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-BOOK FOURTH. CHAPTER III.
IMMANIS PECORIS CUSTOS, IMMANIOR IPSE.
Now, in 1482, Quasimodo had grown up.
He had become a few years previously the bellringer of Notre-Dame, thanks to his
father by adoption, Claude Frollo,--who had become archdeacon of Josas, thanks to his
suzerain, Messire Louis de Beaumont,--who
had become Bishop of Paris, at the death of Guillaume Chartier in 1472, thanks to his
patron, Olivier Le Daim, barber to Louis XI., king by the grace of God.
So Quasimodo was the ringer of the chimes of Notre-Dame.
In the course of time there had been formed a certain peculiarly intimate bond which
united the ringer to the church.
Separated forever from the world, by the double fatality of his unknown birth and
his natural deformity, imprisoned from his infancy in that impassable double circle,
the poor wretch had grown used to seeing
nothing in this world beyond the religious walls which had received him under their
shadow.
Notre-Dame had been to him successively, as he grew up and developed, the egg, the
nest, the house, the country, the universe.
There was certainly a sort of mysterious and pre-existing harmony between this
creature and this church.
When, still a little fellow, he had dragged himself tortuously and by jerks beneath the
shadows of its vaults, he seemed, with his human face and his bestial limbs, the
natural reptile of that humid and sombre
pavement, upon which the shadow of the Romanesque capitals cast so many strange
forms.
Later on, the first time that he caught hold, mechanically, of the ropes to the
towers, and hung suspended from them, and set the bell to clanging, it produced upon
his adopted father, Claude, the effect of a
child whose tongue is unloosed and who begins to speak.
It is thus that, little by little, developing always in sympathy with the
cathedral, living there, sleeping there, hardly ever leaving it, subject every hour
to the mysterious impress, he came to
resemble it, he incrusted himself in it, so to speak, and became an integral part of
it.
His salient angles fitted into the retreating angles of the cathedral (if we
may be allowed this figure of speech), and he seemed not only its inhabitant but more
than that, its natural tenant.
One might almost say that he had assumed its form, as the snail takes on the form of
its shell. It was his dwelling, his hole, his
envelope.
There existed between him and the old church so profound an instinctive sympathy,
so many magnetic affinities, so many material affinities, that he adhered to it
somewhat as a tortoise adheres to its shell.
The rough and wrinkled cathedral was his shell.
It is useless to warn the reader not to take literally all the similes which we are
obliged to employ here to express the singular, symmetrical, direct, almost
consubstantial union of a man and an edifice.
It is equally unnecessary to state to what a degree that whole cathedral was familiar
to him, after so long and so intimate a cohabitation.
That dwelling was peculiar to him.
It had no depths to which Quasimodo had not penetrated, no height which he had not
scaled.
He often climbed many stones up the front, aided solely by the uneven points of the
carving.
The towers, on whose exterior surface he was frequently seen clambering, like a
lizard gliding along a perpendicular wall, those two gigantic twins, so lofty, so
menacing, so formidable, possessed for him
neither vertigo, nor terror, nor shocks of amazement.
To see them so gentle under his hand, so easy to scale, one would have said that he
had tamed them.
By dint of leaping, climbing, gambolling amid the abysses of the gigantic cathedral
he had become, in some sort, a monkey and a goat, like the Calabrian child who swims
before he walks, and plays with the sea while still a babe.
Moreover, it was not his body alone which seemed fashioned after the Cathedral, but
his mind also.
In what condition was that mind? What bent had it contracted, what form had
it assumed beneath that knotted envelope, in that savage life?
This it would be hard to determine.
Quasimodo had been born one-eyed, hunchbacked, lame.
It was with great difficulty, and by dint of great patience that Claude Frollo had
succeeded in teaching him to talk.
But a fatality was attached to the poor foundling.
Bellringer of Notre-Dame at the age of fourteen, a new infirmity had come to
complete his misfortunes: the bells had broken the drums of his ears; he had become
deaf.
The only gate which nature had left wide open for him had been abruptly closed, and
forever.
In closing, it had cut off the only ray of joy and of light which still made its way
into the soul of Quasimodo. His soul fell into profound night.
The wretched being's misery became as incurable and as complete as his deformity.
Let us add that his deafness rendered him to some extent dumb.
For, in order not to make others laugh, the very moment that he found himself to be
deaf, he resolved upon a silence which he only broke when he was alone.
He voluntarily tied that tongue which Claude Frollo had taken so much pains to
unloose.
Hence, it came about, that when necessity constrained him to speak, his tongue was
torpid, awkward, and like a door whose hinges have grown rusty.
If now we were to try to penetrate to the soul of Quasimodo through that thick, hard
rind; if we could sound the depths of that badly constructed organism; if it were
granted to us to look with a torch behind
those non-transparent organs to explore the shadowy interior of that opaque creature,
to elucidate his obscure corners, his absurd no-thoroughfares, and suddenly to
cast a vivid light upon the soul enchained
at the extremity of that cave, we should, no doubt, find the unhappy Psyche in some
poor, cramped, and ricketty attitude, like those prisoners beneath the Leads of
Venice, who grew old bent double in a stone
box which was both too low and too short for them.
It is certain that the mind becomes atrophied in a defective body.
Quasimodo was barely conscious of a soul cast in his own image, moving blindly
within him.
The impressions of objects underwent a considerable refraction before reaching his
mind.
His brain was a peculiar medium; the ideas which passed through it issued forth
completely distorted.
The reflection which resulted from this refraction was, necessarily, divergent and
perverted.
Hence a thousand optical illusions, a thousand aberrations of judgment, a
thousand deviations, in which his thought strayed, now mad, now idiotic.
The first effect of this fatal organization was to trouble the glance which he cast
upon things. He received hardly any immediate perception
of them.
The external world seemed much farther away to him than it does to us.
The second effect of his misfortune was to render him malicious.
He was malicious, in fact, because he was savage; he was savage because he was ugly.
There was logic in his nature, as there is in ours.
His strength, so extraordinarily developed, was a cause of still greater malevolence:
"Malus puer robustus," says Hobbes. This justice must, however be rendered to
him.
Malevolence was not, perhaps, innate in him.
From his very first steps among men, he had felt himself, later on he had seen himself,
spewed out, blasted, rejected.
Human words were, for him, always a raillery or a malediction.
As he grew up, he had found nothing but hatred around him.
He had caught the general malevolence.
He had picked up the weapon with which he had been wounded.
After all, he turned his face towards men only with reluctance; his cathedral was
sufficient for him.
It was peopled with marble figures,--kings, saints, bishops,--who at least did not
burst out laughing in his face, and who gazed upon him only with tranquillity and
kindliness.
The other statues, those of the monsters and demons, cherished no hatred for him,
Quasimodo. He resembled them too much for that.
They seemed rather, to be scoffing at other men.
The saints were his friends, and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
guarded him.
So he held long communion with them. He sometimes passed whole hours crouching
before one of these statues, in solitary conversation with it.
If any one came, he fled like a lover surprised in his serenade.
And the cathedral was not only society for him, but the universe, and all nature
beside.
He dreamed of no other hedgerows than the painted windows, always in flower; no other
shade than that of the foliage of stone which spread out, loaded with birds, in the
tufts of the Saxon capitals; of no other
mountains than the colossal towers of the church; of no other ocean than Paris,
roaring at their bases.
What he loved above all else in the maternal edifice, that which aroused his
soul, and made it open its poor wings, which it kept so miserably folded in its
cavern, that which sometimes rendered him even happy, was the bells.
He loved them, fondled them, talked to them, understood them.
From the chime in the spire, over the intersection of the aisles and nave, to the
great bell of the front, he cherished a tenderness for them all.
The central spire and the two towers were to him as three great cages, whose birds,
reared by himself, sang for him alone.
Yet it was these very bells which had made him deaf; but mothers often love best that
child which has caused them the most suffering.
It is true that their voice was the only one which he could still hear.
On this score, the big bell was his beloved.
It was she whom he preferred out of all that family of noisy girls which bustled
above him, on festival days. This bell was named Marie.
She was alone in the southern tower, with her sister Jacqueline, a bell of lesser
size, shut up in a smaller cage beside hers.
This Jacqueline was so called from the name of the wife of Jean Montagu, who had given
it to the church, which had not prevented his going and figuring without his head at
Montfaucon.
In the second tower there were six other bells, and, finally, six smaller ones
inhabited the belfry over the crossing, with the wooden bell, which rang only
between after dinner on Good Friday and the morning of the day before Easter.
So Quasimodo had fifteen bells in his seraglio; but big Marie was his favorite.
No idea can be formed of his delight on days when the grand peal was sounded.
At the moment when the archdeacon dismissed him, and said, "Go!" he mounted the spiral
staircase of the clock tower faster than any one else could have descended it.
He entered perfectly breathless into the aerial chamber of the great bell; he gazed
at her a moment, devoutly and lovingly; then he gently addressed her and patted her
with his hand, like a good horse, which is about to set out on a long journey.
He pitied her for the trouble that she was about to suffer.
After these first caresses, he shouted to his assistants, placed in the lower story
of the tower, to begin.
They grasped the ropes, the wheel creaked, the enormous capsule of metal started
slowly into motion. Quasimodo followed it with his glance and
trembled.
The first shock of the clapper and the brazen wall made the framework upon which
it was mounted quiver. Quasimodo vibrated with the bell.
"Vah!" he cried, with a senseless burst of laughter.
However, the movement of the bass was accelerated, and, in proportion as it
described a wider angle, Quasimodo's eye opened also more and more widely,
phosphoric and flaming.
At length the grand peal began; the whole tower trembled; woodwork, leads, cut
stones, all groaned at once, from the piles of the foundation to the trefoils of its
summit.
Then Quasimodo boiled and frothed; he went and came; he trembled from head to foot
with the tower.
The bell, furious, running riot, presented to the two walls of the tower alternately
its brazen throat, whence escaped that tempestuous breath, which is audible
leagues away.
Quasimodo stationed himself in front of this open throat; he crouched and rose with
the oscillations of the bell, breathed in this overwhelming breath, gazed by turns at
the deep place, which swarmed with people,
two hundred feet below him, and at that enormous, brazen tongue which came, second
after second, to howl in his ear.
It was the only speech which he understood, the only sound which broke for him the
universal silence. He swelled out in it as a bird does in the
sun.
All of a sudden, the frenzy of the bell seized upon him; his look became
extraordinary; he lay in wait for the great bell as it passed, as a spider lies in wait
for a fly, and flung himself abruptly upon it, with might and main.
Then, suspended above the abyss, borne to and fro by the formidable swinging of the
bell, he seized the brazen monster by the ear-laps, pressed it between both knees,
spurred it on with his heels, and redoubled
the fury of the peal with the whole shock and weight of his body.
Meanwhile, the tower trembled; he shrieked and gnashed his teeth, his red hair rose
erect, his breast heaving like a bellows, his eye flashed flames, the monstrous bell
neighed, panting, beneath him; and then it
was no longer the great bell of Notre-Dame nor Quasimodo: it was a dream, a whirlwind,
a tempest, dizziness mounted astride of noise; a spirit clinging to a flying
crupper, a strange centaur, half man, half
bell; a sort of horrible Astolphus, borne away upon a prodigious hippogriff of living
bronze.
The presence of this extraordinary being caused, as it were, a breath of life to
circulate throughout the entire cathedral.
It seemed as though there escaped from him, at least according to the growing
superstitions of the crowd, a mysterious emanation which animated all the stones of
Notre-Dame, and made the deep bowels of the ancient church to palpitate.
It sufficed for people to know that he was there, to make them believe that they
beheld the thousand statues of the galleries and the fronts in motion.
And the cathedral did indeed seem a docile and obedient creature beneath his hand; it
waited on his will to raise its great voice; it was possessed and filled with
Quasimodo, as with a familiar spirit.
One would have said that he made the immense edifice breathe.
He was everywhere about it; in fact, he multiplied himself on all points of the
structure.
Now one perceived with affright at the very top of one of the towers, a fantastic dwarf
climbing, writhing, crawling on all fours, descending outside above the abyss, leaping
from projection to projection, and going to
ransack the belly of some sculptured gorgon; it was Quasimodo dislodging the
crows.
Again, in some obscure corner of the church one came in contact with a sort of living
chimera, crouching and scowling; it was Quasimodo engaged in thought.
Sometimes one caught sight, upon a bell tower, of an enormous head and a bundle of
disordered limbs swinging furiously at the end of a rope; it was Quasimodo ringing
vespers or the Angelus.
Often at night a hideous form was seen wandering along the frail balustrade of
carved lacework, which crowns the towers and borders the circumference of the apse;
again it was the hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Then, said the women of the neighborhood, the whole church took on something
fantastic, supernatural, horrible; eyes and mouths were opened, here and there; one
heard the dogs, the monsters, and the
gargoyles of stone, which keep watch night and day, with outstretched neck and open
jaws, around the monstrous cathedral, barking.
And, if it was a Christmas Eve, while the great bell, which seemed to emit the death
rattle, summoned the faithful to the midnight mass, such an air was spread over
the sombre facade that one would have
declared that the grand portal was devouring the throng, and that the rose
window was watching it. And all this came from Quasimodo.
Egypt would have taken him for the god of this temple; the Middle Ages believed him
to be its demon: he was in fact its soul.
To such an extent was this disease that for those who know that Quasimodo has existed,
Notre-Dame is to-day deserted, inanimate, dead.
One feels that something has disappeared from it.
That immense body is empty; it is a skeleton; the spirit has quitted it, one
sees its place and that is all.
It is like a skull which still has holes for the eyes, but no longer sight.
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[英語オーディオブック] BOOK4 ノートルダムの鐘(ユーゴー)第三章 (Book 04 - Chapter 3 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo - Immanis Pecoris Custos)

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