims as could then be dispensed at the Faculty of Arts,
at examinations, sophisms, determinances, figures, and acts,
where the masters took their degrees.
All this was, in fact, very fine.
Nevertheless, in that throng, upon which the four allegories
vied with each other in pouring out floods of metaphors,
there was no ear more attentive, no heart that palpitated
more, not an eye was more haggard, no neck more outstretched,
than the eye, the ear, the neck, and the heart of
the author, of the poet, of that brave Pierre Gringoire, who
had not been able to resist, a moment before, the joy of telling
his name to two pretty girls. He had retreated a few
paces from them, behind his pillar, and there he listened,
looked, enjoyed. The amiable applause which had greeted the
beginning of his prologue was still echoing in his bosom,
and he was completely absorbed in that species of ecstatic
contemplation with which an author beholds his ideas fall,
one by one, from the mouth of the actor into the vast silence
of the audience. Worthy Pierre Gringoire!
It pains us to say it, but this first ecstasy was speedily
disturbed. Hardly had Gringoire raised this intoxicating cup of
joy and triumph to his lips, when a drop of bitterness was
mingled with it.
A tattered mendicant, who could not collect any coins, lost
as he was in the midst of the crowd, and who had not probably
found sufficient indemnity in the pockets of his neighbors,
had hit upon the idea of perching himself upon some conspicuous
point, in order to attract looks and alms. He had,
accordingly, hoisted himself, during the first verses of the
prologue, with the aid of the pillars of the reserve gallery, to
the cornice which ran round the balustrade at its lower edge;
and there he had seated himself, soliciting the attention and
the pity of the multitude, with his rags and a hideous sore
which covered his right arm. However, he uttered not a word.
The silence which he preserved allowed the prologue to
proceed without hindrance, and no perceptible disorder would
have ensued, if ill-luck had not willed that the scholar Joannes
should catch sight, from the heights of his pillar, of the
mendicant and his grimaces. A wild fit of laughter took
possession of the young scamp, who, without caring that he
was interrupting the spectacle, and disturbing the universal
composure, shouted boldly,--
"Look! see that sickly creature asking alms!"
Any one who has thrown a stone into a frog pond, or fired a
shot into a covey of birds, can form an idea of the effect produced
by these incongruous words, in the midst of the general
attention. It made Gringoire shudder as though it had been
an electric shock. The prologue stopped short, and all heads
turned tumultuously towards the beggar, who, far from being
disconcerted by this, saw, in this incident, a good opportunity
for reaping his harvest, and who began to whine in
a doleful way, half closing his eyes the while,--"Charity,
"Well--upon my soul," resumed Joannes, "it's Clopin
Trouillefou! Holà he, my friend, did your sore bother you
on the leg, that you have transferred it to your arm?"
So saying, with the dexterity of a monkey, he flung a bit of
silver into the gray felt hat which the beggar held in his
ailing arm. The mendicant received both the alms and the sarcasm
without wincing, and continued, in lamentable tones,--
This episode considerably distracted the attention of the
audience; and a goodly number of spectators, among them
Robin Poussepain, and all the clerks at their head, gayly
applauded this eccentric duet, which the scholar, with his
shrill voice, and the mendicant had just improvised in the
middle of the prologue.
Gringoire was highly displeased. On recovering from his
first stupefaction, he bestirred himself to shout, to the four
personages on the stage, "Go on! What the devil!--go on!"
--without even deigning to cast a glance of disdain upon the
At that moment, he felt some one pluck at the hem of his
surtout; he turned round, and not without ill-humor, and
found considerable difficulty in smiling; but he was obliged
to do so, nevertheless. It was the pretty arm of Gisquette la
Gencienne, which, passed through the railing, was soliciting
his attention in this manner.
"Monsieur," said the young girl, "are they going to continue?"
"Of course," replied Gringoire, a good deal shocked by the
"In that case, messire," she resumed, "would you have the
courtesy to explain to me--"
"What they are about to say?" interrupted Gringoire.
"No," said Gisquette, "but what they have said so far."
Gringoire started, like a man whose wound has been probed
to the quick.
"A plague on the stupid and dull-witted little girl!" he
muttered, between his teeth.
From that moment forth, Gisquette was nothing to him.
In the meantime, the actors had obeyed his injunction, and
the public, seeing that they were beginning to speak again,
began once more to listen, not without having lost many
beauties in the sort of soldered joint which was formed
between the two portions of the piece thus abruptly cut
short. Gringoire commented on it bitterly to himself.
Nevertheless, tranquillity was gradually restored, the scholar held
his peace, the mendicant counted over some coins in his hat,
and the piece resumed the upper hand.
It was, in fact, a very fine work, and one which, as it seems
to us, might be put to use to-day, by the aid of a little
rearrangement. The exposition, rather long and rather empty,
that is to say, according to the rules, was simple; and Gringoire,
in the candid sanctuary of his own conscience, admired
its clearness. As the reader may surmise, the four allegorical
personages were somewhat weary with having traversed the
three sections of the world, without having found suitable
opportunity for getting rid of their golden dolphin. Thereupon
a eulogy of the marvellous fish, with a thousand delicate
allusions to the young betrothed of Marguerite of Flanders,
then sadly cloistered in at Amboise, and without a suspicion
that Labor and Clergy, Nobility and Merchandise had just
made the circuit of the world in his behalf. The said dauphin
was then young, was handsome, was stout, and, above
all (magnificent origin of all royal virtues), he was the son of
the Lion of France. I declare that this bold metaphor is
admirable, and that the natural history of the theatre, on a
day of allegory and royal marriage songs, is not in the least
startled by a dolphin who is the son of a lion. It is precisely
these rare and Pindaric mixtures which prove the poet's enthusiasm. Nevertheless, in order to play the part of critic also,
the poet might have developed this beautiful idea in something
less than two hundred lines. It is true that the mystery
was to last from noon until four o'clock, in accordance
with the orders of monsieur the provost, and that it was
necessary to say something. Besides, the people listened
All at once, in the very middle of a quarrel between Mademoiselle
Merchandise and Madame Nobility, at the moment when Monsieur Labor
was giving utterance to this wonderful line,--
In forest ne'er was seen a more triumphant beast;
the door of the reserved gallery which had hitherto remained
so inopportunely closed, opened still more inopportunely; and
the ringing voice of the usher announced abruptly, "His
eminence, Monseigneur the Cardinal de Bourbon."
MONSIEUR THE CARDINAL.
Poor Gringoire! the din of all the great double petards of
the Saint-Jean, the discharge of twenty arquebuses on
supports, the detonation of that famous serpentine of the Tower
of Billy, which, during the siege of Paris, on Sunday, the
twenty-sixth of September, 1465, killed seven Burgundians at
one blow, the explosion of all the powder stored at the gate
of the Temple, would have rent his ears less rudely at that
solemn and dramatic moment, than these few words, which
fell from the lips of the usher, "His eminence, Monseigneur
the Cardinal de Bourbon."
It is not that Pierre Gringoire either feared or disdained
monsieur the cardinal. He had neither the weakness nor the
audacity for that. A true eclectic, as it would be expressed
nowadays, Gringoire was one of those firm and lofty, moderate
and calm spirits, which always know how to bear themselves
amid all circumstances (~stare in dimidio rerum~), and who
are full of reason and of liberal philosophy, while still setting
store by cardinals. A rare, precious, and never interrupted
race of philosophers to whom wisdom, like another
Ariadne, seems to have given a clew of thread which they
have been walking along unwinding since the beginning of
the world, through the labyrinth of human affairs. One finds
them in all ages, ever the same; that is to say, always according
to all times. And, without reckoning our Pierre Gringoire,
who may represent them in the fifteenth century if we
succeed in bestowing upon him the distinction which he
deserves, it certainly was their spirit which animated Father
du Breul, when he wrote, in the sixteenth, these naively sublime
words, worthy of all centuries: "I am a Parisian by
nation, and a Parrhisian in language, for ~parrhisia~ in Greek
signifies liberty of speech; of which I have made use even
towards messeigneurs the cardinals, uncle and brother to
Monsieur the Prince de Conty, always with respect to their
greatness, and without offending any one of their suite, which
is much to say."
There was then neither hatred for the cardinal, nor disdain
for his presence, in the disagreeable impression produced
upon Pierre Gringoire. Quite the contrary; our poet had
too much good sense and too threadbare a coat, not to
attach particular importance to having the numerous allusions
in his prologue, and, in particular, the glorification of the
dauphin, son of the Lion of France, fall upon the most eminent
ear. But it is not interest which predominates in the noble
nature of poets. I suppose that the entity of the poet may
be represented by the number ten; it is certain that a chemist
on analyzing and pharmacopolizing it, as Rabelais says, would
find it composed of one part interest to nine parts of
Now, at the moment when the door had opened to admit
the cardinal, the nine parts of self-esteem in Gringoire,
swollen and expanded by the breath of popular admiration,
were in a state of prodigious augmentation, beneath which
disappeared, as though stifled, that imperceptible molecule of
which we have just remarked upon in the constitution of
poets; a precious ingredient, by the way, a ballast of
reality and humanity, without which they would not touch
the earth. Gringoire enjoyed seeing, feeling, fingering, so to
speak an entire assembly (of knaves, it is true, but what matters
that ?) stupefied, petrified, and as though asphyxiated in
the presence of the incommensurable tirades which welled up
every instant from all parts of his bridal song. I affirm that
he shared the general beatitude, and that, quite the reverse of
La Fontaine, who, at the presentation of his comedy of the
"Florentine," asked, "Who is the ill-bred lout who made
that rhapsody?" Gringoire would gladly have inquired of his
neighbor, "Whose masterpiece is this?"
The reader can now judge of the effect produced upon him
by the abrupt and unseasonable arrival of the cardinal.
That which he had to fear was only too fully realized.
The entrance of his eminence upset the audience. All heads
turned towards the gallery. It was no longer possible to
hear one's self. "The cardinal! The cardinal!" repeated
all mouths. The unhappy prologue stopped short for the
The cardinal halted for a moment on the threshold of
the estrade. While he was sending a rather indifferent
glance around the audience, the tumult redoubled. Each
person wished to get a better view of him. Each man vied
with the other in thrusting his head over his neighbor's
He was, in fact, an exalted personage, the sight of whom was
well worth any other comedy. Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon,
Archbishop and Comte of Lyon, Primate of the Gauls, was
allied both to Louis XI., through his brother, Pierre, Seigneur
de Beaujeu, who had married the king's eldest daughter, and
to Charles the Bold through his mother, Agnes of Burgundy.
Now, the dominating trait, the peculiar and distinctive trait
of the character of the Primate of the Gauls, was the spirit
of the courtier, and devotion to the powers that be. The
reader can form an idea of the numberless embarrassments
which this double relationship had caused him, and of all
the temporal reefs among which his spiritual bark had been
forced to tack, in order not to suffer shipwreck on either
Louis or Charles, that Scylla and that Charybdis which had
devoured the Duc de Nemours and the Constable de Saint-Pol.
Thanks to Heaven's mercy, he had made the voyage
successfully, and had reached home without hindrance. But
although he was in port, and precisely because he was in
port, he never recalled without disquiet the varied haps of
his political career, so long uneasy and laborious. Thus, he
was in the habit of saying that the year 1476 had been
"white and black" for him--meaning thereby, that in the
course of that year he had lost his mother, the Duchesse de
la Bourbonnais, and his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, and
that one grief had consoled him for the other.
Nevertheless, he was a fine man; he led a joyous cardinal's
life, liked to enliven himself with the royal vintage of Challuau,
did not hate Richarde la Garmoise and Thomasse la
Saillarde, bestowed alms on pretty girls rather than on old
women,--and for all these reasons was very agreeable to the
populace of Paris. He never went about otherwise than surrounded
by a small court of bishops and abbés of high lineage,
gallant, jovial, and given to carousing on occasion; and more
than once the good and devout women of Saint Germain
d' Auxerre, when passing at night beneath the brightly illuminated
windows of Bourbon, had been scandalized to hear the
same voices which had intoned vespers for them during the
day carolling, to the clinking of glasses, the bacchic proverb of
Benedict XII., that pope who had added a third crown to the
It was this justly acquired popularity, no doubt, which preserved
him on his entrance from any bad reception at the
hands of the mob, which had been so displeased but a moment
before, and very little disposed to respect a cardinal on
the very day when it was to elect a pope. But the Parisians
cherish little rancor; and then, having forced the beginning
of the play by their authority, the good bourgeois had got the
upper hand of the cardinal, and this triumph was sufficient
for them. Moreover, the Cardinal de Bourbon was a handsome
man,--he wore a fine scarlet robe, which he carried off
very well,--that is to say, he had all the women on his side,
and, consequently, the best half of the audience. Assuredly,
it would be injustice and bad taste to hoot a cardinal for having
come late to the spectacle, when he is a handsome man,
and when he wears his scarlet robe well.
He entered, then, bowed to those present with the hereditary
smile of the great for the people, and directed his course
slowly towards his scarlet velvet arm-chair, with the air of
thinking of something quite different. His cortege--what
we should nowadays call his staff--of bishops and abbés
invaded the estrade in his train, not without causing redoubled
tumult and curiosity among the audience. Each
man vied with his neighbor in pointing them out and naming
them, in seeing who should recognize at least one of them:
this one, the Bishop of Marseilles (Alaudet, if my memory
serves me right);--this one, the primicier of Saint-Denis;--this
one, Robert de Lespinasse, Abbé of Saint-Germain des
Prés, that libertine brother of a mistress of Louis XI.; all
with many errors and absurdities. As for the scholars, they
swore. This was their day, their feast of fools, their saturnalia,
the annual orgy of the corporation of Law clerks and of
the school. There was no turpitude which was not sacred on
that day. And then there were gay gossips in the crowd--Simone
Quatrelivres, Agnes la Gadine, and Rabine Piédebou.
Was it not the least that one could do to swear at one's ease
and revile the name of God a little, on so fine a day, in such
good company as dignitaries of the church and loose women?
So they did not abstain; and, in the midst of the uproar, there
was a frightful concert of blasphemies and enormities of all
the unbridled tongues, the tongues of clerks and students
restrained during the rest of the year, by the fear of the hot
iron of Saint Louis. Poor Saint Louis! how they set him at
defiance in his own court of law! Each one of them selected
from the new-comers on the platform, a black, gray, white,
or violet cassock as his target. Joannes Frollo de Molendin,
in his quality of brother to an archdeacon, boldly
attacked the scarlet; he sang in deafening tones, with his
impudent eyes fastened on the cardinal, "~Cappa repleta
All these details which we here lay bare for the edification
of the reader, were so covered by the general uproar, that
they were lost in it before reaching the reserved platforms;
moreover, they would have moved the cardinal but little, so
much a part of the customs were the liberties of that day.
Moreover, he had another cause for solicitude, and his mien
as wholly preoccupied with it, which entered the estrade
the same time as himself; this was the embassy from
Not that he was a profound politician, nor was he borrowing
trouble about the possible consequences of the marriage of
his cousin Marguerite de Bourgoyne to his cousin Charles,
Dauphin de Vienne; nor as to how long the good understanding
which had been patched up between the Duke of Austria
and the King of France would last; nor how the King of
England would take this disdain of his daughter. All that
troubled him but little; and he gave a warm reception every
evening to the wine of the royal vintage of Chaillot, without
a suspicion that several flasks of that same wine (somewhat
revised and corrected, it is true, by Doctor Coictier), cordially
offered to Edward IV. by Louis XI., would, some fine morning,
rid Louis XI. of Edward IV. "The much honored embassy
of Monsieur the Duke of Austria," brought the cardinal
none of these cares, but it troubled him in another direction.
It was, in fact, somewhat hard, and we have already hinted
at it on the second page of this book,--for him, Charles de
Bourbon, to be obliged to feast and receive cordially no one
knows what bourgeois;--for him, a cardinal, to receive
aldermen;--for him, a Frenchman, and a jolly companion, to
receive Flemish beer-drinkers,--and that in public! This
was, certainly, one of the most irksome grimaces that he had
ever executed for the good pleasure of the king.
So he turned toward the door, and with the best grace in
the world (so well had he trained himself to it), when the
usher announced, in a sonorous voice, "Messieurs the Envoys
of Monsieur the Duke of Austria." It is useless to add that
the whole hall did the same.
Then arrived, two by two, with a gravity which made a
contrast in the midst of the frisky ecclesiastical escort of
Charles de Bourbon, the eight and forty ambassadors of Maximilian
of Austria, having at their head the reverend Father
in God, Jehan, Abbot of Saint-Bertin, Chancellor of the
Golden Fleece, and Jacques de Goy, Sieur Dauby, Grand Bailiff
of Ghent. A deep silence settled over the assembly, accompanied
by stifled laughter at the preposterous names and all
the bourgeois designations which each of these personages
transmitted with imperturbable gravity to the usher, who then
tossed names and titles pell-mell and mutilated to the crowd
below. There were Master Loys Roelof, alderman of the city
of Louvain; Messire Clays d'Etuelde, alderman of Brussels;
Messire Paul de Baeust, Sieur de Voirmizelle, President of
Flanders; Master Jehan Coleghens, burgomaster of the city
of Antwerp; Master George de la Moere, first alderman of the
kuere of the city of Ghent; Master Gheldolf van der Hage,
first alderman of the ~parchous~ of the said town; and the
Sieur de Bierbecque, and Jehan Pinnock, and Jehan Dymaerzelle,
etc., etc., etc.; bailiffs, aldermen, burgomasters; burgomasters,
aldermen, bailiffs--all stiff, affectedly grave, formal,
dressed out in velvet and damask, hooded with caps of black
velvet, with great tufts of Cyprus gold thread; good Flemish
heads, after all, severe and worthy faces, of the family which
Rembrandt makes to stand out so strong and grave from the
black background of his "Night Patrol "; personages all of
whom bore, written on their brows, that Maximilian of Austria
had done well in "trusting implicitly," as the manifest
ran, "in their sense, valor, experience, loyalty, and good
There was one exception, however. It was a subtle, intelligent,
crafty-looking face, a sort of combined monkey and diplomat
phiz, before whom the cardinal made three steps and a
profound bow, and whose name, nevertheless, was only,
"Guillaume Rym, counsellor and pensioner of the City of
Few persons were then aware who Guillaume Rym was. A
rare genius who in a time of revolution would have made a
brilliant appearance on the surface of events, but who in the
fifteenth century was reduced to cavernous intrigues, and to
"living in mines," as the Duc de Saint-Simon expresses it.
Nevertheless, he was appreciated by the "miner" of Europe;
he plotted familiarly with Louis XI., and often lent a hand to
the king's secret jobs. All which things were quite unknown
to that throng, who were amazed at the cardinal's politeness
to that frail figure of a Flemish bailiff.
MASTER JACQUES COPPENOLE.
While the pensioner of Ghent and his eminence were
exchanging very low bows and a few words in voices still
lower, a man of lofty stature, with a large face and broad
shoulders, presented himself, in order to enter abreast with
Guillaume Rym; one would have pronounced him a bull-dog
by the side of a fox. His felt doublet and leather jerkin
made a spot on the velvet and silk which surrounded him.
Presuming that he was some groom who had stolen in, the
usher stopped him.
"Hold, my friend, you cannot pass!"
The man in the leather jerkin shouldered him aside.
"What does this knave want with me?" said he, in stentorian
tones, which rendered the entire hall attentive to this
strange colloquy. "Don't you see that I am one of them?"
"Your name?" demanded the usher.
"Hosier at the sign of the 'Three Little Chains,' of Ghent."
The usher recoiled. One might bring one's self to announce
aldermen and burgomasters, but a hosier was too much. The
cardinal was on thorns. All the people were staring and
listening. For two days his eminence had been exerting his
utmost efforts to lick these Flemish bears into shape, and to
render them a little more presentable to the public, and this
freak was startling. But Guillaume Rym, with his polished
smile, approached the usher.
"Announce Master Jacques Coppenole, clerk of the aldermen
of the city of Ghent," he whispered, very low.
"Usher," interposed the cardinal, aloud, "announce Master
Jacques Coppenole, clerk of the aldermen of the illustrious
city of Ghent."
This was a mistake. Guillaume Rym alone might have
conjured away the difficulty, but Coppenole had heard the
"No, cross of God?" he exclaimed, in his voice of thunder,
"Jacques Coppenole, hosier. Do you hear, usher? Nothing
more, nothing less. Cross of God! hosier; that's fine enough.
Monsieur the Archduke has more than once sought his ~gant~*
in my hose."
* Got the first idea of a timing.
Laughter and applause burst forth. A jest is always understood
in Paris, and, consequently, always applauded.
Let us add that Coppenole was of the people, and that the
auditors which surrounded him were also of the people. Thus
the communication between him and them had been prompt,
electric, and, so to speak, on a level. The haughty air of the
Flemish hosier, by humiliating the courtiers, had touched in
all these plebeian souls that latent sentiment of dignity still
vague and indistinct in the fifteenth century.
This hosier was an equal, who had just held his own before
monsieur the cardinal. A very sweet reflection to poor fellows
habituated to respect and obedience towards the underlings
of the sergeants of the bailiff of Sainte-Geneviève, the
Coppenole proudly saluted his eminence, who returned the
salute of the all-powerful bourgeois feared by Louis XI.
Then, while Guillaume Rym, a "sage and malicious man," as
Philippe de Comines puts it, watched them both with a smile
of raillery and superiority, each sought his place, the cardinal
quite abashed and troubled, Coppenole tranquil and haughty,
and thinking, no doubt, that his title of hosier was as good as
any other, after all, and that Marie of Burgundy, mother to
that Marguerite whom Coppenole was to-day bestowing in
marriage, would have been less afraid of the cardinal than of
the hosier; for it is not a cardinal who would have stirred up
a revolt among the men of Ghent against the favorites of the
daughter of Charles the Bold; it is not a cardinal who could
have fortified the populace with a word against her tears and
prayers, when the Maid of Flanders came to supplicate her
people in their behalf, even at the very foot of the scaffold;
while the hosier had only to raise his leather elbow, in order
to cause to fall your two heads, most illustrious seigneurs,
Guy d'Hymbercourt and Chancellor Guillaume Hugonet.
Nevertheless, all was over for the poor cardinal, and he was
obliged to quaff to the dregs the bitter cup of being in such
The reader has, probably, not forgotten the impudent beggar
who had been clinging fast to the fringes of the cardinal's
gallery ever since the beginning of the prologue. The arrival
of the illustrious guests had by no means caused him to relax
his hold, and, while the prelates and ambassadors were packing
themselves into the stalls--like genuine Flemish herrings--he
settled himself at his ease, and boldly crossed his legs
on the architrave. The insolence of this proceeding was
extraordinary, yet no one noticed it at first, the attention of
all being directed elsewhere. He, on his side, perceived nothing
that was going on in the hall; he wagged his head with
the unconcern of a Neapolitan, repeating from time to time,
amid the clamor, as from a mechanical habit, "Charity,
please!" And, assuredly, he was, out of all those present,
the only one who had not deigned to turn his head at the
altercation between Coppenole and the usher. Now, chance
ordained that the master hosier of Ghent, with whom the
people were already in lively sympathy, and upon whom all
eyes were riveted--should come and seat himself in the front
row of the gallery, directly above the mendicant; and people
were not a little amazed to see the Flemish ambassador, on
concluding his inspection of the knave thus placed beneath
his eyes, bestow a friendly tap on that ragged shoulder. The
beggar turned round; there was surprise, recognition, a lighting
up of the two countenances, and so forth; then, without
paying the slightest heed in the world to the spectators, the
hosier and the wretched being began to converse in a low
tone, holding each other's hands, in the meantime, while the
rags of Clopin Trouillefou, spread out upon the cloth of gold
of the dais, produced the effect of a caterpillar on an orange.
The novelty of this singular scene excited such a murmur
of mirth and gayety in the hall, that the cardinal was not
slow to perceive it; he half bent forward, and, as from the
point where he was placed he could catch only an imperfect
view of Trouillerfou's ignominious doublet, he very naturally
imagined that the mendicant was asking alms, and, disgusted
with his audacity, he exclaimed: "Bailiff of the Courts, toss
me that knave into the river!"
"Cross of God! monseigneur the cardinal," said Coppenole,
without quitting Clopin's hand, "he's a friend of mine."
"Good! good!" shouted the populace. From that moment,
Master Coppenole enjoyed in Paris as in Ghent, "great favor
with the people; for men of that sort do enjoy it," says
Philippe de Comines, "when they are thus disorderly."
The cardinal bit his lips. He bent towards his neighbor,
the Abbé of Saint Geneviéve, and said to him in a low
tone,--"Fine ambassadors monsieur the archduke sends here, to
announce to us Madame Marguerite!"
"Your eminence," replied the abbé, "wastes your politeness
on these Flemish swine. ~Margaritas ante porcos~, pearls
"Say rather," retorted the cardinal, with a smile, "~Porcos
ante Margaritam~, swine before the pearl."
The whole little court in cassocks went into ecstacies over
this play upon words. The cardinal felt a little relieved; he
was quits with Coppenole, he also had had his jest applauded.
Now, will those of our readers who possess the power of
generalizing an image or an idea, as the expression runs in
the style of to-day, permit us to ask them if they have formed
a very clear conception of the spectacle presented at this
moment, upon which we have arrested their attention, by the
vast parallelogram of the grand hall of the palace.
In the middle of the hall, backed against the western wall,
a large and magnificent gallery draped with cloth of gold, into
which enter in procession, through a small, arched door, grave
personages, announced successively by the shrill voice of an
usher. On the front benches were already a number of venerable
figures, muffled in ermine, velvet, and scarlet. Around
the dais--which remains silent and dignified--below, opposite,
everywhere, a great crowd and a great murmur. Thousands
of glances directed by the people on each face upon the
dais, a thousand whispers over each name. Certainly, the
spectacle is curious, and well deserves the attention of the
spectators. But yonder, quite at the end, what is that sort
of trestle work with four motley puppets upon it, and more
below? Who is that man beside the trestle, with a black
doublet and a pale face? Alas! my dear reader, it is Pierre
Gringoire and his prologue.
We have all forgotten him completely.
This is precisely what he feared.
From the moment of the cardinal's entrance, Gringoire had
never ceased to tremble for the safety of his prologue. At
first he had enjoined the actors, who had stopped in suspense,
to continue, and to raise their voices; then, perceiving that
no one was listening, he had stopped them; and, during the
entire quarter of an hour that the interruption lasted, he had
not ceased to stamp, to flounce about, to appeal to Gisquette
and Liénarde, and to urge his neighbors to the continuance
of the prologue; all in vain. No one quitted the cardinal,
the embassy, and the gallery--sole centre of this vast circle
of visual rays. We must also believe, and we say it with
regret, that the prologue had begun slightly to weary the
audience at the moment when his eminence had arrived,
and created a diversion in so terrible a fashion. After all,
on the gallery as well as on the marble table, the spectacle
was the same: the conflict of Labor and Clergy, of Nobility
and Merchandise. And many people preferred to see them
alive, breathing, moving, elbowing each other in flesh and
blood, in this Flemish embassy, in this Episcopal court,
under the cardinal's robe, under Coppenole's jerkin, than
painted, decked out, talking in verse, and, so to speak, stuffed
beneath the yellow amid white tunics in which Gringoire had
so ridiculously clothed them.
Nevertheless, when our poet beheld quiet reestablished
to some extent, he devised a stratagem which might have
"Monsieur," he said, turning towards one of his neighbors,
a fine, big man, with a patient face, "suppose we begin
"What?" said his neighbor.
"Hé! the Mystery," said Gringoire.
"As you like," returned his neighbor.
This semi-approbation sufficed for Gringoire, and, conducting
his own affairs, he began to shout, confounding himself
with the crowd as much as possible: "Begin the mystery
again! begin again!"
"The devil!" said Joannes de Molendino, "what are they
jabbering down yonder, at the end of the hall?" (for Gringoire
was making noise enough for four.) "Say, comrades,
isn't that mystery finished? They want to begin it all over
again. That's not fair!"
"No, no!" shouted all the scholars. "Down with the
mystery! Down with it!"
But Gringoire had multiplied himself, and only shouted
the more vigorously: "Begin again! begin again!"
These clamors attracted the attention of the cardinal.
"Monsieur Bailiff of the Courts," said he to a tall, black
man, placed a few paces from him, "are those knaves in a
holy-water vessel, that they make such a hellish noise?"
The bailiff of the courts was a sort of amphibious magistrate,
a sort of bat of the judicial order, related to both the
rat and the bird, the judge and the soldier.
He approached his eminence, and not without a good deal
of fear of the latter's displeasure, he awkwardly explained to
him the seeming disrespect of the audience: that noonday
had arrived before his eminence, and that the comedians had
been forced to begin without waiting for his eminence.
The cardinal burst into a laugh.
"On my faith, the rector of the university ought to have
done the same. What say you, Master Guillaume Rym?"
"Monseigneur," replied Guillaume Rym, "let us be content
with having escaped half of the comedy. There is at least
that much gained."
"Can these rascals continue their farce?" asked the bailiff.
"Continue, continue," said the cardinal, "it's all the same
to me. I'll read my breviary in the meantime."
The bailiff advanced to the edge of the estrade, and cried,
after having invoked silence by a wave of the hand,--
"Bourgeois, rustics, and citizens, in order to satisfy those
who wish the play to begin again, and those who wish it
to end, his eminence orders that it be continued."
Both parties were forced to resign themselves. But the
public and the author long cherished a grudge against the
So the personages on the stage took up their parts, and
Gringoire hoped that the rest of his work, at least, would be
listened to. This hope was speedily dispelled like his other
illusions; silence had indeed, been restored in the audience,
after a fashion; but Gringoire had not observed that at the
moment when the cardinal gave the order to continue, the
gallery was far from full, and that after the Flemish envoys
there had arrived new personages forming part of the cortege,
whose names and ranks, shouted out in the midst of his dialogue
by the intermittent cry of the usher, produced considerable
ravages in it. Let the reader imagine the effect in the
midst of a theatrical piece, of the yelping of an usher, flinging
in between two rhymes, and often in the middle of a line,
parentheses like the following,--
"Master Jacques Charmolue, procurator to the king in the
"Jehan de Harlay, equerry guardian of the office of chevalier
of the night watch of the city of Paris!"
"Messire Galiot de Genoilhac, chevalier, seigneur de Brussac,
master of the king's artillery!"
"Master Dreux-Raguier, surveyor of the woods and forests
of the king our sovereign, in the land of France, Champagne
"Messire Louis de Graville, chevalier, councillor, and
chamberlain of the king, admiral of France, keeper of the
Forest of Vincennes!"
"Master Denis le Mercier, guardian of the house of the
blind at Paris!" etc., etc., etc.
This was becoming unbearable.
This strange accompaniment, which rendered it difficult to
follow the piece, made Gringoire all the more indignant because
he could not conceal from himself the fact that the interest
was continually increasing, and that all his work required
was a chance of being heard.
It was, in fact, difficult to imagine a more ingenious and
more dramatic composition. The four personages of the
prologue were bewailing themselves in their mortal embarrassment,
when Venus in person, (~vera incessa patuit dea~) presented
herself to them, clad in a fine robe bearing the heraldic
device of the ship of the city of Paris. She had come herself
to claim the dolphin promised to the most beautiful. Jupiter,
whose thunder could be heard rumbling in the dressing-room,
supported her claim, and Venus was on the point of carrying
it off,--that is to say, without allegory, of marrying monsieur
the dauphin, when a young child clad in white damask, and
holding in her hand a daisy (a transparent personification of
Mademoiselle Marguerite of Flanders) came to contest it with
Theatrical effect and change.
After a dispute, Venus, Marguerite, and the assistants
agreed to submit to the good judgment of time holy Virgin.
There was another good part, that of the king of Mesopotamia;
but through so many interruptions, it was difficult to
make out what end he served. All these persons had ascended
by the ladder to the stage.
But all was over; none of these beauties had been felt nor
understood. On the entrance of the cardinal, one would have
said that an invisible magic thread had suddenly drawn all
glances from the marble table to the gallery, from the southern
to the western extremity of the hall. Nothing could disenchant
the audience; all eyes remained fixed there, and the
new-comers and their accursed names, and their faces, and their
costumes, afforded a continual diversion. This was very
distressing. With the exception of Gisquette and Liénarde, who
turned round from time to time when Gringoire plucked them
by the sleeve; with the exception of the big, patient neighbor,
no one listened, no one looked at the poor, deserted morality
full face. Gringoire saw only profiles.
With what bitterness did he behold his whole erection of
glory and of poetry crumble away bit by bit! And to think
that these people had been upon the point of instituting a
revolt against the bailiff through impatience to hear his work!
now that they had it they did not care for it. This same
representation which had been begun amid so unanimous an
acclamation! Eternal flood and ebb of popular favor! To
think that they had been on the point of hanging the bailiff's
sergeant! What would he not have given to be still at that
hour of honey!
But the usher's brutal monologue came to an end; every
one had arrived, and Gringoire breathed freely once more;
the actors continued bravely. But Master Coppenole, the
hosier, must needs rise of a sudden, and Gringoire was forced
to listen to him deliver, amid universal attention, the
following abominable harangue.
"Messieurs the bourgeois and squires of Paris, I don't
know, cross of God! what we are doing here. I certainly do
see yonder in the corner on that stage, some people who appear
to be fighting. I don't know whether that is what you
call a "mystery," but it is not amusing; they quarrel with their
tongues and nothing more. I have been waiting for the first
blow this quarter of an hour; nothing comes; they are cowards
who only scratch each other with insults. You ought to
send for the fighters of London or Rotterdam; and, I can tell
you! you would have had blows of the fist that could be
heard in the Place; but these men excite our pity. They
ought at least, to give us a moorish dance, or some other
mummer! That is not what was told me; I was promised a feast
of fools, with the election of a pope. We have our pope of
fools at Ghent also; we're not behindhand in that, cross of
God! But this is the way we manage it; we collect a crowd
like this one here, then each person in turn passes his head
through a hole, and makes a grimace at the rest; time one who
makes the ugliest, is elected pope by general acclamation;
that's the way it is. It is very diverting. Would you like to
make your pope after the fashion of my country? At all
events, it will be less wearisome than to listen to chatterers.
If they wish to come and make their grimaces through the
hole, they can join the game. What say you, Messieurs les
bourgeois? You have here enough grotesque specimens of
both sexes, to allow of laughing in Flemish fashion, and there
are enough of us ugly in countenance to hope for a fine grinning
Gringoire would have liked to retort; stupefaction, rage,
indignation, deprived him of words. Moreover, the suggestion
of the popular hosier was received with such enthusiasm
by these bourgeois who were flattered at being called
"squires," that all resistance was useless. There was nothing
to be done but to allow one's self to drift with the torrent.
Gringoire hid his face between his two hands, not being so
fortunate as to have a mantle with which to veil his head,
like Agamemnon of Timantis.
In the twinkling of an eye, all was ready to execute Coppenole's
idea. Bourgeois, scholars and law clerks all set to
work. The little chapel situated opposite the marble table
was selected for the scene of the grinning match. A pane
broken in the pretty rose window above the door, left free a
circle of stone through which it was agreed that the competitors
should thrust their heads. In order to reach it, it was
only necessary to mount upon a couple of hogsheads, which
had been produced from I know not where, and perched one
upon the other, after a fashion. It was settled that each
candidate, man or woman (for it was possible to choose a female
pope), should, for the sake of leaving the impression of his
grimace fresh and complete, cover his face and remain concealed
in the chapel until the moment of his appearance. In less than
an instant, the chapel was crowded with competitors, upon whom
the door was then closed.
Coppenole, from his post, ordered all, directed all, arranged
all. During the uproar, the cardinal, no less abashed than
Gringoire, had retired with all his suite, under the pretext of
business and vespers, without the crowd which his arrival had
so deeply stirred being in the least moved by his departure.
Guillaume Rym was the only one who noticed his eminence's
discomfiture. The attention of the populace, like the sun,
pursued its revolution; having set out from one end of the
hall, and halted for a space in the middle, it had now reached
the other end. The marble table, the brocaded gallery had each
had their day; it was now the turn of the chapel of Louis XI.
Henceforth, the field was open to all folly. There was no one
there now, but the Flemings and the rabble.
The grimaces began. The first face which appeared at the
aperture, with eyelids turned up to the reds, a mouth open
like a maw, and a brow wrinkled like our hussar boots of the
Empire, evoked such an inextinguishable peal of laughter
that Homer would have taken all these louts for gods.
Nevertheless, the grand hall was anything but Olympus, and
Gringoire's poor Jupiter knew it better than any one else. A
second and third grimace followed, then another and another;
and the laughter and transports of delight went on increasing.
There was in this spectacle, a peculiar power of intoxication
and fascination, of which it would be difficult to convey to the
reader of our day and our salons any idea.
Let the reader picture to himself a series of visages presenting
successively all geometrical forms, from the triangle
to the trapezium, from the cone to the polyhedron; all human
expressions, from wrath to lewdness; all ages, from the
wrinkles of the new-born babe to the wrinkles of the aged
and dying; all religious phantasmagories, from Faun to Beelzebub;
all animal profiles, from the maw to the beak, from
the jowl to the muzzle. Let the reader imagine all these
grotesque figures of the Pont Neuf, those nightmares petrified
beneath the hand of Germain Pilon, assuming life and breath,
and coming in turn to stare you in the face with burning
eyes; all the masks of the Carnival of Venice passing in succession
before your glass,--in a word, a human kaleidoscope.
The orgy grew more and more Flemish. Teniers could have
given but a very imperfect idea of it. Let the reader picture
to himself in bacchanal form, Salvator Rosa's battle. There
were no longer either scholars or ambassadors or bourgeois or
men or women; there was no longer any Clopin Trouillefou,
nor Gilles Lecornu, nor Marie Quatrelivres, nor Robin Poussepain.
All was universal license. The grand hall was no
longer anything but a vast furnace of effrontry and joviality,
where every mouth was a cry, every individual a posture;
everything shouted and howled. The strange visages which
came, in turn, to gnash their teeth in the rose window, were
like so many brands cast into the brazier; and from the whole
of this effervescing crowd, there escaped, as from a furnace,
a sharp, piercing, stinging noise, hissing like the wings of a
"Ho hé! curse it!"
"Just look at that face!"
"It's not good for anything."
"Guillemette Maugerepuis, just look at that bull's muzzle;
it only lacks the horns. It can't be your husband."
"Belly of the pope! what sort of a grimace is that?"
"Hola hé! that's cheating. One must show only one's face."
"That damned Perrette Callebotte! she's capable of that!"
"There's a fellow whose ears won't go through!" Etc., etc.
But we must do justice to our friend Jehan. In the midst
of this witches' sabbath, he was still to be seen on the top of
his pillar, like the cabin-boy on the topmast. He floundered
about with incredible fury. His mouth was wide open, and
from it there escaped a cry which no one heard, not that it
was covered by the general clamor, great as that was but
because it attained, no doubt, the limit of perceptible sharp
sounds, the thousand vibrations of Sauveur, or the eight
thousand of Biot.
As for Gringoire, the first moment of depression having
passed, he had regained his composure. He had hardened
himself against adversity.---"Continue!" he had said for the
third time, to his comedians, speaking machines; then as he
was marching with great strides in front of the marble table,
a fancy seized him to go and appear in his turn at the aperture
of the chapel, were it only for the pleasure of making a
grimace at that ungrateful populace.--"But no, that would
not be worthy of us; no, vengeance! let us combat until the
end," he repeated to himself; "the power of poetry over
people is great; I will bring them back. We shall see which
will carry the day, grimaces or polite literature."
Alas! he had been left the sole spectator of his piece.
It was far worse than it had been a little while before. He
no longer beheld anything but backs.
I am mistaken. The big, patient man, whom he had already
consulted in a critical moment, had remained with his face
turned towards the stage. As for Gisquette and Liénarde,
they had deserted him long ago.
Gringoire was touched to the heart by the fidelity of his
only spectator. He approached him and addressed him, shaking
his arm slightly; for the good man was leaning on the
balustrade and dozing a little.
"Monsieur," said Gringoire, "I thank you!"
"Monsieur," replied the big man with a yawn, "for what?"
"I see what wearies you," resumed the poet; "'tis all this
noise which prevents your hearing comfortably. But be at
ease! your name shall descend to posterity! Your name,
if you please?"
"Renauld Chateau, guardian of the seals of the Châtelet of
Paris, at your service."
"Monsieur, you are the only representive of the muses
here," said Gringoire.
"You are too kind, sir," said the guardian of the seals at
"You are the only one," resumed Gringoire, "who has listened
to the piece decorously. What do you think of it?"
"He! he!" replied the fat magistrate, half aroused, "it's
tolerably jolly, that's a fact."
Gringoire was forced to content himself with this eulogy;
for a thunder of applause, mingled with a prodigious acclamation,
cut their conversation short. The Pope of the Fools had
"Noel! Noel! Noel!"* shouted the people on all sides.
That was, in fact, a marvellous grimace which was beaming
at that moment through the aperture in the rose window.
After all the pentagonal, hexagonal, and whimsical faces, which
had succeeded each other at that hole without realizing the
ideal of the grotesque which their imaginations, excited by
the orgy, had constructed, nothing less was needed to win their
suffrages than the sublime grimace which had just dazzled the
assembly. Master Coppenole himself applauded, and Clopin
Trouillefou, who had been among the competitors (and God
knows what intensity of ugliness his visage could attain),
confessed himself conquered: We will do the same. We
shall not try to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedral
nose, that horseshoe mouth; that little left eye obstructed
with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow, while the right eye disappeared
entirely beneath an enormous wart; of those teeth
in disarray, broken here and there, like the embattled parapet
of a fortress; of that callous lip, upon which one of these
teeth encroached, like the tusk of an elephant; of that forked
chin; and above all, of the expression spread over the whole;
of that mixture of malice, amazement, and sadness. Let the
reader dream of this whole, if he can.
* The ancient French hurrah.
The acclamation was unanimous; people rushed towards
the chapel. They made the lucky Pope of the Fools come
forth in triumph. But it was then that surprise and admiration
attained their highest pitch; the grimace was his face.
Or rather, his whole person was a grimace. A huge head,
bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous
hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs
and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other
only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the
crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous
hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable
and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,--strange
exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as
beauty shall be the result of harmony. Such was the pope
whom the fools had just chosen for themselves.
One would have pronounced him a giant who had been
broken and badly put together again.
When this species of cyclops appeared on the threshold of
the chapel, motionless, squat, and almost as broad as he was
tall; squared on the base, as a great man says; with his doublet
half red, half violet, sown with silver bells, and, above all,
in the perfection of his ugliness, the populace recognized him
on the instant, and shouted with one voice,--
"'Tis Quasimodo, the bellringer! 'tis Quasimodo, the hunchback
of Notre-Dame! Quasimodo, the one-eyed! Quasimodo, the
bandy-legged! Noel! Noel!"
It will be seen that the poor fellow had a choice of surnames.
"Let the women with child beware!" shouted the scholars.
"Or those who wish to be," resumed Joannes.
The women did, in fact, hide their faces.
"Oh! the horrible monkey!" said one of them.
"As wicked as he is ugly," retorted another.
"He's the devil," added a third.
"I have the misfortune to live near Notre-Dame; I hear
him prowling round the eaves by night."
"With the cats."
"He's always on our roofs."
"He throws spells down our chimneys."
"The other evening, he came and made a grimace at me
through my attic window. I thought that it was a man.
Such a fright as I had!"
"I'm sure that he goes to the witches' sabbath. Once he
left a broom on my leads."
"Oh! what a displeasing hunchback's face!"
"Oh! what an ill-favored soul!"
The men, on the contrary, were delighted and applauded.
Quasimodo, the object of the tumult, still stood on the
threshold of the chapel, sombre and grave, and allowed them
to admire him.
One scholar (Robin Poussepain, I think), came and laughed
in his face, and too close. Quasimodo contented himself with
taking him by the girdle, and hurling him ten paces off amid
the crowd; all without uttering a word.
Master Coppenole, in amazement, approached him.
"Cross of God! Holy Father! you possess the handsomest
ugliness that I have ever beheld in my life. You would
deserve to be pope at Rome, as well as at Paris."
So saying, he placed his hand gayly on his shoulder. Quasimodo
did not stir. Coppenole went on,--
"You are a rogue with whom I have a fancy for carousing,
were it to cost me a new dozen of twelve livres of Tours.
How does it strike you?"
Quasimodo made no reply.
"Cross of God!" said the hosier, "are you deaf?"
He was, in truth, deaf.
Nevertheless, he began to grow impatient with Coppenole's
behavior, and suddenly turned towards him with so formidable
a gnashing of teeth, that the Flemish giant recoiled, like
a bull-dog before a cat.
Then there was created around that strange personage, a
circle of terror and respect, whose radius was at least fifteen
geometrical feet. An old woman explained to Coppenole that
Quasimodo was deaf.
"Deaf!" said the hosier, with his great Flemish laugh.
"Cross of God! He's a perfect pope!"
"He! I recognize him," exclaimed Jehan, who had, at
last, descended from his capital, in order to see Quasimodo at
closer quarters, "he's the bellringer of my brother, the archdeacon.
"What a devil of a man!" said Robin Poussepain still all
bruised with his fall. "He shows himself; he's a hunchback.
He walks; he's bandy-legged. He looks at you; he's one-eyed.
You speak to him; he's deaf. And what does this Polyphemus do
with his tongue?"
"He speaks when he chooses," said the old woman; "he became
deaf through ringing the bells. He is not dumb."
"That he lacks," remarks Jehan.
"And he has one eye too many," added Robin Poussepain.
"Not at all," said Jehan wisely. "A one-eyed man is far
less complete than a blind man. He knows what he lacks."
In the meantime, all the beggars, all the lackeys, all the cutpurses,
joined with the scholars, had gone in procession to
seek, in the cupboard of the law clerks' company, the cardboard
tiara, and the derisive robe of the Pope of the Fools. Quasimodo
allowed them to array him in them without wincing, and
with a sort of proud docility. Then they made him seat
himself on a motley litter. Twelve officers of the fraternity
of fools raised him on their shoulders; and a sort of bitter
and disdainful joy lighted up the morose face of the cyclops,
when he beheld beneath his deformed feet all those heads of
handsome, straight, well-made men. Then the ragged and
howling procession set out on its march, according to custom,
around the inner galleries of the Courts, before making the
circuit of the streets and squares.
We are delighted to be able to inform the reader, that during
the whole of this scene, Gringoire and his piece had stood
firm. His actors, spurred on by him, had not ceased to spout
his comedy, and he had not ceased to listen to it. He had
made up his mind about the tumult, and was determined to
proceed to the end, not giving up the hope of a return of
attention on the part of the public. This gleam of hope acquired
fresh life, when he saw Quasimodo, Coppenole, and the
deafening escort of the pope of the procession of fools quit
the hall amid great uproar. The throng rushed eagerly after
them. "Good," he said to himself, "there go all the mischief-
makers." Unfortunately, all the mischief-makers constituted
the entire audience. In the twinkling of an eye, the grand
hall was empty.
To tell the truth, a few spectators still remained, some scattered,
others in groups around the pillars, women, old men, or
children, who had had enough of the uproar and tumult. Some
scholars were still perched astride of the window-sills, engaged
in gazing into the Place.
"Well," thought Gringoire, "here are still as many as are
required to hear the end of my mystery. They are few in
number, but it is a choice audience, a lettered audience."
An instant later, a symphony which had been intended to
produce the greatest effect on the arrival of the Virgin, was
lacking. Gringoire perceived that his music had been carried
off by the procession of the Pope of the Fools. "Skip it," said
He approached a group of bourgeois, who seemed to him to
be discussing his piece. This is the fragment of conversation
which he caught,--
"You know, Master Cheneteau, the Hôtel de Navarre, which
belonged to Monsieur de Nemours?"
"Yes, opposite the Chapelle de Braque."
"Well, the treasury has just let it to Guillaume Alixandre,
historian, for six hivres, eight sols, parisian, a year."
"How rents are going up!"
"Come," said Gringoire to himself, with a sigh, "the others
"Comrades," suddenly shouted one of the young scamps
from the window, "La Esmeralda! La Esmeralda in the
This word produced a magical effect. Every one who was
left in the hall flew to the windows, climbing the walls in
order to see, and repeating, "La Esmeralda! La Esmeralda?"
At the same time, a great sound of applause was heard from
"What's the meaning of this, of the Esmeralda?" said
Gringoire, wringing his hands in despair. "Ah, good heavens!
it seems to be the turn of the windows now."
He returned towards the marble table, and saw that the
representation had been interrupted. It was precisely at
the instant when Jupiter should have appeared with his
thunder. But Jupiter was standing motionless at the foot of
"Michel Giborne!" cried the irritated poet, "what are you
doing there? Is that your part? Come up!"
"Alas!" said Jupiter, "a scholar has just seized the ladder."
Gringoire looked. It was but too true. All communication
between his plot and its solution was intercepted.
"The rascal," he murmured. "And why did he take that ladder?"
"In order to go and see the Esmeralda," replied Jupiter
piteously. "He said, 'Come, here's a ladder that's of no
use!' and he took it."
This was the last blow. Gringoire received it with resignation.
"May the devil fly away with you!" he said to the comedian,
"and if I get my pay, you shall receive yours."
Then he beat a retreat, with drooping head, but the last
in the field, like a general who has fought well.
And as he descended the winding stairs of the courts: "A
fine rabble of asses and dolts these Parisians!" he muttered
between his teeth; "they come to hear a mystery and don't
listen to it at all! They are engrossed by every one, by
Chopin Trouillefou, by the cardinal, by Coppenole, by Quasimodo,
by the devil! but by Madame the Virgin Mary, not at
all. If I had known, I'd have given you Virgin Mary; you
ninnies! And I! to come to see faces and behold only backs!
to be a poet, and to reap the success of an apothecary! It is
true that Homerus begged through the Greek towns, and that
Naso died in exile among the Muscovites. But may the devil
flay me if I understand what they mean with their Esmeralda!
What is that word, in the first place?--'tis Egyptian!"
FROM CHARYBDIS TO SCYLLA.
Night comes on early in January. The streets were already
dark when Gringoire issued forth from the Courts. This
gloom pleased him; he was in haste to reach some obscure
and deserted alley, in order there to meditate at his ease, and
in order that the philosopher might place the first dressing
upon the wound of the poet. Philosophy, moreover, was his
sole refuge, for he did not know where he was to lodge for the
night. After the brilliant failure of his first theatrical
venture, he dared not return to the lodging which he occupied in
the Rue Grenier-sur-l'Eau, opposite to the Port-au-Foin, having
depended upon receiving from monsieur the provost for
his epithalamium, the wherewithal to pay Master Guillaume
Doulx-Sire, farmer of the taxes on cloven-footed animals in
Paris, the rent which he owed him, that is to say, twelve sols
parisian; twelve times the value of all that he possessed in
the world, including his trunk-hose, his shirt, and his cap.
After reflecting a moment, temporarily sheltered beneath the
little wicket of the prison of the treasurer of the Sainte-
Chappelle, as to the shelter which he would select for the
night, having all the pavements of Paris to choose from, he
remembered to have noticed the week previously in the Rue
de la Savaterie, at the door of a councillor of the parliament,
a stepping stone for mounting a mule, and to have said to
himself that that stone would furnish, on occasion, a very
excellent pillow for a mendicant or a poet. He thanked
Providence for having sent this happy idea to him; but, as he
was preparing to cross the Place, in order to reach the tortuous
labyrinth of the city, where meander all those old sister
streets, the Rues de la Barillerie, de la Vielle-Draperie, de la
Savaterie, de la Juiverie, etc., still extant to-day, with their
nine-story houses, he saw the procession of the Pope of the
Fools, which was also emerging from the court house, and
rushing across the courtyard, with great cries, a great flashing
of torches, and the music which belonged to him, Gringoire.
This sight revived the pain of his self-love; he fled. In the
bitterness of his dramatic misadventure, everything which
reminded him of the festival of that day irritated his wound
and made it bleed.
He was on the point of turning to the Pont Saint-Michel;
children were running about here and there with fire lances
"Pest on firework candles!" said Gringoire; and he fell
back on the Pont au Change. To the house at the head of the
bridge there had been affixed three small banners, representing
the king, the dauphin, and Marguerite of Flanders, and
six little pennons on which were portrayed the Duke of Austria,
the Cardinal de Bourbon, M. de Beaujeu, and Madame
Jeanne de France, and Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon, and
I know not whom else; all being illuminated with torches.
The rabble were admiring.
"Happy painter, Jehan Fourbault!" said Gringoire with a
deep sigh; and he turned his back upon the bannerets and
pennons. A street opened before him; he thought it so dark
and deserted that he hoped to there escape from all the rumors
as well as from all the gleams of the festival. At the end of
a few moments his foot came in contact with an obstacle; he
stumbled and fell. It was the May truss, which the clerks of
the clerks' law court had deposited that morning at the door
of a president of the parliament, in honor of the solemnity of
the day. Gringoire bore this new disaster heroically; he
picked himself up, and reached the water's edge. After leaving
behind him the civic Tournelle* and the criminal tower,
and skirted the great walls of the king's garden, on that
unpaved strand where the mud reached to his ankles, he
reached the western point of the city, and considered for some
time the islet of the Passeur-aux-Vaches, which has disappeared
beneath the bronze horse of the Pont Neuf. The islet
appeared to him in the shadow like a black mass, beyond the
narrow strip of whitish water which separated him from it.
One could divine by the ray of a tiny light the sort of hut in
the form of a beehive where the ferryman of cows took refuge
* A chamber of the ancient parliament of Paris.
"Happy ferryman!" thought Gringoire; "you do not
dream of glory, and you do not make marriage songs! What
matters it to you, if kings and Duchesses of Burgundy marry?
You know no other daisies (~marguerites~) than those which
your April greensward gives your cows to browse upon; while
I, a poet, am hooted, and shiver, and owe twelve sous, and
the soles of my shoes are so transparent, that they might
serve as glasses for your lantern! Thanks, ferryman, your
cabin rests my eyes, and makes me forget Paris!"
He was roused from his almost lyric ecstacy, by a big
double Saint-Jean cracker, which suddenly went off from the
happy cabin. It was the cow ferryman, who was taking his
part in the rejoicings of the day, and letting off fireworks.
This cracker made Gringoire's skin bristle up all over.
"Accursed festival!" he exclaimed, "wilt thou pursue me
everywhere? Oh! good God! even to the ferryman's!"
Then he looked at the Seine at his feet, and a horrible
temptation took possession of him:
"Oh!" said he, "I would gladly drown myself, were the
water not so cold!"
Then a desperate resolution occurred to him. It was, since
he could not escape from the Pope of the Fools, from Jehan
Fourbault's bannerets, from May trusses, from squibs and
crackers, to go to the Place de Grève.
"At least," he said to himself, "I shall there have a firebrand
of joy wherewith to warm myself, and I can sup on
some crumbs of the three great armorial bearings of royal
sugar which have been erected on the public refreshment-stall
of the city.
THE PLACE DE GREVE.
There remains to-day but a very imperceptible vestige of
the Place de Grève, such as it existed then; it consists in the
charming little turret, which occupies the angle north of the
Place, and which, already enshrouded in the ignoble plaster
which fills with paste the delicate lines of its sculpture, would
soon have disappeared, perhaps submerged by that flood of
new houses which so rapidly devours all the ancient façades
The persons who, like ourselves, never cross the Place de
Grève without casting a glance of pity and sympathy on that
poor turret strangled between two hovels of the time of Louis
XV., can easily reconstruct in their minds the aggregate of
edifices to which it belonged, and find again entire in it
the ancient Gothic place of the fifteenth century.
It was then, as it is to-day, an irregular trapezoid, bordered
on one side by the quay, and on the other three by a series of
lofty, narrow, and gloomy houses. By day, one could admire
the variety of its edifices, all sculptured in stone or wood, and
already presenting complete specimens of the different domestic
architectures of the Middle Ages, running back from
the fifteenth to the eleventh century, from the casement
which had begun to dethrone the arch, to the Roman semicircle,
which had been supplanted by the ogive, and which
still occupies, below it, the first story of that ancient house de
la Tour Roland, at the corner of the Place upon the Seine, on
the side of the street with the Tannerie. At night, one could
distinguish nothing of all that mass of buildings, except the
black indentation of the roofs, unrolling their chain of acute
angles round the place; for one of the radical differences
between the cities of that time, and the cities of the present
day, lay in the façades which looked upon the places and
streets, and which were then gables. For the last two centuries
the houses have been turned round.
In the centre of the eastern side of the Place, rose a heavy
and hybrid construction, formed of three buildings placed in
juxtaposition. It was called by three names which explain
its history, its destination, and its architecture: "The House
of the Dauphin," because Charles V., when Dauphin, had
inhabited it; "The Marchandise," because it had served as
town hall; and "The Pillared House" (~domus ad piloria~), because
of a series of large pillars which sustained the three
stories. The city found there all that is required for a city
like Paris; a chapel in which to pray to God; a ~plaidoyer~, or
pleading room, in which to hold hearings, and to repel, at
need, the King's people; and under the roof, an ~arsenac~ full
of artillery. For the bourgeois of Paris were aware that it is
not sufficient to pray in every conjuncture, and to plead for the
franchises of the city, and they had always in reserve, in the
garret of the town hall, a few good rusty arquebuses. The
Grève had then that sinister aspect which it preserves to-day
from the execrable ideas which it awakens, and from the
sombre town hall of Dominique Bocador, which has replaced
the Pillared House. It must be admitted that a permanent
gibbet and a pillory, "a justice and a ladder," as they were
called in that day, erected side by side in the centre of the
pavement, contributed not a little to cause eyes to be turned
away from that fatal place, where so many beings full of life
and health have agonized; where, fifty years later, that fever
of Saint Vallier was destined to have its birth, that terror of
the scaffold, the most monstrous of all maladies because it
comes not from God, but from man.
It is a consoling idea (let us remark in passing), to think
that the death penalty, which three hundred years ago still
encumbered with its iron wheels, its stone gibbets, and all its
paraphernalia of torture, permanent and riveted to the pavement,
the Grève, the Halles, the Place Dauphine, the Cross
du Trahoir, the Marché aux Pourceaux, that hideous Montfauçon,
the barrier des Sergents, the Place aux Chats, the
Porte Saint-Denis, Champeaux, the Porte Baudets, the Porte
Saint Jacques, without reckoning the innumerable ladders of
the provosts, the bishop of the chapters, of the abbots, of the
priors, who had the decree of life and death,--without reckoning
the judicial drownings in the river Seine; it is consoling
to-day, after having lost successively all the pieces of its
armor, its luxury of torment, its penalty of imagination and
fancy, its torture for which it reconstructed every five years
a leather bed at the Grand Châtelet, that ancient suzerain of
feudal society almost expunged from our laws and our cities,
hunted from code to code, chased from place to place, has no
longer, in our immense Paris, any more than a dishonored
corner of the Grève,--than a miserable guillotine, furtive,
uneasy, shameful, which seems always afraid of being caught
in the act, so quickly does it disappear after having dealt its
KISSES FOR BLOWS.
When Pierre Gringoire arrived on the Place de Grève, he
was paralyzed. He had directed his course across the Pont
aux Meuniers, in order to avoid the rabble on the Pont au
Change, and the pennons of Jehan Fourbault; but the wheels
of all the bishop's mills had splashed him as he passed, and
his doublet was drenched; it seemed to him besides, that the
failure of his piece had rendered him still more sensible to
cold than usual. Hence he made haste to draw near the bonfire,
which was burning magnificently in the middle of the
Place. But a considerable crowd formed a circle around it.
"Accursed Parisians!" he said to himself (for Gringoire,
like a true dramatic poet, was subject to monologues) "there
they are obstructing my fire! Nevertheless, I am greatly in
need of a chimney corner; my shoes drink in the water, and
all those cursed mills wept upon me! That devil of a Bishop
of Paris, with his mills! I'd just like to know what use a
bishop can make of a mill! Does he expect to become a
miller instead of a bishop? If only my malediction is needed
for that, I bestow it upon him! and his cathedral, and his
mills! Just see if those boobies will put themselves out!
Move aside! I'd like to know what they are doing there!
They are warming themselves, much pleasure may it give
them! They are watching a hundred fagots burn; a fine
On looking more closely, he perceived that the circle was
much larger than was required simply for the purpose of
getting warm at the king's fire, and that this concourse of
people had not been attracted solely by the beauty of the
hundred fagots which were burning.
In a vast space left free between the crowd and the fire, a
young girl was dancing.
Whether this young girl was a human being, a fairy, or an
angel, is what Gringoire, sceptical philosopher and ironical
poet that he was, could not decide at the first moment, so
fascinated was he by this dazzling vision.
She was not tall, though she seemed so, so boldly did her
slender form dart about. She was swarthy of complexion,
but one divined that, by day, her skin must possess that
beautiful golden tone of the Andalusians and the Roman
women. Her little foot, too, was Andalusian, for it was both
pinched and at ease in its graceful shoe. She danced, she
turned, she whirled rapidly about on an old Persian rug,
spread negligently under her feet; and each time that her
radiant face passed before you, as she whirled, her great black
eyes darted a flash of lightning at you.
All around her, all glances were riveted, all mouths open;
and, in fact, when she danced thus, to the humming of the
Basque tambourine, which her two pure, rounded arms raised
above her head, slender, frail and vivacious as a wasp, with
her corsage of gold without a fold, her variegated gown puffing
out, her bare shoulders, her delicate limbs, which her
petticoat revealed at times, her black hair, her eyes of flame,
she was a supernatural creature.
"In truth," said Gringoire to himself, "she is a salamander,
she is a nymph, she is a goddess, she is a bacchante of the
At that moment, one of the salamander's braids of hair
became unfastened, and a piece of yellow copper which was
attached to it, rolled to the ground.
"Hé, no!" said he, "she is a gypsy!"
All illusions had disappeared.
She began her dance once more; she took from the ground
two swords, whose points she rested against her brow, and
which she made to turn in one direction, while she turned in
the other; it was a purely gypsy effect. But, disenchanted
though Gringoire was, the whole effect of this picture was not
without its charm and its magic; the bonfire illuminated,
with a red flaring light, which trembled, all alive, over the
circle of faces in the crowd, on the brow of the young girl,
and at the background of the Place cast a pallid reflection,
on one side upon the ancient, black, and wrinkled façade of
the House of Pillars, on the other, upon the old stone
Among the thousands of visages which that light tinged
with scarlet, there was one which seemed, even more than all
the others, absorbed in contemplation of the dancer. It was
the face of a man, austere, calm, and sombre. This man,
whose costume was concealed by the crowd which surrounded
him, did not appear to be more than five and thirty years of
age; nevertheless, he was bald; he had merely a few tufts of
thin, gray hair on his temples; his broad, high forehead had
begun to be furrowed with wrinkles, but his deep-set eyes
sparkled with extraordinary youthfulness, an ardent life, a
profound passion. He kept them fixed incessantly on the
gypsy, and, while the giddy young girl of sixteen danced and
whirled, for the pleasure of all, his revery seemed to become
more and more sombre. From time to time, a smile and a
sigh met upon his lips, but the smile was more melancholy
than the sigh.
The young girl, stopped at length, breathless, and the people
applauded her lovingly.
"Djali!" said the gypsy.
Then Gringoire saw come up to her, a pretty little white
goat, alert, wide-awake, glossy, with gilded horns, gilded
hoofs, and gilded collar, which he had not hitherto perceived,
and which had remained lying curled up on one corner of the
carpet watching his mistress dance.
"Djali!" said the dancer, "it is your turn."
And, seating herself, she gracefully presented her tambourine
to the goat.
"Djali," she continued, "what month is this?"
The goat lifted its fore foot, and struck one blow upon
the tambourine. It was the first month in the year, in
"Djali," pursued the young girl, turning her tambourine
round, "what day of the month is this?"
Djali raised his little gilt hoof, and struck six blows on the
"Djali," pursued the Egyptian, with still another movement
of the tambourine, "what hour of the day is it?"
Djali struck seven blows. At that moment, the clock of
the Pillar House rang out seven.
The people were amazed.
"There's sorcery at the bottom of it," said a sinister voice
in the crowd. It was that of the bald man, who never removed
his eyes from the gypsy.
She shuddered and turned round; but applause broke forth
and drowned the morose exclamation.
It even effaced it so completely from her mind, that she
continued to question her goat.
"Djali, what does Master Guichard Grand-Remy, captain of
the pistoliers of the town do, at the procession of Candlemas?"
Djali reared himself on his hind legs, and began to bleat,
marching along with so much dainty gravity, that the entire
circle of spectators burst into a laugh at this parody of the
interested devoutness of the captain of pistoliers.
"Djali," resumed the young girl, emboldened by her growing
success, "how preaches Master Jacques Charmolue, procurator
to the king in the ecclesiastical court?"
The goat seated himself on his hind quarters, and began
to bleat, waving his fore feet in so strange a manner, that,
with the exception of the bad French, and worse Latin,
Jacques Charmolue was there complete,--gesture, accent, and
And the crowd applauded louder than ever.
"Sacrilege! profanation!" resumed the voice of the bald man.
The gypsy turned round once more.
"Ah!" said she, "'tis that villanous man!" Then, thrusting
her under lip out beyond the upper, she made a little
pout, which appeared to be familiar to her, executed a pirouette
on her heel, and set about collecting in her tambourine the
gifts of the multitude.
Big blanks, little blanks, targes* and eagle liards showered
* A blank: an old French coin; six blanks were worth two sous
and a half; targe, an ancient coin of Burgundy, a farthing.
All at once, she passed in front of Gringoire. Gringoire
put his hand so recklessly into his pocket that she halted.
"The devil!" said the poet, finding at the bottom of his
pocket the reality, that is, to say, a void. In the meantime,
the pretty girl stood there, gazing at him with her big eyes,
and holding out her tambourine to him and waiting. Gringoire
broke into a violent perspiration.
If he had all Peru in his pocket, he would certainly have
given it to the dancer; but Gringoire had not Peru, and,
moreover, America had not yet been discovered.
Happily, an unexpected incident came to his rescue.
"Will you take yourself off, you Egyptian grasshopper?"
cried a sharp voice, which proceeded from the darkest corner
of the Place.
The young girl turned round in affright. It was no longer
the voice of the bald man; it was the voice of a woman,
bigoted and malicious.
However, this cry, which alarmed the gypsy, delighted a
troop of children who were prowling about there.
"It is the recluse of the Tour-Roland," they exclaimed,
with wild laughter, "it is the sacked nun who is scolding!
Hasn't she supped? Let's carry her the remains of the city
All rushed towards the Pillar House.
In the meanwhile, Gringoire had taken advantage of the
dancer's embarrassment, to disappear. The children's shouts
had reminded him that he, also, had not supped, so he ran to
the public buffet. But the little rascals had better legs than
he; when he arrived, they had stripped the table. There
remained not so much as a miserable ~camichon~ at five sous
the pound. Nothing remained upon the wall but slender
fleurs-de-lis, mingled with rose bushes, painted in 1434 by
Mathieu Biterne. It was a meagre supper.
It is an unpleasant thing to go to bed without supper, it is
a still less pleasant thing not to sup and not to know where
one is to sleep. That was Gringoire's condition. No supper,
no shelter; he saw himself pressed on all sides by necessity,
and he found necessity very crabbed. He had long ago discovered
the truth, that Jupiter created men during a fit of
misanthropy, and that during a wise man's whole life, his
destiny holds his philosophy in a state of siege. As for
himself, he had never seen the blockade so complete; he heard
his stomach sounding a parley, and he considered it very much
out of place that evil destiny should capture his philosophy
This melancholy revery was absorbing him more and more,
when a song, quaint but full of sweetness, suddenly tore him
from it. It was the young gypsy who was singing.
Her voice was like her dancing, like her beauty. It was
indefinable and charming; something pure and sonorous,
aerial, winged, so to speak. There were continual outbursts,
melodies, unexpected cadences, then simple phrases strewn
with aerial and hissing notes; then floods of scales which
would have put a nightingale to rout, but in which harmony
was always present; then soft modulations of octaves which
rose and fell, like the bosom of the young singer. Her beautiful
face followed, with singular mobility, all the caprices of
her song, from the wildest inspiration to the chastest dignity.
One would have pronounced her now a mad creature, now a
The words which she sang were in a tongue unknown to
Gringoire, and which seemed to him to be unknown to herself,
so little relation did the expression which she imparted to her
song bear to the sense of the words. Thus, these four lines,
in her mouth, were madly gay,--
~Un cofre de gran riqueza
Hallaron dentro un pilar,
Dentro del, nuevas banderas
Con figuras de espantar~.*
* A coffer of great richness
In a pillar's heart they found,
Within it lay new banners,
With figures to astound.
And an instant afterwards, at the accents which she imparted
to this stanza,--
~Alarabes de cavallo
Sin poderse menear,
Con espadas, y los cuellos,
Ballestas de buen echar~,
Gringoire felt the tears start to his eyes. Nevertheless, her
song breathed joy, most of all, and she seemed to sing like a
bird, from serenity and heedlessness.
The gypsy's song had disturbed Gringoire's revery as the
swan disturbs the water. He listened in a sort of rapture,
and forgetfulness of everything. It was the first moment in
the course of many hours when he did not feel that he suffered.
The moment was brief.
The same woman's voice, which had interrupted the gypsy's
dance, interrupted her song.
"Will you hold your tongue, you cricket of hell?" it cried,
still from the same obscure corner of the place.
The poor "cricket" stopped short. Gringoire covered up his ears.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "accursed saw with missing teeth, which
comes to break the lyre!"
Meanwhile, the other spectators murmured like himself;
"To the devil with the sacked nun!" said some of them.
And the old invisible kill-joy might have had occasion to
repent of her aggressions against the gypsy had their attention
not been diverted at this moment by the procession of
the Pope of the Fools, which, after having traversed many
streets and squares, debouched on the Place de Grève, with
all its torches and all its uproar.
This procession, which our readers have seen set out from
the Palais de Justice, had organized on the way, and had been
recruited by all the knaves, idle thieves, and unemployed vagabonds
in Paris; so that it presented a very respectable aspect
when it arrived at the Grève.
First came Egypt. The Duke of Egypt headed it, on horseback,
with his counts on foot holding his bridle and stirrups
for him; behind them, the male and female Egyptians,
pell-mell, with their little children crying on their shoulders;
all--duke, counts, and populace--in rags and tatters. Then
came the Kingdom of Argot; that is to say, all the thieves of
France, arranged according to the order of their dignity; the
minor people walking first. Thus defiled by fours, with the
divers insignia of their grades, in that strange faculty, most of
them lame, some cripples, others one-armed, shop clerks, pilgrim,
~hubins~, bootblacks, thimble-riggers, street arabs, beggars,
the blear-eyed beggars, thieves, the weakly, vagabonds,
merchants, sham soldiers, goldsmiths, passed masters of
pickpockets, isolated thieves. A catalogue that would weary
Homer. In the centre of the conclave of the passed masters
of pickpockets, one had some difficulty in distinguishing the
King of Argot, the grand coësre, so called, crouching in a
little cart drawn by two big dogs. After the kingdom of the
Argotiers, came the Empire of Galilee. Guillaume Rousseau,
Emperor of the Empire of Galilee, marched majestically in
his robe of purple, spotted with wine, preceded by buffoons
wrestling and executing military dances; surrounded by his
macebearers, his pickpockets and clerks of the chamber of
accounts. Last of all came the corporation of law clerks,
with its maypoles crowned with flowers, its black robes, its
music worthy of the orgy, and its large candles of yellow
wax. In the centre of this crowd, the grand officers of the
Brotherhood of Fools bore on their shoulders a litter more
loaded down with candles than the reliquary of Sainte-Geneviève
in time of pest; and on this litter shone resplendent,
with crosier, cope, and mitre, the new Pope of the Fools, the
bellringer of Notre-Dame, Quasimodo the hunchback.
Each section of this grotesque procession had its own music.
The Egyptians made their drums and African tambourines
resound. The slang men, not a very musical race, still clung
to the goat's horn trumpet and the Gothic rubebbe of the
twelfth century. The Empire of Galilee was not much more
advanced; among its music one could hardly distinguish some
miserable rebec, from the infancy of the art, still imprisoned
in the ~re-la-mi~. But it was around the Pope of the Fools that
all the musical riches of the epoch were displayed in a magnificent
discord. It was nothing but soprano rebecs, counter-tenor
rebecs, and tenor rebecs, not to reckon the flutes and
brass instruments. Alas! our readers will remember that this
was Gringoire's orchestra.
It is difficult to convey an idea of the degree of proud and
blissful expansion to which the sad and hideous visage of
Quasimodo had attained during the transit from the Palais de
Justice, to the Place de Grève. It was the first enjoyment of
self-love that he had ever experienced. Down to that day, he
had known only humiliation, disdain for his condition, disgust
for his person. Hence, deaf though he was, he enjoyed, like
a veritable pope, the acclamations of that throng, which he
hated because he felt that he was hated by it. What mattered
it that his people consisted of a pack of fools, cripples,
thieves, and beggars? it was still a people and he was its
sovereign. And he accepted seriously all this ironical
applause, all this derisive respect, with which the crowd mingled,
it must be admitted, a good deal of very real fear. For the
hunchback was robust; for the bandy-legged fellow was agile;
for the deaf man was malicious: three qualities which temper
We are far from believing, however, that the new Pope of
the Fools understood both the sentiments which he felt and
the sentiments which he inspired. The spirit which was
lodged in this failure of a body had, necessarily, something
incomplete and deaf about it. Thus, what he felt at the moment
was to him, absolutely vague, indistinct, and confused.
Only joy made itself felt, only pride dominated. Around that
sombre and unhappy face, there hung a radiance.
It was, then, not without surprise and alarm, that at the
very moment when Quasimodo was passing the Pillar House,
in that semi-intoxicated state, a man was seen to dart from
the crowd, and to tear from his hands, with a gesture of anger,
his crosier of gilded wood, the emblem of his mock popeship.
This man, this rash individual, was the man with the bald
brow, who, a moment earlier, standing with the gypsy's
group had chilled the poor girl with his words of menace and
of hatred. He was dressed in an eccleslastical costume. At
the moment when he stood forth from the crowd, Gringoire,
who had not noticed him up to that time, recognized him:
"Hold!" he said, with an exclamation of astonishment.
"Eh! 'tis my master in Hermes, Dom Claude Frollo, the
archdeacon! What the devil does he want of that old one-
eyed fellow? He'll get himself devoured!"
A cry of terror arose, in fact. The formidable Quasimodo
had hurled himself from the litter, and the women turned
aside their eyes in order not to see him tear the archdeacon
He made one bound as far as the priest, looked at him, and
fell upon his knees.
The priest tore off his tiara, broke his crozier, and rent his
Quasimodo remained on his knees, with head bent and hands
clasped. Then there was established between them a strange
dialogue of signs and gestures, for neither of them spoke.
The priest, erect on his feet, irritated, threatening, imperious;
Quasimodo, prostrate, humble, suppliant. And, nevertheless,
it is certain that Quasimodo could have crushed the priest
with his thumb.
At length the archdeacon, giving Quasimodo's powerful
shoulder a rough shake, made him a sign to rise and follow him.
Then the Brotherhood of Fools, their first stupor having
passed off, wished to defend their pope, so abruptly dethroned.
The Egyptians, the men of slang, and all the fraternity of
law clerks, gathered howling round the priest.
Quasimodo placed himself in front of the priest, set in play
the muscles of his athletic fists, and glared upon the assailants
with the snarl of an angry tiger.
The priest resumed his sombre gravity, made a sign to Quasimodo,
and retired in silence.
Quasimodo walked in front of him, scattering the crowd as
When they had traversed the populace and the Place, the
cloud of curious and idle were minded to follow them. Quasimodo
then constituted himself the rearguard, and followed
the archdeacon, walking backwards, squat, surly, monstrous,
bristling, gathering up his limbs, licking his boar's tusks,
growling like a wild beast, and imparting to the crowd immense
vibrations, with a look or a gesture.
Both were allowed to plunge into a dark and narrow street,
where no one dared to venture after them; so thoroughly did
the mere chimera of Quasimodo gnashing his teeth bar the
"Here's a marvellous thing," said Gringoire; "but where
the deuce shall I find some supper?"
THE INCONVENIENCES OF FOLLOWING A PRETTY WOMAN
THROUGH THE STREETS IN THE EVENING.
Gringoire set out to follow the gypsy at all hazards. He
had seen her, accompanied by her goat, take to the Rue de la
Coutellerie; he took the Rue de la Coutellerie.
"Why not?" he said to himself.
Gringoire, a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris,
had noticed that nothing is more propitious to revery than
following a pretty woman without knowing whither she is
going. There was in this voluntary abdication of his freewill,
in this fancy submitting itself to another fancy, which
suspects it not, a mixture of fantastic independence and blind
obedience, something indescribable, intermediate between slavery
and liberty, which pleased Gringoire,--a spirit essentially
compound, undecided, and complex, holding the extremities of
all extremes, incessantly suspended between all human propensities,
and neutralizing one by the other. He was fond of comparing
himself to Mahomet's coffin, attracted in two different
directions by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally
between the heights and the depths, between the vault and the
pavement, between fall and ascent, between zenith and nadir.
If Gringoire had lived in our day, what a fine middle course
he would hold between classicism and romanticism!
But he was not sufficiently primitive to live three hundred
years, and 'tis a pity. His absence is a void which is but too
sensibly felt to-day.
Moreover, for the purpose of thus following passers-by (and
especially female passers-by) in the streets, which Gringoire
was fond of doing, there is no better disposition than ignorance
of where one is going to sleep.
So he walked along, very thoughtfully, behind the young
girl, who hastened her pace and made her goat trot as she
saw the bourgeois returning home and the taverns--the only
shops which had been open that day--closing.
"After all," he half thought to himself, "she must lodge
somewhere; gypsies have kindly hearts. Who knows?--"
And in the points of suspense which he placed after this reticence
in his mind, there lay I know not what flattering ideas.
Meanwhile, from time to time, as he passed the last groups
of bourgeois closing their doors, he caught some scraps of
their conversation, which broke the thread of his pleasant
Now it was two old men accosting each other.
"Do you know that it is cold, Master Thibaut Fernicle?"
(Gringoire had been aware of this since the beginning of the
"Yes, indeed, Master Boniface Disome! Are we going to
have a winter such as we had three years ago, in '80, when
wood cost eight sous the measure?"
"Bah! that's nothing, Master Thibaut, compared with the
winter of 1407, when it froze from St. Martin's Day until
Candlemas! and so cold that the pen of the registrar of the
parliament froze every three words, in the Grand Chamber!
which interrupted the registration of justice."
Further on there were two female neighbors at their windows,
holding candles, which the fog caused to sputter.
"Has your husband told you about the mishap, Mademoiselle
"No. What is it, Mademoiselle Turquant?"
"The horse of M. Gilles Godin, the notary at the Châtelet,
took fright at the Flemings and their procession, and overturned
Master Philippe Avrillot, lay monk of the Célestins."
"A bourgeois horse! 'tis rather too much! If it had been
a cavalry horse, well and good!"
And the windows were closed. But Gringoire had lost the
thread of his ideas, nevertheless.
Fortunately, he speedily found it again, and he knotted it
together without difficulty, thanks to the gypsy, thanks to
Djali, who still walked in front of him; two fine, delicate, and
charming creatures, whose tiny feet, beautiful forms, and
graceful manners he was engaged in admiring, almost confusing
them in his contemplation; believing them to be both
young girls, from their intelligence and good friendship; regarding
them both as goats,--so far as the lightness, agility, and
dexterity of their walk were concerned.
But the streets were becoming blacker and more deserted
every moment. The curfew had sounded long ago, and it was
only at rare intervals now that they encountered a passer-by
in the street, or a light in the windows. Gringoire had
become involved, in his pursuit of the gypsy, in that inextricable
labyrinth of alleys, squares, and closed courts which
surround the ancient sepulchre of the Saints-Innocents, and
which resembles a ball of thread tangled by a cat. "Here
are streets which possess but little logic!" said Gringoire,
lost in the thousands of circuits which returned upon themselves
incessantly, but where the young girl pursued a road
which seemed familiar to her, without hesitation and with
a step which became ever more rapid. As for him, he
would have been utterly ignorant of his situation had he not
espied, in passing, at the turn of a street, the octagonal mass
of the pillory of the fish markets, the open-work summit of
which threw its black, fretted outlines clearly upon a window
which was still lighted in the Rue Verdelet.
The young girl's attention had been attracted to him for the
last few moments; she had repeatedly turned her head towards
him with uneasiness; she had even once come to a standstill,
and taking advantage of a ray of light which escaped from a
half-open bakery to survey him intently, from head to foot, then,
having cast this glance, Gringoire had seen her make that little
pout which he had already noticed, after which she passed on.
This little pout had furnished Gringoire with food for
thought. There was certainly both disdain and mockery in
that graceful grimace. So he dropped his head, began to
count the paving-stones, and to follow the young girl at a little
greater distance, when, at the turn of a street, which had
caused him to lose sight of her, he heard her utter a piercing cry.
He hastened his steps.
The street was full of shadows. Nevertheless, a twist of
tow soaked in oil, which burned in a cage at the feet of the
Holy Virgin at the street corner, permitted Gringoire to make
out the gypsy struggling in the arms of two men, who were
endeavoring to stifle her cries. The poor little goat, in great
alarm, lowered his horns and bleated.
"Help! gentlemen of the watch!" shouted Gringoire, and
advanced bravely. One of the men who held the young girl
turned towards him. It was the formidable visage of Quasimodo.
Gringoire did not take to flight, but neither did he advance
Quasimodo came up to him, tossed him four paces away on
the pavement with a backward turn of the hand, and plunged
rapidly into the gloom, bearing the young girl folded across
one arm like a silken scarf. His companion followed him, and
the poor goat ran after them all, bleating plaintively.
"Murder! murder!" shrieked the unhappy gypsy.
"Halt, rascals, and yield me that wench!" suddenly shouted
in a voice of thunder, a cavalier who appeared suddenly from
a neighboring square.
It was a captain of the king's archers, armed from head to
foot, with his sword in his hand.
He tore the gypsy from the arms of the dazed Quasimodo,
threw her across his saddle, and at the moment when the terrible
hunchback, recovering from his surprise, rushed upon
him to regain his prey, fifteen or sixteen archers, who followed
their captain closely, made their appearance, with their
two-edged swords in their fists. It was a squad of the king's
police, which was making the rounds, by order of Messire
Robert d'Estouteville, guard of the provostship of Paris.
Quasimodo was surrounded, seized, garroted; he roared, he
foamed at the mouth, he bit; and had it been broad daylight,
there is no doubt that his face alone, rendered more hideous by
wrath, would have put the entire squad to flight. But by night
he was deprived of his most formidable weapon, his ugliness.
His companion had disappeared during the struggle.
The gypsy gracefully raised herself upright upon the officer's
saddle, placed both hands upon the young man's shoulders,
and gazed fixedly at him for several seconds, as though
enchanted with his good looks and with the aid which he had
just rendered her. Then breaking silence first, she said to
him, making her sweet voice still sweeter than usual,--
"What is your name, monsieur le gendarme?"
"Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers, at your service, my beauty!"
replied the officer, drawing himself up.
"Thanks," said she.
And while Captain Phoebus was turning up his moustache
in Burgundian fashion, she slipped from the horse, like an
arrow falling to earth, and fled.
A flash of lightning would have vanished less quickly.
"Nombrill of the Pope!" said the captain, causing Quasimodo's
straps to be drawn tighter, "I should have preferred to keep
"What would you have, captain?" said one gendarme. "The
warbler has fled, and the bat remains."
RESULT OF THE DANGERS.
Gringoire, thoroughly stunned by his fall, remained on
the pavement in front of the Holy Virgin at the street corner.
Little by little, he regained his senses; at first, for several
minutes, he was floating in a sort of half-somnolent revery,
which was not without its charm, in which aeriel figures of
the gypsy and her goat were coupled with Quasimodo's heavy
fist. This state lasted but a short time. A decidedly vivid
sensation of cold in the part of his body which was in contact
with the pavement, suddenly aroused him and caused his spirit
to return to the surface.
"Whence comes this chill?" he said abruptly, to himself.
He then perceived that he was lying half in the middle of the
"That devil of a hunchbacked cyclops!" he muttered between
his teeth; and he tried to rise. But he was too much
dazed and bruised; he was forced to remain where he was.
Moreover, his hand was tolerably free; he stopped up his nose
and resigned himself.
"The mud of Paris," he said to himself--for decidedly he
thought that he was sure that the gutter would prove his
refuge for the night; and what can one do in a refuge, except
dream?--"the mud of Paris is particularly stinking; it must
contain a great deal of volatile and nitric salts. That,
moreover, is the opinion of Master Nicholas Flamel, and of the
The word "alchemists" suddenly suggested to his mind the
idea of Archdeacon Claude Frollo. He recalled the violent
scene which he had just witnessed in part; that the gypsy was
struggling with two men, that Quasimodo had a companion;
and the morose and haughty face of the archdeacon passed
confusedly through his memory. "That would be strange!"
he said to himself. And on that fact and that basis he began
to construct a fantastic edifice of hypothesis, that card-castle
of philosophers; then, suddenly returning once more to
reality, "Come! I'm freezing!" he ejaculated.
The place was, in fact, becoming less and less tenable.
Each molecule of the gutter bore away a molecule of heat
radiating from Gringoire's loins, and the equilibrium between
the temperature of his body and the temperature of the brook,
began to be established in rough fashion.
Quite a different annoyance suddenly assailed him. A group
of children, those little bare-footed savages who have always
roamed the pavements of Paris under the eternal name of
~gamins~, and who, when we were also children ourselves, threw
stones at all of us in the afternoon, when we came out of
school, because our trousers were not torn--a swarm of these
young scamps rushed towards the square where Gringoire lay,
with shouts and laughter which seemed to pay but little heed
to the sleep of the neighbors. They were dragging after them
some sort of hideous sack; and the noise of their wooden
shoes alone would have roused the dead. Gringoire who was
not quite dead yet, half raised himself.
"Ohé, Hennequin Dandéche! Ohè, Jehan Pincebourde!"
they shouted in deafening tones, "old Eustache Moubon, the
merchant at the corner, has just died. We've got his straw
pallet, we're going to have a bonfire out of it. It's the turn
of the Flemish to-day!"
And behold, they flung the pallet directly upon Gringoire,
beside whom they had arrived, without espying him. At the
same time, one of them took a handful of straw and set off
to light it at the wick of the good Virgin.
"S'death!" growled Gringoire, "am I going to be too warm now?"
It was a critical moment. He was caught between fire and
water; he made a superhuman effort, the effort of a counterfeiter
of money who is on the point of being boiled, and who
seeks to escape. He rose to his feet, flung aside the straw
pallet upon the street urchins, and fled.
"Holy Virgin!" shrieked the children; "'tis the merchant's ghost!"
And they fled in their turn.
The straw mattress remained master of the field. Belleforet,
Father Le Juge, and Corrozet affirm that it was picked
up on the morrow, with great pomp, by the clergy of the
quarter, and borne to the treasury of the church of Saint
Opportune, where the sacristan, even as late as 1789, earned a
tolerably handsome revenue out of the great miracle of the
Statue of the Virgin at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil,
which had, by its mere presence, on the memorable night between
the sixth and seventh of January, 1482, exorcised the
defunct Eustache Moubon, who, in order to play a trick on
the devil, had at his death maliciously concealed his soul in
his straw pallet.
THE BROKEN JUG.
After having run for some time at the top of his speed,
without knowing whither, knocking his head against many a
street corner, leaping many a gutter, traversing many an alley,
many a court, many a square, seeking flight and passage through
all the meanderings of the ancient passages of the Halles, exploring
in his panic terror what the fine Latin of the maps calls ~tota
via, cheminum et viaria~, our poet suddenly halted for lack
of breath in the first place, and in the second, because
he had been collared, after a fashion, by a dilemma which
had just occurred to his mind. "It strikes me, Master Pierre
Gringoire," he said to himself, placing his finger to his brow,
"that you are running like a madman. The little scamps are
no less afraid of you than you are of them. It strikes me,
I say, that you heard the clatter of their wooden shoes
fleeing southward, while you were fleeing northward. Now,
one of two things, either they have taken flight, and the
pallet, which they must have forgotten in their terror, is
precisely that hospitable bed in search of which you have been
running ever since morning, and which madame the Virgin
miraculously sends you, in order to recompense you for having
made a morality in her honor, accompanied by triumphs and
mummeries; or the children have not taken flight, and in
that case they have put the brand to the pallet, and that is
precisely the good fire which you need to cheer, dry, and warm
you. In either case, good fire or good bed, that straw pallet
is a gift from heaven. The blessed Virgin Marie who stands
at the corner of the Rue Mauconseil, could only have made
Eustache Moubon die for that express purpose; and it is folly
on your part to flee thus zigzag, like a Picard before a
Frenchman, leaving behind you what you seek before you;
and you are a fool!"
Then he retraced his steps, and feeling his way and searching,
with his nose to the wind and his ears on the alert, he
tried to find the blessed pallet again, but in vain. There was
nothing to be found but intersections of houses, closed courts,
and crossings of streets, in the midst of which he hesitated
and doubted incessantly, being more perplexed and entangled
in this medley of streets than he would have been even in the
labyrinth of the Hôtel des Tournelles. At length he lost
patience, and exclaimed solemnly: "Cursed be cross roads!
'tis the devil who has made them in the shape of his pitchfork!"
This exclamation afforded him a little solace, and a sort of
reddish reflection which he caught sight of at that moment, at
the extremity of a long and narrow lane, completed the elevation
of his moral tone. "God be praised!" said he, "There
it is yonder! There is my pallet burning." And comparing
himself to the pilot who suffers shipwreck by night, "~Salve~,"
he added piously, "~salve, maris stella~!"
Did he address this fragment of litany to the Holy Virgin,
or to the pallet? We are utterly unable to say.
He had taken but a few steps in the long street, which
sloped downwards, was unpaved, and more and more muddy
and steep, when he noticed a very singular thing. It was
not deserted; here and there along its extent crawled certain
vague and formless masses, all directing their course towards
the light which flickered at the end of the street, like those
heavy insects which drag along by night, from blade to blade
of grass, towards the shepherd's fire.
Nothing renders one so adventurous as not being able to
feel the place where one's pocket is situated. Gringoire
continued to advance, and had soon joined that one of the forms
which dragged along most indolently, behind the others. On
drawing near, he perceived that it was nothing else than a
wretched legless cripple in a bowl, who was hopping along on
his two hands like a wounded field-spider which has but two
legs left. At the moment when he passed close to this species
of spider with a human countenance, it raised towards
him a lamentable voice: "~La buona mancia, signor! la buona
"Deuce take you," said Gringoire, "and me with you, if I
know what you mean!"
And he passed on.
He overtook another of these itinerant masses, and examined
it. It was an impotent man, both halt and crippled,
and halt and crippled to such a degree that the complicated
system of crutches and wooden legs which sustained him, gave
him the air of a mason's scaffolding on the march. Gringoire,
who liked noble and classical comparisons, compared him in
thought to the living tripod of Vulcan.
This living tripod saluted him as he passed, but stopping
his hat on a level with Gringoire's chin, like a shaving dish,
while he shouted in the latter's ears: "~Senor cabellero, para
comprar un pedaso de pan~!"*
* Give me the means to buy a bit of bread, sir.
"It appears," said Gringoire, "that this one can also talk;
but 'tis a rude language, and he is more fortunate than I if
he understands it." Then, smiting his brow, in a sudden
transition of ideas: "By the way, what the deuce did they
mean this morning with their Esmeralda?"
He was minded to augment his pace, but for the third time
something barred his way. This something or, rather, some
one was a blind man, a little blind fellow with a bearded,
Jewish face, who, rowing away in the space about him with a
stick, and towed by a large dog, droned through his nose with
a Hungarian accent: "~Facitote caritatem~!"
"Well, now," said Gringoire, "here's one at last who speaks
a Christian tongue. I must have a very charitable aspect,
since they ask alms of me in the present lean condition of my
purse. My friend," and he turned towards the blind man,
"I sold my last shirt last week; that is to say, since you
understand only the language of Cicero: ~Vendidi hebdomade
nuper transita meam ultimam chemisan~."
That said, he turned his back upon the blind man, and pursued
his way. But the blind man began to increase his stride
at the same time; and, behold! the cripple and the legless
man, in his bowl, came up on their side in great haste, and
with great clamor of bowl and crutches, upon the pavement.
Then all three, jostling each other at poor Gringoire's heels,
began to sing their song to him,--
"~Caritatem~!" chanted the blind man.
"~La buona mancia~!" chanted the cripple in the bowl.
And the lame man took up the musical phrase by repeating:
"~Un pedaso de pan~!"
Gringoire stopped up his ears. "Oh, tower of Babel!" he
He set out to run. The blind man ran! The lame man
ran! The cripple in the bowl ran!
And then, in proportion as he plunged deeper into the
street, cripples in bowls, blind men and lame men, swarmed
about him, and men with one arm, and with one eye, and the
leprous with their sores, some emerging from little streets
adjacent, some from the air-holes of cellars, howling, bellowing,
yelping, all limping and halting, all flinging themselves
towards the light, and humped up in the mire, like snails after
Gringoire, still followed by his three persecutors, and not
knowing very well what was to become of him, marched along
in terror among them, turning out for the lame, stepping over
the cripples in bowls, with his feet imbedded in that ant-hill
of lame men, like the English captain who got caught in the
quicksand of a swarm of crabs.
The idea occurred to him of making an effort to retrace his
steps. But it was too late. This whole legion had closed in
behind him, and his three beggars held him fast. So he
proceeded, impelled both by this irresistible flood, by fear,
and by a vertigo which converted all this into a sort of
At last he reached the end of the street. It opened upon
an immense place, where a thousand scattered lights flickered
in the confused mists of night. Gringoire flew thither,
hoping to escape, by the swiftness of his legs, from the three
infirm spectres who had clutched him.
"~Onde vas, hombre~?" (Where are you going, my man?)
cried the cripple, flinging away his crutches, and running after
him with the best legs that ever traced a geometrical step upon
the pavements of Paris.
In the meantime the legless man, erect upon his feet,
crowned Gringoire with his heavy iron bowl, and the blind
man glared in his face with flaming eyes!
"Where am I?" said the terrified poet.
"In the Court of Miracles," replied a fourth spectre, who
had accosted them.
"Upon my soul," resumed Gringoire, "I certainly do behold the
blind who see, and the lame who walk, but where is the Saviour?"
They replied by a burst of sinister laughter.
The poor poet cast his eyes about him. It was, in truth,
that redoubtable Cour des Miracles, whither an honest man
had never penetrated at such an hour; the magic circle where
the officers of the Châtelet and the sergeants of the provostship,
who ventured thither, disappeared in morsels; a city of
thieves, a hideous wart on the face of Paris; a sewer, from
which escaped every morning, and whither returned every
night to crouch, that stream of vices, of mendicancy and
vagabondage which always overflows in the streets of capitals;
a monstrous hive, to which returned at nightfall, with
their booty, all the drones of the social order; a lying hospital
where the bohemian, the disfrocked monk, the ruined
scholar, the ne'er-do-wells of all nations, Spaniards, Italians,
Germans,--of all religions, Jews, Christians, Mahometans,
idolaters, covered with painted sores, beggars by day, were
transformed by night into brigands; an immense dressing-room,
in a word, where, at that epoch, the actors of that
eternal comedy, which theft, prostitution, and murder play
upon the pavements of Paris, dressed and undressed.
It was a vast place, irregular and badly paved, like all the
squares of Paris at that date. Fires, around which swarmed
strange groups, blazed here and there. Every one was going,
coming, and shouting. Shrill laughter was to be heard, the
wailing of children, the voices of women. The hands and
heads of this throng, black against the luminous background,
outlined against it a thousand eccentric gestures. At times,
upon the ground, where trembled the light of the fires,
mingled with large, indefinite shadows, one could behold a dog
passing, which resembled a man, a man who resembled a dog.
The limits of races and species seemed effaced in this city, as
in a pandemonium. Men, women, beasts, age, sex, health,
maladies, all seemed to be in common among these people;
all went together, they mingled, confounded, superposed;
each one there participated in all.
The poor and flickering flames of the fire permitted Gringoire
to distinguish, amid his trouble, all around the immense
place, a hideous frame of ancient houses, whose wormeaten,
shrivelled, stunted façades, each pierced with one or two
lighted attic windows, seemed to him, in the darkness, like
enormous heads of old women, ranged in a circle, monstrous
and crabbed, winking as they looked on at the Witches' Sabbath.
It was like a new world, unknown, unheard of, misshapen,
creeping, swarming, fantastic.
Gringoire, more and more terrified, clutched by the three
beggars as by three pairs of tongs, dazed by a throng of other
faces which frothed and yelped around him, unhappy Gringoire
endeavored to summon his presence of mind, in order
to recall whether it was a Saturday. But his efforts were
vain; the thread of his memory and of his thought was
broken; and, doubting everything, wavering between what he
saw and what he felt, he put to himself this unanswerable
"If I exist, does this exist? if this exists, do I exist?"
At that moment, a distinct cry arose in the buzzing throng
which surrounded him, "Let's take him to the king! let's
take him to the king!"
"Holy Virgin!" murmured Gringoire, "the king here must be
"To the king! to the king!" repeated all voices.
They dragged him off. Each vied with the other in laying
his claws upon him. But the three beggars did not loose their
hold and tore him from the rest, howling, "He belongs to us!"
The poet's already sickly doublet yielded its last sigh in
While traversing the horrible place, his vertigo vanished.
After taking a few steps, the sentiment of reality returned to
him. He began to become accustomed to the atmosphere of
the place. At the first moment there had arisen from his
poet's head, or, simply and prosaically, from his empty
stomach, a mist, a vapor, so to speak, which, spreading
between objects and himself, permitted him to catch a glimpse
of them only in the incoherent fog of nightmare,--in those
shadows of dreams which distort every outline, agglomerating
objects into unwieldy groups, dilating things into chimeras,
and men into phantoms. Little by little, this hallucination
was succeeded by a less bewildered and exaggerating view.
Reality made its way to the light around him, struck his eyes,
struck his feet, and demolished, bit by bit, all that frightful
poetry with which he had, at first, believed himself to be
surrounded. He was forced to perceive that he was not
walking in the Styx, but in mud, that he was elbowed not by
demons, but by thieves; that it was not his soul which was
in question, but his life (since he lacked that precious
conciliator, which places itself so effectually between the
bandit and the honest man--a purse). In short, on examining the
orgy more closely, and with more coolness, he fell from the
witches' sabbath to the dram-shop.
The Cour des Miracles was, in fact, merely a dram-shop;
but a brigand's dram-shop, reddened quite as much with blood
as with wine.
The spectacle which presented itself to his eyes, when his
ragged escort finally deposited him at the end of his trip, was
not fitted to bear him back to poetry, even to the poetry of
hell. It was more than ever the prosaic and brutal reality of
the tavern. Were we not in the fifteenth century, we would
say that Gringoire had descended from Michael Angelo to
Around a great fire which burned on a large, circular flagstone,
the flames of which had heated red-hot the legs of a
tripod, which was empty for the moment, some wormeaten
tables were placed, here and there, haphazard, no lackey of a
geometrical turn having deigned to adjust their parallelism,
or to see to it that they did not make too unusual angles.
Upon these tables gleamed several dripping pots of wine and
beer, and round these pots were grouped many bacchic visages,
purple with the fire and the wine. There was a man
with a huge belly and a jovial face, noisily kissing a woman
of the town, thickset and brawny. There was a sort of sham
soldier, a "naquois," as the slang expression runs, who was
whistling as he undid the bandages from his fictitious wound,
and removing the numbness from his sound and vigorous
knee, which had been swathed since morning in a thousand
ligatures. On the other hand, there was a wretched fellow,
preparing with celandine and beef's blood, his "leg of God,"
for the next day. Two tables further on, a palmer, with his
pilgrim's costume complete, was practising the lament of the
Holy Queen, not forgetting the drone and the nasal drawl.
Further on, a young scamp was taking a lesson in epilepsy
from an old pretender, who was instructing him in the art of
foaming at the mouth, by chewing a morsel of soap. Beside
him, a man with the dropsy was getting rid of his swelling,
and making four or five female thieves, who were disputing
at the same table, over a child who had been stolen that evening,
hold their noses. All circumstances which, two centuries
later, "seemed so ridiculous to the court," as Sauval says,
"that they served as a pastime to the king, and as an introduction
to the royal ballet of Night, divided into four parts
and danced on the theatre of the Petit-Bourbon." "Never,"
adds an eye witness of 1653, "have the sudden metamorphoses
of the Court of Miracles been more happily presented.
Benserade prepared us for it by some very gallant verses."
Loud laughter everywhere, and obscene songs. Each one
held his own course, carping and swearing, without listening
to his neighbor. Pots clinked, and quarrels sprang up at
the shock of the pots, and the broken pots made rents in
A big dog, seated on his tail, gazed at the fire. Some
children were mingled in this orgy. The stolen child wept and
cried. Another, a big boy four years of age, seated with
legs dangling, upon a bench that was too high for him, before
a table that reached to his chin, and uttering not a word. A
third, gravely spreading out upon the table with his finger,
the melted tallow which dripped from a candle. Last of all,
a little fellow crouching in the mud, almost lost in a cauldron,
which he was scraping with a tile, and from which he was
evoking a sound that would have made Stradivarius swoon.
Near the fire was a hogshead, and on the hogshead a beggar.
This was the king on his throne.
The three who had Gringoire in their clutches led him in
front of this hogshead, and the entire bacchanal rout fell
silent for a moment, with the exception of the cauldron
inhabited by the child.
Gringoire dared neither breathe nor raise his eyes.
"~Hombre, quita tu sombrero~!" said one of the three
knaves, in whose grasp he was, and, before he had
comprehended the meaning, the other had snatched his hat--a
wretched headgear, it is true, but still good on a sunny day or
when there was but little rain. Gringoire sighed.
Meanwhile the king addressed him, from the summit of his
"Who is this rogue?"
Gringoire shuddered. That voice, although accentuated by
menace, recalled to him another voice, which, that very morning,
had dealt the deathblow to his mystery, by drawling,
nasally, in the midst of the audience, "Charity, please!"
He raised his head. It was indeed Clopin Trouillefou.
Clopin Trouillefou, arrayed in his royal insignia, wore
neither one rag more nor one rag less. The sore upon his
arm had already disappeared. He held in his hand one of
those whips made of thongs of white leather, which police
sergeants then used to repress the crowd, and which were
called ~boullayes~. On his head he wore a sort of headgear,
bound round and closed at the top. But it was difficult to
make out whether it was a child's cap or a king's crown, the
two things bore so strong a resemblance to each other.
Meanwhile Gringoire, without knowing why, had regained
some hope, on recognizing in the King of the Cour des Miracles
his accursed mendicant of the Grand Hall.
"Master," stammered he; "monseigneur--sire--how
ought I to address you?" he said at length, having reached
the culminating point of his crescendo, and knowing neither
how to mount higher, nor to descend again.
"Monseigneur, his majesty, or comrade, call me what you
please. But make haste. What have you to say in your
"In your own defence?" thought Gringoire, "that displeases
me." He resumed, stuttering, "I am he, who this morning--"
"By the devil's claws!" interrupted Clopin, "your name,
knave, and nothing more. Listen. You are in the presence
of three powerful sovereigns: myself, Clopin Trouillefou,
King of Thunes, successor to the Grand Coësre, supreme
suzerain of the Realm of Argot; Mathias Hunyadi Spicali,
Duke of Egypt and of Bohemia, the old yellow fellow whom
you see yonder, with a dish clout round his head; Guillaume
Rousseau, Emperor of Galilee, that fat fellow who is not
listening to us but caressing a wench. We are your judges.
You have entered the Kingdom of Argot, without being an
~argotier~; you have violated the privileges of our city. You
must be punished unless you are a ~capon~, a ~franc-mitou~ or a
~rifodé~; that is to say, in the slang of honest folks,--a thief,
a beggar, or a vagabond. Are you anything of that sort?
Justify yourself; announce your titles."
"Alas!" said Gringoire, "I have not that honor. I am
"That is sufficient," resumed Trouillefou, without permitting
him to finish. "You are going to be hanged. 'Tis a
very simple matter, gentlemen and honest bourgeois! as you
treat our people in your abode, so we treat you in ours! The
law which you apply to vagabonds, vagabonds apply to you.
'Tis your fault if it is harsh. One really must behold the
grimace of an honest man above the hempen collar now and
then; that renders the thing honorable. Come, friend, divide
your rags gayly among these damsels. I am going to have
you hanged to amuse the vagabonds, and you are to give them
your purse to drink your health. If you have any mummery
to go through with, there's a very good God the Father in that
mortar yonder, in stone, which we stole from Saint-Pierre aux
Boeufs. You have four minutes in which to fling your soul at
The harangue was formidable.
"Well said, upon my soul! Clopin Trouillefou preaches
like the Holy Father the Pope!" exclaimed the Emperor of
Galilee, smashing his pot in order to prop up his table.
"Messeigneurs, emperors, and kings," said Gringoire coolly
(for I know not how, firmness had returned to him, and he
spoke with resolution), "don't think of such a thing; my
name is Pierre Gringoire. I am the poet whose morality was
presented this morning in the grand hall of the Courts."
"Ah! so it was you, master!" said Clopin. "I was there,
~xête Dieu~! Well! comrade, is that any reason, because
you bored us to death this morning, that you should not
be hung this evening?"
"I shall find difficulty in getting out of it," said Gringoire
to himself. Nevertheless, he made one more effort: "I don't
see why poets are not classed with vagabonds," said he.
"Vagabond, Aesopus certainly was; Homerus was a beggar;
Mercurius was a thief--"
Clopin interrupted him: "I believe that you are trying to
blarney us with your jargon. Zounds! let yourself be hung,
and don't kick up such a row over it!"
"Pardon me, monseigneur, the King of Thunes," replied
Gringoire, disputing the ground foot by foot. "It is worth
trouble--One moment!--Listen to me--You are not going
to condemn me without having heard me"--
His unlucky voice was, in fact, drowned in the uproar which
rose around him. The little boy scraped away at his cauldron
with more spirit than ever; and, to crown all, an old woman
had just placed on the tripod a frying-pan of grease, which
hissed away on the fire with a noise similar to the cry of a
troop of children in pursuit of a masker.
In the meantime, Clopin Trouillefou appeared to hold a
momentary conference with the Duke of Egypt, and the
Emperor of Galilee, who was completely drunk. Then he
shouted shrilly: "Silence!" and, as the cauldron and the
frying-pan did not heed him, and continued their duet, he
jumped down from his hogshead, gave a kick to the boiler,
which rolled ten paces away bearing the child with it, a kick
to the frying-pan, which upset in the fire with all its grease,
and gravely remounted his throne, without troubling himself
about the stifled tears of the child, or the grumbling of the
old woman, whose supper was wasting away in a fine white flame.
Trouillefou made a sign, and the duke, the emperor, and
the passed masters of pickpockets, and the isolated robbers,
came and ranged themselves around him in a horseshoe, of
which Gringoire, still roughly held by the body, formed the
centre. It was a semicircle of rags, tatters, tinsel, pitchforks,
axes, legs staggering with intoxication, huge, bare arms, faces
sordid, dull, and stupid. In the midst of this Round Table of
beggary, Clopin Trouillefou,--as the doge of this senate, as
the king of this peerage, as the pope of this conclave,--
dominated; first by virtue of the height of his hogshead, and
next by virtue of an indescribable, haughty, fierce, and formidable
air, which caused his eyes to flash, and corrected in his
savage profile the bestial type of the race of vagabonds. One
would have pronounced him a boar amid a herd of swine.
"Listen," said he to Gringoire, fondling his misshapen chin
with his horny hand; "I don't see why you should not be
hung. It is true that it appears to be repugnant to you; and
it is very natural, for you bourgeois are not accustomed to it.
You form for yourselves a great idea of the thing. After all,
we don't wish you any harm. Here is a means of extricating
yourself from your predicament for the moment. Will you
become one of us?"
The reader can judge of the effect which this proposition
produced upon Gringoire, who beheld life slipping away from
him, and who was beginning to lose his hold upon it. He
clutched at it again with energy.
"Certainly I will, and right heartily," said he.
"Do you consent," resumed Clopin, "to enroll yourself among the
people of the knife?"
"Of the knife, precisely," responded Gringoire.
"You recognize yourself as a member of the free bourgeoisie?"*
added the King of Thunes.
* A high-toned sharper.
"Of the free bourgeoisie."
"Subject of the Kingdom of Argot?"
"Of the Kingdom of Argot*."
"In your soul?"
"In my soul."
"I must call your attention to the fact," continued the
king, "that you will be hung all the same."
"The devil!" said the poet.
"Only," continued Clopin imperturbably, "you will be hung
later on, with more ceremony, at the expense of the good city
of Paris, on a handsome stone gibbet, and by honest men.
That is a consolation."
"Just so," responded Gringoire.
"There are other advantages. In your quality of a high-toned
sharper, you will not have to pay the taxes on mud, or
the poor, or lanterns, to which the bourgeois of Paris are
"So be it," said the poet. "I agree. I am a vagabond, a
thief, a sharper, a man of the knife, anything you please; and
I am all that already, monsieur, King of Thunes, for I am a
philosopher; ~et omnia in philosophia, omnes in philosopho
continentur~,--all things are contained in philosophy, all men in
the philosopher, as you know."
The King of Thunes scowled.
"What do you take me for, my friend? What Hungarian
Jew patter are you jabbering at us? I don't know Hebrew.
One isn't a Jew because one is a bandit. I don't even steal
any longer. I'm above that; I kill. Cut-throat, yes;
Gringoire tried to slip in some excuse between these curt
words, which wrath rendered more and more jerky.
"I ask your pardon, monseigneur. It is not Hebrew; 'tis Latin."
"I tell you," resumed Clopin angrily, "that I'm not a Jew,
and that I'll have you hung, belly of the synagogue, like that
little shopkeeper of Judea, who is by your side, and whom I
entertain strong hopes of seeing nailed to a counter one of
these days, like the counterfeit coin that he is!"
So saying, he pointed his finger at the little, bearded Hungarian
Jew who had accosted Gringoire with his ~facitote caritatem~,
and who, understanding no other language beheld with
surprise the King of Thunes's ill-humor overflow upon him.
At length Monsieur Clopin calmed down.
"So you will be a vagabond, you knave?" he said to our poet.
"Of course," replied the poet.
"Willing is not all," said the surly Clopin; "good will
doesn't put one onion the more into the soup, and 'tis good
for nothing except to go to Paradise with; now, Paradise and
the thieves' band are two different things. In order to be
received among the thieves,* you must prove that you are
good for something, and for that purpose, you must search the
"I'll search anything you like," said Gringoire.
Clopin made a sign. Several thieves detached themselves
from the circle, and returned a moment later. They brought
two thick posts, terminated at their lower extremities in
spreading timber supports, which made them stand readily
upon the ground; to the upper extremity of the two posts
they fitted a cross-beam, and the whole constituted a very
pretty portable gibbet, which Gringoire had the satisfaction of
beholding rise before him, in a twinkling. Nothing was lacking,
not even the rope, which swung gracefully over the cross-beam.
"What are they going to do?" Gringoire asked himself
with some uneasiness. A sound of bells, which he heard at
that moment, put an end to his anxiety; it was a stuffed
manikin, which the vagabonds were suspending by the neck
from the rope, a sort of scarecrow dressed in red, and so
hung with mule-bells and larger bells, that one might have
tricked out thirty Castilian mules with them. These thousand
tiny bells quivered for some time with the vibration of the
rope, then gradually died away, and finally became silent
when the manikin had been brought into a state of immobility
by that law of the pendulum which has dethroned the water
clock and the hour-glass.
Then Clopin, pointing out to Gringoire a rickety old stool
placed beneath the manikin,--
"Climb up there."
"Death of the devil!" objected Gringoire; "I shall break
my neck. Your stool limps like one of Martial's distiches;
it has one hexameter leg and one pentameter leg."
"Climb!" repeated Clopin.
Gringoire mounted the stool, and succeeded, not without
some oscillations of head and arms, in regaining his centre of
"Now," went on the King of Thunes, "twist your right
foot round your left leg, and rise on the tip of your left foot."
"Monseigneur," said Gringoire, "so you absolutely insist
on my breaking some one of my limbs?"
Clopin tossed his head.
"Hark ye, my friend, you talk too much. Here's the gist
of the matter in two words: you are to rise on tiptoe, as I
tell you; in that way you will be able to reach the pocket of
the manikin, you will rummage it, you will pull out the purse
that is there,--and if you do all this without our hearing
the sound of a bell, all is well: you shall be a vagabond.
All we shall then have to do, will be to thrash you soundly
for the space of a week."
"~Ventre-Dieu~! I will be careful," said Gringoire. "And
suppose I do make the bells sound?"
"Then you will be hanged. Do you understand?"
"I don't understand at all," replied Gringoire.
"Listen, once more. You are to search the manikin, and
take away its purse; if a single bell stirs during the operation,
you will be hung. Do you understand that?"
"Good," said Gringoire; "I understand that. And then?"
"If you succeed in removing the purse without our hearing
the bells, you are a vagabond, and you will be thrashed for
eight consecutive days. You understand now, no doubt?"
"No, monseigneur; I no longer understand. Where is the
advantage to me? hanged in one case, cudgelled in the other?"
"And a vagabond," resumed Clopin, "and a vagabond; is
that nothing? It is for your interest that we should beat
you, in order to harden you to blows."
"Many thanks," replied the poet.
"Come, make haste," said the king, stamping upon his
cask, which resounded like a huge drum! Search the manikin,
and let there be an end to this! I warn you for the last
time, that if I hear a single bell, you will take the place of
The band of thieves applauded Clopin's words, and arranged
themselves in a circle round the gibbet, with a laugh so pitiless
that Gringoire perceived that he amused them too much
not to have everything to fear from them. No hope was
left for him, accordingly, unless it were the slight chance
of succeeding in the formidable operation which was imposed
upon him; he decided to risk it, but it was not without first
having addressed a fervent prayer to the manikin he was
about to plunder, and who would have been easier to move
to pity than the vagabonds. These myriad bells, with their
little copper tongues, seemed to him like the mouths of so
many asps, open and ready to sting and to hiss.
"Oh!" he said, in a very low voice, "is it possible that my
life depends on the slightest vibration of the least of these
bells? Oh!" he added, with clasped hands, "bells, do not
ring, hand-bells do not clang, mule-bells do not quiver!"
He made one more attempt upon Trouillefou.
"And if there should come a gust of wind?"
"You will be hanged," replied the other, without hesitation.
Perceiving that no respite, nor reprieve, nor subterfuge was
possible, he bravely decided upon his course of action; he
wound his right foot round his left leg, raised himself on his
left foot, and stretched out his arm: but at the moment
when his hand touched the manikin, his body, which was now
supported upon one leg only, wavered on the stool which had
but three; he made an involuntary effort to support himself
by the manikin, lost his balance, and fell heavily to the
ground, deafened by the fatal vibration of the thousand bells
of the manikin, which, yielding to the impulse imparted by
his hand, described first a rotary motion, and then swayed
majestically between the two posts.
"Malediction!" he cried as he fell, and remained as though
dead, with his face to the earth.
Meanwhile, he heard the dreadful peal above his head, the
diabolical laughter of the vagabonds, and the voice of
"Pick me up that knave, and hang him without ceremony."
He rose. They had already detached the manikin to make
room for him.
The thieves made him mount the stool, Clopin came to him,
passed the rope about his neck, and, tapping him on the
"Adieu, my friend. You can't escape now, even if you
digested with the pope's guts."
The word "Mercy!" died away upon Gringoire's lips. He
cast his eyes about him; but there was no hope: all were
"Bellevigne de l'Etoile," said the King of Thunes to an
enormous vagabond, who stepped out from the ranks, "climb
upon the cross beam."
Bellevigne de l'Etoile nimbly mounted the transverse beam,
and in another minute, Gringoire, on raising his eyes, beheld
him, with terror, seated upon the beam above his head.
"Now," resumed Clopin Trouillefou, "as soon as I clap my
hands, you, Andry the Red, will fling the stool to the ground
with a blow of your knee; you, François Chante-Prune, will
cling to the feet of the rascal; and you, Bellevigne, will fling
yourself on his shoulders; and all three at once, do you
"Are you ready?" said Clopin Trouillefou to the three
thieves, who held themselves in readiness to fall upon
Gringoire. A moment of horrible suspense ensued for the poor
victim, during which Clopin tranquilly thrust into the fire
with the tip of his foot, some bits of vine shoots which the
flame had not caught. "Are you ready?" he repeated, and
opened his hands to clap. One second more and all would
have been over.
But he paused, as though struck by a sudden thought.
"One moment!" said he; "I forgot! It is our custom not
to hang a man without inquiring whether there is any woman
who wants him. Comrade, this is your last resource. You
must wed either a female vagabond or the noose."
This law of the vagabonds, singular as it may strike the
reader, remains to-day written out at length, in ancient English
legislation. (See _Burington's Observations_.)
Gringoire breathed again. This was the second time that
he had returned to life within an hour. So he did not dare
to trust to it too implicitly.
"Holà!" cried Clopin, mounted once more upon his cask,
"holà! women, females, is there among you, from the sorceress
to her cat, a wench who wants this rascal? Holà, Colette
la Charonne! Elisabeth Trouvain! Simone Jodouyne!
Marie Piédebou! Thonne la Longue! Bérarde Fanouel! Michelle
Genaille! Claude Ronge-oreille! Mathurine Girorou!--Holà!
Isabeau-la-Thierrye! Come and see! A man for nothing!
Who wants him?"
Gringoire, no doubt, was not very appetizing in this miserable
condition. The female vagabonds did not seem to be
much affected by the proposition. The unhappy wretch
heard them answer: "No! no! hang him; there'll be the more
fun for us all!"
Nevertheless, three emerged from the throng and came to
smell of him. The first was a big wench, with a square face.
She examined the philosopher's deplorable doublet attentively.
His garment was worn, and more full of holes than a stove for
roasting chestnuts. The girl made a wry face. "Old rag!" she
muttered, and addressing Gringoire, "Let's see your cloak!"
"I have lost it," replied Gringoire. "Your hat?" "They took
it away from me." "Your shoes?" "They have hardly any
soles left." "Your purse?" "Alas!" stammered Gringoire, "I
have not even a sou." "Let them hang you, then, and say 'Thank
you!'" retorted the vagabond wench, turning her back on him.
The second,--old, black, wrinkled, hideous, with an ugliness
conspicuous even in the Cour des Miracles, trotted round Gringoire.
He almost trembled lest she should want him. But she
mumbled between her teeth, "He's too thin," and went off.
The third was a young girl, quite fresh, and not too ugly.
"Save me!" said the poor fellow to her, in a low tone. She
gazed at him for a moment with an air of pity, then dropped
her eyes, made a plait in her petticoat, and remained in indecision.
He followed all these movements with his eyes; it
was the last gleam of hope. "No," said the young girl, at
length, "no! Guillaume Longuejoue would beat me." She
retreated into the crowd.
"You are unlucky, comrade," said Clopin.
Then rising to his feet, upon his hogshead. "No one wants
him," he exclaimed, imitating the accent of an auctioneer, to
the great delight of all; "no one wants him? once, twice,
three times!" and, turning towards the gibbet with a sign of
his hand, "Gone!"
Bellevigne de l'Etoile, Andry the Red, François Chante-Prune,
stepped up to Gringoire.
At that moment a cry arose among the thieves: "La Esmeralda!
Gringoire shuddered, and turned towards the side whence the
The crowd opened, and gave passage to a pure and dazzling
It was the gypsy.
"La Esmeralda!" said Gringoire, stupefied in the midst of
his emotions, by the abrupt manner in which that magic word
knotted together all his reminiscences of the day.
This rare creature seemed, even in the Cour des Miracles,
to exercise her sway of charm and beauty. The vagabonds,
male and female, ranged themselves gently along her path, and
their brutal faces beamed beneath her glance.
She approached the victim with her light step. Her pretty
Djali followed her. Gringoire was more dead than alive. She
examined him for a moment in silence.
"You are going to hang this man?" she said gravely, to Clopin.
"Yes, sister," replied the King of Thunes, "unless you will
take him for your husband."
She made her pretty little pout with her under lip. "I'll take
him," said she.
Gringoire firmly believed that he had been in a dream ever
since morning, and that this was the continuation of it.
The change was, in fact, violent, though a gratifying one.
They undid the noose, and made the poet step down from the
stool. His emotion was so lively that he was obliged to sit down.
The Duke of Egypt brought an earthenware crock, without
uttering a word. The gypsy offered it to Gringoire: "Fling
it on the ground," said she.
The crock broke into four pieces.
"Brother," then said the Duke of Egypt, laying his hands
upon their foreheads, "she is your wife; sister, he is your
husband for four years. Go."
A BRIDAL NIGHT.
A few moments later our poet found himself in a tiny
arched chamber, very cosy, very warm, seated at a table
which appeared to ask nothing better than to make some loans
from a larder hanging near by, having a good bed in prospect,
and alone with a pretty girl. The adventure smacked of
enchantment. He began seriously to take himself for a personage
in a fairy tale; he cast his eyes about him from time
to time to time, as though to see if the chariot of fire, harnessed
to two-winged chimeras, which alone could have so
rapidly transported him from Tartarus to Paradise, were still
there. At times, also, he fixed his eyes obstinately upon the
holes in his doublet, in order to cling to reality, and not lose
the ground from under his feet completely. His reason,
tossed about in imaginary space, now hung only by this
The young girl did not appear to pay any attention to him;
she went and came, displaced a stool, talked to her goat, and
indulged in a pout now and then. At last she came and
seated herself near the table, and Gringoire was able to
scrutinize her at his ease.
You have been a child, reader, and you would, perhaps, be
very happy to be one still. It is quite certain that you have
not, more than once (and for my part, I have passed whole
days, the best employed of my life, at it) followed from
thicket to thicket, by the side of running water, on a sunny
day, a beautiful green or blue dragon-fly, breaking its flight
in abrupt angles, and kissing the tips of all the branches.
You recollect with what amorous curiosity your thought and
your gaze were riveted upon this little whirlwind, hissing
and humming with wings of purple and azure, in the midst
of which floated an imperceptible body, veiled by the very
rapidity of its movement. The aerial being which was dimly
outlined amid this quivering of wings, appeared to you chimerical,
imaginary, impossible to touch, impossible to see.
But when, at length, the dragon-fly alighted on the tip of a
reed, and, holding your breath the while, you were able to examine
the long, gauze wings, the long enamel robe, the two
globes of crystal, what astonishment you felt, and what fear
lest you should again behold the form disappear into a shade,
and the creature into a chimera! Recall these impressions,
and you will readily appreciate what Gringoire felt on
contemplating, beneath her visible and palpable form, that
Esmeralda of whom, up to that time, he had only caught a
glimpse, amidst a whirlwind of dance, song, and tumult.
Sinking deeper and deeper into his revery: "So this,"
he said to himself, following her vaguely with his eyes, "is
la Esmeralda! a celestial creature! a street dancer! so much,
and so little! 'Twas she who dealt the death-blow to my
mystery this morning, 'tis she who saves my life this
evening! My evil genius! My good angel! A pretty woman,
on my word! and who must needs love me madly to have
taken me in that fashion. By the way," said he, rising
suddenly, with that sentiment of the true which formed the
foundation of his character and his philosophy, "I don't
know very well how it happens, but I am her husband!"
With this idea in his head and in his eyes, he stepped up
to the young girl in a manner so military and so gallant
that she drew back.
"What do you want of me?" said she.
"Can you ask me, adorable Esmeralda?" replied Gringoire,
with so passionate an accent that he was himself astonished
at it on hearing himself speak.
The gypsy opened her great eyes. "I don't know what
"What!" resumed Gringoire, growing warmer and warmer,
and supposing that, after all, he had to deal merely with a
virtue of the Cour des Miracles; "am I not thine, sweet friend,
art thou not mine?"
And, quite ingenuously, he clasped her waist.
The gypsy's corsage slipped through his hands like the skin
of an eel. She bounded from one end of the tiny room to the
other, stooped down, and raised herself again, with a little
poniard in her hand, before Gringoire had even had time to
see whence the poniard came; proud and angry, with swelling
lips and inflated nostrils, her cheeks as red as an api
apple,* and her eyes darting lightnings. At the same time,
the white goat placed itself in front of her, and presented to
Gringoire a hostile front, bristling with two pretty horns,
gilded and very sharp. All this took place in the twinkling
of an eye.
* A small dessert apple, bright red on one side and greenish-
white on the other.
The dragon-fly had turned into a wasp, and asked nothing
better than to sting.
Our philosopher was speechless, and turned his astonished
eyes from the goat to the young girl. "Holy Virgin!" he
said at last, when surprise permitted him to speak, "here are
two hearty dames!"<