In the vaulted Gothic towers of Notre-Dame lives Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer. Mocked and shunned for his appearance, he is pitied only by Esmerelda, a beautiful gypsy dancer to whom he becomes completely devoted. Esmerelda, however, has also attracted the attention of the sinister archdeacon Claude Frollo, and when she rejects his lecherous approaches, Frollo hatches a plot to destoy her that only Quasimodo can prevent. Victor Hugo's sensational, evocative novel brings life to the medieval Paris he loved, and mourns its passing in one of the greatest historical romances of the nineteenth century.

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Victor Hugo


Notre-Dame De Paris







First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri


























































































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 hundredyears. 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 theauthor 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 earth.

It is upon this word that this book is founded.

March, 1831.






Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteendays ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bellsin the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the townringing a full peal.

The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of whichhistory has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable in theevent which thus set the bells and the bourgeois of Paris in aferment from early morning. It was neither an assault by thePicards 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 apretty 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 sincethe last cavalcade of that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadorscharged with concluding the marriage between the dauphin andMarguerite of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the greatannoyance of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake ofpleasing the king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mientowards this whole rusticrabble of Flemish burgomasters, and toregale them at his Hôtel de Bourbon, with a very “prettymorality, allegorical satire, and farce,” while a drivingrain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.

What put the “whole population of Paris incommotion,” as Jehan de Troyes expresses it, on the sixth ofJanuary, was the double solemnity, united from time immemorial, ofthe Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.

On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place deGrève, a maypole at the Chapelle deBraque, and a mystery atthe Palais de Justice. It had been cried, to the sound of thetrumpet, the preceding evening at all the cross roads, by theprovost’s men, clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats ofviolet camelot, with large white crosses upon their breasts.

So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed theirhouses 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, themaypole; another, the mystery play. It must be stated, in honor ofthe good sense of the loungers of Paris, that the greater part ofthis crowd directed their steps towards the bonfire, which wasquite in season, or towards the mystery play, which was to bepresented in the grand hall of the Palais de Justice (the courts oflaw), which was well roofed and walled; and that the curious leftthe poor, scantily flowered maypole to shiver all alone beneath thesky of January, in the cemetery of the Chapel of Braque.

The populace thronged the avenues of the law courts inparticular, because they knew that the Flemish ambassadors, who hadarrived two days previously, intended to be present at therepresentation of the mystery, and at the election of the Pope ofthe Fools, which was also to take place in the grand hall.

It was no easy matter on that day, to force one’s way intothat grand hall, although it was then reputed to be the largestcovered enclosure in the world (it is true that Sauval had not yetmeasured the grand hall of the Château of Montargis). Thepalace place, encumbered with people, offered to the curious gazersat the windows the aspect of a sea; into which five or six streets,like so many mouths of rivers, discharged every moment fresh floodsof heads. Thewaves of this crowd, augmented incessantly, dashedagainst 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, thegrand staircase, incessantly ascended and descended by a doublecurrent, which, after parting on the intermediate landing-place,flowed in broad waves along its lateral slopes,—the grandstaircase, I say, trickled incessantly into the place, like acascade into a lake.The cries, the laughter, the trampling of thosethousands of feet, produced a great noise and a great clamor. Fromtime to time, this noise and clamor redoubled; the current whichdrove the crowd towards the grand staircase flowed backwards,became troubled, formed whirlpools. This was produced by the buffetof an archer, or the horse of one of the provost’s sergeants,which kicked to restore order; an admirable tradition which theprovostship has bequeathed to the constablery, the constablery tothemaréchaussée, themaréchausséetoourgendarmeriof Paris.

* The word Gothic, in the sense in which it is generallyemployed,is wholly unsuitable, but wholly consecrated. Hence weaccept it andwe adopt it, like all the rest of the world, tocharacterize thearchitecture of the second half of the Middle Ages,where the ogive isthe principle which succeeds the architecture ofthe first period, ofwhich the semi-circle is the father.

Thousands of good, calm, bourgeois faces thronged the windows,the doors, thedormer windows, the roofs, gazing at the palace,gazing at the populace, and asking nothing more; for many Parisianscontent themselves with the spectacle of the spectators, and a wallbehind which something is going on becomes at once, for us, a verycurious thing indeed.

If it could be granted to us, the men of 1830, to mingle inthought with those Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to enterwith them, jostled, elbowed, pulled about, into that immense hallof the palace, which was so cramped on thatsixth of January, 1482,the spectacle would not be devoid of either interest or charm, andwe should have about us only things that were so old that theywould seem new.

With the reader’s consent, we will endeavor to retrace inthought, the impression which he would have experienced in companywith us on crossing the threshold of that grand hall, in the midstof that tumultuous crowd in surcoats, short, sleeveless jackets,and doublets.

And, first of all, there is a buzzing in the ears, a dazzlementin theeyes. Above our heads is a double ogive vault, panelled withwood 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, thenanother; seven pillars in all, down the length of the hall,sustaining the spring of the arches of the double vault, in thecentre of its width. Around four of the pillars, stalls ofmerchants, all sparkling with glass and tinsel; around the lastthree, benches of oak, worn and polished by the trunk hose of thelitigants,and the robes of the attorneys. Around the hall, alongthe lofty wall, between the doors, between the windows, between thepillars, the interminable row of all the kings of France, fromPharamond down: the lazy kings, with pendent arms and downcasteyes; the valiant and combative kings, with heads and arms raisedboldly heavenward. Then in the long, pointed windows, glass of athousand 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 asplendid blue and gold illumination, which, a trifle tarnished atthe epoch when we behold it, had almost entirely disappearedbeneath dust and spiders in the year of grace, 1549, when du Breulstill admired it from tradition.

Let the reader picture to himself now, this immense, oblonghall, illuminated by the pallid light of a January day, invaded bya motley and noisy throng which driftsalong the walls, and eddiesround the seven pillars, and he will have a confused idea of thewhole effect of the picture, whose curious details we shall make aneffort to indicate with more precision.

It is certain, that if Ravaillac had not assassinatedHenri IV.,there would have been no documents in the trial of Ravaillacdeposited in the clerk’s office of the Palais de Justice, noaccomplices interested in causing the said documents to disappear;hence, no incendiaries obliged, for lack of better means, to burnthe clerk’s office in order to burn the documents, and toburn the Palais de Justice in order to burn the clerk’soffice; consequently, in short, no conflagration in 1618. The oldPalais would be standing still, with its ancient grand hall; Ishould be able to say to the reader, “Go and look atit,” and we should thus both escape the necessity,—I ofmaking, and he of reading, a description of it, such as it is.Which demonstrates a new truth: that great events have incalculableresults.

It is truethat it may be quite possible, in the first place,that Ravaillac had no accomplices; and in the second, that if hehad any, they were in no way connected with the fire of 1618. Twoother very plausible explanations exist: First, the great flamingstar, afoot broad, and a cubit high, which fell from heaven, asevery one knows, upon the law courts, after midnight on the seventhof March; second, Théophile’s quatrain,—

“Sure, ‘twas but a sorry game Whenat Paris, Dame Justice, Through having eaten toomuch 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-dayremains, thanks to this catastrophe,—thanks, above all, tothe successive restorations which have completed what itspared,—very little remains of that first dwelling of thekings of France,—of that elder palace of the Louvre, alreadyso old in the time of Philip the Handsome, that they sought therefor the traces of the magnificent buildings erected by King Robertand described by Helgaldus. Nearly everything has disappeared. Whathas become of the chamber of the chancellery, where Saint Louisconsummated 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, ashe lay uponthe carpet with Joinville?” Where is the chamber of theEmperor Sigismond? and that of Charles IV.? that of Jean theLandless? Where is the staircase, from which Charles VI.promulgated his edict of pardon? the slab where Marcel cut thethroats of Robert de Clermont and the Marshal of Champagne, in thepresence of the dauphin? the wicket where the bulls of PopeBenedict were torn, and whence those who had brought them departeddecked out, in derision, in copes and mitres, and making an apologythrough all Paris? and the grand hall, with its gilding, its azure,its statues, its pointed arches, itspillars, its immense vault, allfretted with carvings? and the gilded chamber? and the stone lion,which stood at the door, with lowered head and tail between hislegs, like the lions on the throne of Solomon, in the humiliatedattitude which befits forcein the presence of justice? and thebeautiful doors? and the stained glass? and the chased ironwork,which drove Biscornette to despair? and the delicate woodwork ofHancy? What has time, what have men done with these marvels? Whathave they given us in return for all this Gallic history, for allthis Gothic art? The heavy flattened arches of M. de Brosse, thatawkward architect of the Saint-Gervais portal. So much for art;and, as for history, we have the gossiping reminiscences of thegreat pillar, stillringing with the tattle of the Patru.

It is not much. Let us return to the veritable grand hall of theveritable old palace. The two extremities of this giganticparallelogram were occupied, the one by the famous marble table, solong, so broad, and so thick that, as the ancient landrolls—in a style that would have given Gargantua anappetite—say, “such a slice of marble as was neverbeheld in the world”; the other by the chapel where Louis XI.had himself sculptured on his knees before the Virgin, and whitherhe caused to be brought, without heeding the two gaps thus made inthe row of royal statues, the statues of Charlemagne and of SaintLouis, two saints whom he supposed to be great in favor in heaven,as kings of France. This chapel, quite new, havingbeen built onlysix years, was entirely in that charming taste of delicatearchitecture, of marvellous sculpture, of fine and deep chasing,which marks with us the end of the Gothic era, and which isperpetuated to about the middle of the sixteenth century in thefairylike fancies of the Renaissance. The little open-work rosewindow, pierced above the portal, was, in particular, a masterpieceof lightness and grace; one would have pronounced it a star oflace.

In the middle of the hall, opposite the greatdoor, a platform ofgold brocade, placed against the wall, a special entrance to whichhad been effected through a window in the corridor of the goldchamber, had been erected for the Flemish emissaries and the othergreat personages invited to the presentation of the mysteryplay.

It was upon the marble table that the mystery was to be enacted,as usual. It had been arranged for the purpose, early in themorning; its rich slabs of marble, all scratched by the heels oflaw clerks, supported a cage of carpenter’s work ofconsiderable height, the upper surface of which, within view of thewhole hall, was to serve as the theatre, and whose interior, maskedby tapestries, was to take the place of dressing-rooms for thepersonages of the piece. A ladder, naivelyplaced on the outside,was to serve as means of communication between the dressing-roomand the stage, and lend its rude rungs to entrances as well as toexits. There was no personage, however unexpected, no suddenchange, no theatrical effect, which was not obliged to mount thatladder. Innocent and venerable infancy of art and contrivances!

Four of the bailiff of the palace’s sergeants, perfunctoryguardians of all the pleasures of the people, on days of festivalas well as on days of execution, stood atthe four corners of themarble table.

The piece was only to begin with the twelfth stroke of the greatpalace clock sounding midday. It was very late, no doubt, for atheatrical representation, but they had been obliged to fix thehour to suit the convenience of the ambassadors.

Now, this whole multitude had been waiting since morning. Agoodly number of curious, good people had been shivering sincedaybreak before the grand staircase of the palace; some evenaffirmed that they had passed the night across the threshold of thegreat door, in order to make sure that they should be the first topass 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, onthe cornices, on the window-sills, on all the salient points of thearchitecture, on all the reliefs of the sculpture. Hence,discomfort, impatience, weariness, the liberty of a day of cynicismand folly, the quarrels whichbreak forth for all sorts ofcauses—a pointed elbow, an iron-shod shoe, the fatigue oflong waiting—had already, long before the hour appointed forthe arrival of the ambassadors, imparted a harsh and bitter accentto the clamor of these people who were shut in, fitted into eachother, pressed, trampled upon, stifled. Nothing was to be heard butimprecations on the Flemish, the provost of the merchants, theCardinal de Bourbon, the bailiff of the courts, Madame Margueriteof Austria, the sergeants with their rods, the cold, the heat, thebad weather, the Bishop of Paris, the Pope of the Fools, thepillars, the statues, that closed door, that open window; all tothe vast amusement of a band of scholars and lackeys scatteredthrough the mass, who mingled withall this discontent their teasingremarks, and their malicious suggestions, and pricked the generalbad temper with a pin, so to speak.

Among the rest there was a group of those merry imps, who, aftersmashing the glass in a window, had seated themselves hardily onthe entablature, and from that point despatched their gaze andtheir railleries both within and without, upon the throng in thehall, and the throng upon the Place. It was easy to see, from theirparodied gestures, their ringing laughter, the bantering appealswhich they exchanged with their comrades, from one end of the hallto the other, that these young clerks did not share the wearinessand fatigue of the rest of the spectators, and that they understoodvery well the art of extracting, for their own private diversionfrom that which they had under their eyes, a spectacle which madethem await the other with patience.

“Upon my soul, so it’s you, ‘Joannes Frollo deMolendino!’” 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 wellnamed John of the Mill, for your two arms and your two legs havethe air of four wings fluttering on the breeze. How long have youbeen here?”

“By the mercy of thedevil,” retorted Joannes Frollo,“these four hours and more; and I hope that they will bereckoned to my credit in purgatory. I heard the eight singers ofthe King of Sicily intone the first verse of seven o’clockmass in the Sainte-Chapelle.”

“Fine singers!” replied the other, “withvoices even more pointed than their caps! Before founding a massfor Monsieur Saint John, the king should have inquired whetherMonsieur Saint John likes Latin droned out in a Provençalaccent.”

“He did it for the sake of employing those accursedsingers of the King of Sicily!” cried an old woman sharplyfrom among the crowd beneath the window. “I just put it toyou! A thousandlivres parisifor a mass! and out of the tax on seafish 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; “amass had to be founded. Would you wish the king to fall illagain?”

“Bravely spoken, Sire Gilles Lecornu, master furrier ofking’s robes!” cried the little student, clinging tothe capital.

A shout of laughter from all the students greeted the unluckyname of the poor furrier of the king’s robes.

“Lecornu! Gilles Lecornu!” said some.

“Cornutus et hirsutus, horned and hairy,” anotherwent on.

“He! of course,” continued the small imp on thecapital, “What are they laughing at? An honorable man isGilles Lecornu, brother of Master Jehan Lecornu, provost of theking’s house, son of Master Mahiet Lecornu, first porter ofthe Bois de Vincennes,—all bourgeois of Paris, all married,from father to son.”

The gayety redoubled. The big furrier, without uttering a wordin reply, tried to escape all the eyes riveted upon him from allsides; but he perspired and panted in vain; like a wedge enteringthe wood, his efforts servedonly to bury still more deeply in theshoulders of his neighbors, his large, apoplectic face, purple withspite and rage.

At length one of these, as fat, short, and venerable as himself,came to his rescue.

“Abomination! scholars addressing a bourgeois inthatfashion in my day would have been flogged with a fagot, which wouldhave afterwards been used to burn them.”

The whole band burst into laughter.

“Holà hé! who is scolding so? Who is thatscreech owl of evil fortune?”

“Hold, I know him” said one ofthem;“‘tis Master Andry Musnier.”

“Because he is one of the four sworn booksellers of theuniversity!” said the other.

“Everything goes by fours in that shop,” cried athird; “the four nations, the four faculties, the fourfeasts, the four procurators,the four electors, the fourbooksellers.”

“Well,” began Jean Frollo once more, “we mustplay 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 awidow.”

“Devil take you!” growled Master Andry Musnier.

“Master Andry,” pursued Jean Jehan, still clingingto his capital, “hold your tongue, or I’ll drop on yourhead!”

Master Andry raised his eyes, seemed to measure in an instantthe height of the pillar, the weight of the scamp, mentallymultiplied that weight by the square of the velocity and remainedsilent.

Jehan, master of the field of battle, pursued triumphantly:

“That’s what I’ll do, even if I am the brotherof an archdeacon!”

“Fine gentry are our people of the university, not to havecaused 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 theuniversity, nothing!”

“Nevertheless, the Place Maubert is sufficientlylarge!” interposed one of the clerks established on thewindow-sill.

“Down with the rector, the electors, and theprocurators!” cried Joannes.

“We must have a bonfire this evening in theChamp-Gaillard,” went on the other, “made of MasterAndry’s books.”

“And the desks of the scribes!” added hisneighbor.

“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, ascounterpoint; “down with Master Andry, the beadles and thescribes; the theologians, the doctors and the decretists; theprocurators, the electors and the rector!”

“The end of the world has come!,’ muttered MasterAndry, stopping up his ears.

“By the way, there’s the rector! see, he is passingthrough the Place,” cried one of those in the window.

Each rivalled his neighbor inhis haste to turn towards thePlace.

“Is it really our venerable rector, Master Thibaut?”demanded Jehan Frollo du Moulin, who, as he was clinging to one ofthe inner pillars, could not see what was going on outside.

“Yes, yes,” replied all the others, “it isreally he, Master Thibaut, the rector.”

It was, in fact, the rector and all the dignitaries of theuniversity, who were marching in procession in front of theembassy, and at that moment traversing the Place. The studentscrowded into the window,saluted them as they passed with sarcasmsand ironical applause. The rector, who was walking at the head ofhis company, had to support the first broadside; it was severe.

“Good day, monsieur le recteur! Holà hé! goodday there!”

“How does he manage to behere, the old gambler? Has heabandoned his dice?”

“How he trots along on his mule! her ears are not so longas his!”

“Holà hé! good day, monsieur le recteurThibaut!Tybalde aleator! Old fool! old gambler!”

“God preserve you! Did you throw double six often lastnight?”

“Oh! what a decrepit face, livid and haggard and drawnwith the love of gambling and of dice!”

“Where are you bound for in that fashion, Thibaut,Tybaldead dados, with your back turned to the university, and trottingtowards the town?”

“Heis on his way, no doubt, to seek a lodging in the RueThibautodé?” * 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 RueThibautodé, are you not, monsieur le recteur, gamester on theside of the devil?”

Then came the turns of the other dignitaries.

“Down with the beadles! down with themace-bearers!”

“Tell me, Robin Pouissepain, who is thatyonder?”

“He is Gilbert de Suilly,Gilbertus de Soliaco, thechancellor of the College of Autun.”

“Hold on, here’s my shoe; you are better placed thanI, fling it in his face.”

“Saturnalitias mittimus ecce nuces.”

“Down with the six theologians, with their whitesurplices!”

“Are those the theologians? I thought they were the whitegeese given by Sainte-Geneviève to the city, for the fief ofRoogny.”

“Down with the doctors!”

“Down with the cardinal disputations, andquibblers!”

“My cap to you, Chancellor of Sainte-Geneviève! Youhave done me a wrong. ‘Tis true; he gave my place in thenation of Normandy to little Ascanio Falzapada, who comes from theprovince of Bourges, since he is an Italian.”

“That is an injustice,” said all the scholars.“Down with the Chancellorof Sainte-Geneviève!”

“Ho hé! Master Joachim de Ladehors! Ho hé! LouisDahuille! Ho he Lambert Hoctement!”

“May the devil stifle the procurator of the Germannation!”

“And the chaplains of the Sainte-Chapelle, with theirgrayamices; cum tunices grisis!”

“Seu de pellibus grisis fourratis!”

“Holà hé! Masters of Arts! All the beautifulblack 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 tohis bridal with the sea.”

“Say, Jehan!here are the canons ofSainte-Geneviève!”

“To the deuce with the whole set of canons!”

“Abbé Claude Choart! Doctor Claude Choart! Are you insearch of Marie la Giffarde?”

“She is in the Rue de Glatigny.”

“She is making the bed of the king of the debauchees. Sheis paying her four deniers*quatuor denarios.”

* An old French coin, equal to the two hundred andfortiethpart of a pound.

“Aut unum bombum.”

“Would you like to have her pay you in theface?”

“Comrades! Master Simon Sanguin, the Elector ofPicardy,with his wife on the crupper!”

“Post equitem seclet atra eura—behind the horsemansits black care.”

“Courage, Master Simon!”

“Good day, Mister Elector!”

“Good night, Madame Electress!”

“How happy they are to see all that!” sighed Joannesde Molendino, still perched in the foliage of his capital.

Meanwhile, the sworn bookseller of the university, Master AndryMusnier, was inclining his ear to the furrier of the king’srobes, Master Gilles Lecornu.

“I tell you, sir, that the end of the world has come. Noonehas ever beheld such outbreaks among the students! It is theaccursed inventions of this century that are ruiningeverything,—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 isdrawing nigh.”

“I see that plainly, from the progress of velvetstuffs,” 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 ofcoughs and handkerchiefs; each one arranged himself, assumed hispost, raised himself up, and grouped himself. Then came a greatsilence; all necks remained outstretched, all mouths remained open,all glances were directed towards the marble table. Nothing madeits appearance there. The bailiff’s four sergeants were stillthere, stiff, motionless, as painted statues. All eyes turned tothe estrade reserved for the Flemish envoys. The door remainedclosed, the platform empty. This crowd had been waiting sincedaybreak for three things: noonday, the embassy from Flanders, themystery 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 themeantime, wrath had succeeded to impatience. Irritated wordscirculated in a low tone, still, it is true. “The mystery!the mystery!”they murmured, in hollow voices. Heads began toferment. A tempest, which was only rumbling in the distance as yet,was floating on the surface of this crowd. It was Jehan du Moulinwho struck the first spark from it.

“The mystery, and to the devil withthe Flemings!” heexclaimed at the full force of his lungs, twining like a serpentaround his pillar.

The crowd clapped their hands.

“The mystery!” it repeated, “and may all thedevils take Flanders!”

“We must have the mystery instantly,” resumed thestudent; “or else, my advice is that we should hang thebailiff of the courts, by way of a morality and acomedy.”

“Well said,” cried the people, “and let usbegin the hanging with his sergeants.”

A grand acclamation followed. The four poor fellows began toturnpale, and to exchange glances. The crowd hurled itself towardsthem, and they already beheld the frail wooden railing, whichseparated them from it, giving way and bending before the pressureof the throng.

It was a critical moment.

“To the sack, to the sack!” rose the cry on allsides.

At that moment, the tapestry of the dressing-room, which we havedescribed above, was raised, and afforded passage to a personage,the mere sight of whom suddenly stopped the crowd, and changed itswrath into curiosityas by enchantment.

“Silence! silence!”

The personage, but little reassured, and trembling in everylimb, advanced to the edge of the marble table with a vast amountof bows, which, in proportion as he drew nearer, more and moreresembled genuflections.

Inthe meanwhile, tranquillity had gradually been restored. Allthat remained was that slight murmur which always rises above thesilence of a crowd.

“Messieurs the bourgeois,” said he, “andmesdemoiselles thebourgeoises, we shall have the honor ofdeclaiming and representing, before his eminence, monsieur thecardinal, a very beautiful morality which has for its title,‘The Good Judgment of Madame the Virgin Mary.’ I am toplay Jupiter. His eminence is, at this moment, escorting the veryhonorable embassy ofthe Duke of Austria; which is detained, atpresent, listening to the harangue of monsieur the rector of theuniversity, at the gate Baudets. As soon as his illustriouseminence, the cardinal, arrives, we will begin.”

It is certain, that nothing less thanthe intervention of Jupiterwas required to save the four unfortunate sergeants of the bailiffof the courts. If we had the happiness of having invented this veryveracious tale, and of being, in consequence, responsible for itbefore our Lady Criticism, it is not against us that the classicprecept,Nec deus intersit, could be invoked. Moreover, the costumeof Seigneur Jupiter, was very handsome, and contributed not alittle towards calming the crowd, by attracting all its attention.Jupiter was clad in acoat of mail, covered with black velvet, withgilt nails; and had it not been for the rouge, and the huge redbeard, each of which covered one-half of his face,—had it notbeen for the roll of gilded cardboard, spangled, and all bristlingwith strips of tinsel, which he held in his hand, and in which theeyes of the initiated easily recognized thunderbolts,—had nothis feet been flesh-colored, and banded with ribbons in Greekfashion, he might have borne comparison, so far as the severity ofhis mien was concerned, with a Breton archer from the guard ofMonsieur de Berry.


Nevertheless, as be harangued them, the satisfaction andadmiration unanimously excited by his costume were dissipated byhis words; and when he reached that untoward conclusion: “Assoon as his illustrious eminence, the cardinal, arrives, we willbegin,” his voice was drowned in a thunder of hooting.

“Begin instantly! The mystery! the mysteryimmediately!” shrieked the people. And above all thevoices,that of Johannes de Molendino was audible, piercing theuproar like the fife’s derisive serenade: “Commenceinstantly!” yelped the scholar.

“Down with Jupiter and the Cardinal de Bourbon!”vociferated Robin Poussepain and the other clerks perched in thewindow.

“The morality this very instant!” repeated thecrowd; “this very instant! the sack and the rope for thecomedians, and the cardinal!”

Poor Jupiter, haggard, frightened, pale beneath his rouge,dropped his thunderbolt, took his cap in his hand; thenhe bowed andtrembled and stammered: “His eminence—theambassadors—Madame Marguerite of Flanders—.” Hedid not know what to say. In truth, he was afraid of beinghung.

Hung by the populace for waiting, hung by the cardinal for nothaving waited, he saw between the two dilemmas only an abyss; thatis to say, a gallows.

Luckily, some one came to rescue him from his embarrassment, andassume the responsibility.

An individual who was standing beyond the railing, in the freespace around the marble table, and whom no one had yet caught sightof, since his long, thin body was completely sheltered from everyvisual ray by the diameter of the pillar against which he wasleaning; this individual, we say, tall, gaunt, pallid, blond, stillyoung, although already wrinkled about the brow and cheeks, withbrilliant eyes and a smiling mouth, clad in garments of blackserge, worn and shining with age, approached the marble table, andmade a sign to the poor sufferer. But the other was so confusedthat he did not see him. The new comer advanced another step.

“Jupiter,” said he, “my dearJupiter!”

The other did not hear.

At last, the tall blond, driven out of patience, shrieked almostin his face,—

“Michel Giborne!”

“Who calls me?” said Jupiter, as though awakenedwith a start.

“I,” replied the person clad in black.

“Ah!” said Jupiter.

“Begin at once,” went on the other. “Satisfythe populace; I undertake to appease the bailiff, who will appeasemonsieur the cardinal.”

Jupiter breathed once more.

“Messeigneurs the bourgeois,”he cried, at the top ofhis lungs to the crowd, which continued to hoot him, “we aregoing to begin at once.”

“Evoe Jupiter! Plaudite cives! All hail, Jupiter! Applaud,citizens!” shouted the scholars.

“Noel! Noel! good, good,” shouted the people.

The handclapping was deafening, and Jupiter had alreadywithdrawn under his tapestry, while the hall still trembled withacclamations.

In the meanwhile, the personage who had so magically turned thetempest into dead calm, as our old and dear Corneille puts it, hadmodestly retreated to the half-shadow of his pillar, and would, nodoubt, have remained invisible there, motionless, and mute asbefore, had he not been plucked by the sleeve by two young women,who, standing in the front row of the spectators, had noticed hiscolloquy with Michel Giborne-Jupiter.

“Master,” said one of them, making him a sign toapproach. “Hold your tongue, my dear Liénarde,”said her neighbor, pretty, fresh, and very brave, in consequence ofbeing dressed up in her best attire. “He is not a clerk, heis a layman; you must not say master to him, butmessire.”

“Messire,” said Liénarde.

The stranger approached the railing.

“What would you have of me, damsels?” he asked, withalacrity.

“Oh! nothing,” replied Liénarde, in greatconfusion; “itis my neighbor, Gisquette la Gencienne, whowishes to speak with you.”

“Not so,” replied Gisquette, blushing; “it wasLiénarde who called you master; I only told her to saymessire.”

The two young girls dropped their eyes. The man, who askednothingbetter than to enter into conversation, looked at them witha 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 twocurious maidens had no mind to let slip their prize.

“Messire,” said Gisquette, with the impetuosity ofan open sluice, or of a woman who has made up her mind, “doyou know that soldier who is to play the part of Madame the Virginin the mystery?”

“You mean the part of Jupiter?” replied thestranger.

“Hé! yes,” said Liénarde,“isn’t she stupid? So you know Jupiter?”

“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 Gisquette, timidly.

“Very fine, mademoiselle,” replied the unknown,without the slightest hesitation.

“What is it to be?” said Liénarde.

“‘The Good Judgment of Madame theVirgin,’—a morality, if you please, damsel.”

“Ah! that makes a difference,” respondedLiénarde.

A brief silence ensued—broken by the stranger.

“It is a perfectly new morality, and one which has neveryet been played.”

“Then it is not the same one,” said Gisquette,“that was given two years ago, on the day of the entrance ofmonsieur the legate,and where three handsome maids played theparts—”

“Of sirens,” said Liénarde.

“And all naked,” added the young man.

Liénarde lowered her eyes modestly. Gisquette glanced ather and did the same. He continued, with a smile,—

“It was a very pleasant thing tosee. To-day it is amorality made expressly for Madame the Demoiselle ofFlanders.”

“Will they sing shepherd songs?” inquiredGisquette.

“Fie!” said the stranger, “in a morality? youmust not confound styles. If it were a farce, well andgood.”

“That is apity,” resumed Gisquette. “That day,at the Ponceau Fountain, there were wild men and women, who foughtand assumed many aspects, as they sang little motets andbergerettes.”

“That which is suitable for a legate,” returned thestranger, with a good deal of dryness, “is not suitable for aprincess.”

“And beside them,” resumed Liénarde,“played many brass instruments, making greatmelodies.”

“And for the refreshment of the passers-by,”continued Gisquette, “the fountain spouted through threemouths, wine, milk, and hippocrass, of which every one drank whowished.”

“And a little below the Ponceau, at the Trinity,”pursued Liénarde, “there was a passion performed, andwithout any speaking.”

“How well I remember that!” exclaimed Gisquette;“God on the cross, andthe two thieves on the right and theleft.” Here the young gossips, growing warm at the memory ofthe entrance of monsieur the legate, both began to talk atonce.

“And, further on, at the Painters’ Gate, there wereother personages, very richly clad.”

“And at the fountain of Saint-Innocent, that huntsman, whowas chasing a hind with great clamor of dogs andhunting-horns.”

“And, at the Paris slaughter-houses, stages, representingthe fortress of Dieppe!”

“And when the legate passed, you remember, Gisquette? theymade the assault, and the English all had their throatscut.”

“And against the gate of the Châtelet, there werevery fine personages!”

“And on the Port au Change, which was all drapedabove!”

“And when the legate passed, they let fly on the bridgemore than two hundred sorts of birds; wasn’t it beautiful,Liénarde?”

“It will be better to-day,” finally resumed theirinterlocutor, who seemed to listen to them with impatience.

“Do you promise us that this mystery will be fine?”said Gisquette.

“Withoutdoubt,” he replied; then he added, with acertain emphasis,—“I am the author of it,damsels.”

“Truly?” said the young girls, quite takenaback.

“Truly!” replied the poet, bridling a little;“that is, to say, there are two of us; Jehan Marchand, whohas sawed the planks and erected the framework of the theatre andthe woodwork; and I, who have made the piece. My name is PierreGringoire.”

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 oftime must have already elapsed from the moment when Jupiter hadretired beneath the tapestry to the instant when the author of thenew morality had thus abruptly revealed himself to the innocentadmiration of Gisquette and Liénarde.Remarkable fact: thatwhole crowd, so tumultuous but a few moments before, now waitedamiably on the word of the comedian; which proves the eternaltruth, still experienced every day in our theatres, that the bestmeans of making the public wait patientlyis to assure them that oneis about to begin instantly.

However, scholar Johannes had not fallen asleep.

“Holà hé!” he shouted suddenly, in themidst of the peaceable waiting which had followed the tumult.“Jupiter, Madame the Virgin, buffoons of thedevil! are youjeering at us? The piece! the piece! commence or we will commenceagain!”

This was all that was needed.

The music of high and low instruments immediately became audiblefrom the interior of the stage; the tapestry was raised; fourpersonages, in motley attire and painted faces, emerged from it,climbed the steep ladder of the theatre, and, arrived upon theupper platform, arranged themselves in a line before the public,whom they saluted with profound reverences; then the symphonyceased.

Themystery was about to begin.

The four personages, after having reaped a rich reward ofapplause for their reverences, began, in the midst of profoundsilence, a prologue, which we gladly spare the reader. Moreover, ashappens in our own day, the public wasmore occupied with thecostumes that the actors wore than with the roles that they wereenacting; and, in truth, they were right. All four were dressed inparti-colored robes of yellow and white, which were distinguishedfrom each other only by the natureof the stuff; the first was ofgold and silver brocade; the second, of silk; the third, of wool;the fourth, of linen. The first of these personages carried in hisright hand a sword; the second, two golden keys; the third, a pairof scales; the fourth, aspade: and, in order to aid sluggish mindswhich would not have seen clearly through the transparency of theseattributes, there was to be read, in large, black letters, on thehem of the robe of brocade, MY NAME IS NOBILITY; on the hem of thesilken robe, MY NAME IS CLERGY; on the hem of the woolen robe, MYNAME IS MERCHANDISE; on the hem of the linen robe, MY NAME ISLABOR. The sex of the two male characters was briefly indicated toevery judicious spectator, by their shorter robes, and by the capwhichthey 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 waswedded to Merchandise,and Clergy to Nobility, and that the twohappy couples possessed in common a magnificent golden dolphin,which they desired to adjudge to the fairest only. So they wereroaming about the world seeking and searching for this beauty, and,after having successively rejected the Queen of Golconda, thePrincess of Trebizonde, the daughter of the Grand Khan of Tartary,etc., Labor and Clergy, Nobility and Merchandise, had come to restupon the marble table of the Palais de Justice, and to utter, inthe presence of the honest audience, as many sentences and maximsas could then be dispensed at the Faculty of Arts, at examinations,sophisms, determinances, figures, and acts, where the masters tooktheir degrees.

All this was, in fact, very fine.

Nevertheless, in that throng, upon which the four allegoriesvied with each other in pouring out floods of metaphors, there wasno ear more attentive, no heart that palpitated more, not an eyewas more haggard, no neck more outstretched, than the eye, the ear,the neck, and the heart of the author, of the poet, of that bravePierre Gringoire, who had not been able to resist, a moment before,the joy of telling his name to two pretty girls. He had retreated afew paces from them, behind his pillar, and there he listened,looked, enjoyed. The amiable applause which had greeted thebeginning of his prologue was still echoing in his bosom, and hewas completely absorbed in that species of ecstatic contemplationwith which an author beholds his ideas fall, one by one, from themouthof the actor into the vast silence of the audience. WorthyPierre Gringoire!

It pains us to say it, but this first ecstasy was speedilydisturbed. Hardly had Gringoire raised this intoxicating cup of joyand triumph to his lips, when a drop of bitternesswas mingled withit.

A tattered mendicant, who could not collect any coins, lost ashe was in the midst of the crowd, and who had not probably foundsufficient indemnity in the pockets of his neighbors, had hit uponthe idea of perching himself upon some conspicuous point, in orderto attract looks and alms. He had, accordingly, hoisted himself,during the first verses of the prologue, with the aid of thepillars of the reserve gallery, to the cornice which ran round thebalustrade at its lower edge; and there he had seated himself,soliciting the attention and the pity of the multitude, with hisrags and a hideous sore which covered his right arm. However, heuttered not a word.

The silence which he preserved allowed the prologue to proceedwithout hindrance, and no perceptible disorder would have ensued,if ill-luck had not willed that the scholar Joannes should catchsight, from the heights of his pillar, of the mendicant and hisgrimaces. A wild fit of laughter took possession of the youngscamp, 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 shotinto a covey of birds, can form an idea of the effect produced bythese incongruous words, in the midst of the general attention. Itmade Gringoire shudder as though it had been an electric shock. Theprologue stopped short, and all heads turned tumultuously towardsthe beggar, who, far frombeing disconcerted by this, saw, in thisincident, a good opportunity for reaping hisharvest, and who beganto whine in a doleful way, half closing his eyes thewhile,—“Charity, please!”

“Well—upon my soul,” resumed Joannes,“it’s Clopin Trouillefou! Holà he, my friend, didyour sore bother you on the leg, that you have transferred it toyour arm?” So saying, with the dexterity of a monkey, heflung a bit of silver into the gray felt hat which the beggar heldin his ailing arm. The mendicant received boththe alms and thesarcasm without wincing, and continued, in lamentabletones,—

“Charity, please!”

This episode considerably distracted the attention of theaudience; and a goodly number of spectators, among them RobinPoussepain, and all the clerks at their head, gayly applauded thiseccentric duet, which the scholar, with his shrill voice, and themendicant had just improvised in the middle of the prologue.

Gringoire was highly displeased. On recovering from his firststupefaction, he bestirred himself toshout, to the four personageson the stage, “Go on! What the devil!—goon!”—without even deigning to cast a glance of disdainupon the two interrupters.

At that moment, he felt some one pluck at the hem of hissurtout; he turned round, and not without ill-humor, and foundconsiderable 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 inthis manner.

“Monsieur,” said the young girl, “are theygoing to continue?”

“Of course,” replied Gringoire, a good deal shockedby the question.

“In that case, messire,” she resumed, “wouldyou have the courtesy to explain to me—”

“What they are about to say?” interrupted Gringoire.“Well, listen.”

“No,” said Gisquette, “but what they have saidso far.”

Gringoire started, like a man whose wound has been probed to thequick.

“A plague on the stupid and dull-witted littlegirl!” he muttered, between his teeth.

From that moment forth, Gisquette was nothing to him.

In the meantime, the actors had obeyed his injunction, and thepublic, seeing that they were beginning to speak again, began oncemore to listen, not without having lost many beauties in the sortof soldered joint which was formed between thetwo portions of thepiece thus abruptly cut short. Gringoire commented on it bitterlyto himself. Nevertheless, tranquillity was gradually restored, thescholar held his peace, the mendicant counted over some coins inhis hat, and the piece resumed the upper hand.

It was, in fact, a very fine work, and one which, as it seems tous, might be put to use to-day, by the aid of a littlerearrangement. The exposition, rather long and rather empty, thatis to say, according to the rules, was simple; and Gringoire,in thecandid sanctuary of his own conscience, admired its clearness. Asthe reader may surmise, the four allegorical personages weresomewhat weary with having traversed the three sections of theworld, without having found suitable opportunity for getting rid oftheir golden dolphin. Thereupon a eulogy of the marvellous fish,with a thousand delicate allusions to the young betrothed ofMarguerite of Flanders, then sadly cloistered in at Amboise, andwithout asuspicion that Labor and Clergy, Nobility andMerchandisehad just made the circuit of the world in his behalf. The saiddauphin was then young, was handsome, was stout, and, above all(magnificent origin of all royal virtues), he was the son of theLion of France. I declare that this bold metaphor is admirable, andthat the natural history of the theatre, on a day of allegory androyal marriage songs, is not in the least startled by a dolphin whois the son of a lion. It is precisely these rare and Pindaricmixtures which prove the poet’s enthusiasm.Nevertheless, inorder to play the part of critic also, the poet might havedeveloped this beautiful idea in something less than two hundredlines. It is true that the mystery was to last from noon until fouro’clock, in accordance with the orders of monsieur theprovost, and that it was necessary to say something. Besides, thepeople listened patiently.

All at once, in the very middle of a quarrel betweenMademoiselle Merchandise and Madame Nobility, at the moment whenMonsieur Labor was giving utteranceto this wonderfulline,—

In forest ne’er was seen a more triumphant beast;

the door of the reserved gallery which had hitherto remained soinopportunely closed, opened still more inopportunely; and theringing voice of the usher announced abruptly, “His eminence,Monseigneur the Cardinal de Bourbon.”


Poor Gringoire! the din of all the great double petards of theSaint-Jean, the discharge of twenty arquebuses on supports, thedetonation of that famous serpentine of the Tower of Billy, which,during the siege of Paris, on Sunday, the twenty-sixth ofSeptember, 1465, killed seven Burgundians at one blow, theexplosion of all the powder stored at the gate of the Temple, wouldhave 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 deBourbon.”

It is not that Pierre Gringoire either feared or disdainedmonsieur the cardinal. He had neither the weakness nor theaudacityfor that. A true eclectic, as it would be expressed nowadays,Gringoire was one of those firm and lofty, moderate and calmspirits, which always know how to bear themselves amid allcircumstances (stare in dimidio rerum), and who are full of reasonand of liberal philosophy, while still setting store by cardinals.A rare, precious, and never interrupted race of philosophers towhom wisdom, like another Ariadne, seems to have given a clew ofthread which they have been walking along unwinding sincethebeginning of the world, through the labyrinth of human affairs. Onefinds them in all ages, ever the same; that is to say, alwaysaccording to all times. And, without reckoning our PierreGringoire, who may represent them in the fifteenth century if wesucceed in bestowing upon him the distinction which he deserves, itcertainly was their spirit which animated Father du Breul, when hewrote, in the sixteenth, these naively sublime words, worthy of allcenturies: “I am a Parisian by nation, and a Parrhisian inlanguage, forparrhisiain Greek signifies liberty of speech; ofwhich I have made use even towards messeigneurs the cardinals,uncle and brother to Monsieur the Prince de Conty, always withrespect to their greatness, and without offending any oneof theirsuite, which is much to say.”

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!