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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
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 earth.
It is upon this word that this book is founded.
March, 1831.
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 Hotel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty morality, allegorical
satire, and farce," while a driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his
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 Greve, 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
Each had made his choice; one, the bonfire; another, the maypole; another, the mystery
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 grand hall.
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 Chateau 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 facade 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
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 marechaussee, the marechaussee to our
gendarmeri of Paris.
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
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 incalculable results.
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, Theophile's quatrain,--
"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
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
The heavy flattened arches of M. de Brosse, that awkward architect of the Saint-Gervais
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 been here?"
"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 Provencal accent."
"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 capital.
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.
"Hola he! who is scolding so? Who is that screech owl of evil fortune?"
"Hold, I know him" said one of them; "'tis Master Andry Musnier."
"Because he is one of the four sworn booksellers of the university!" said the
"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
"Well," began Jean Frollo once more, "we must play the devil with them."
"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
"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!" cried Joannes.
"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
"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 Place.
"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
"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
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!
Hola he! 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 as his!"
"Hola he! good day, monsieur le recteur Thibaut!
Tybalde aleator! Old fool! old gambler!"
"God preserve you!
Did you throw double six often last night?" "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 Thibautode?" cried Jehan
du M. Moulin.
The entire band repeated this quip in a voice of thunder, clapping their hands
"You are going to seek a lodging in the Rue Thibautode, are you not, monsieur le
recteur, gamester on the side of the devil?"
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
"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-Genevieve 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- Genevieve!
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- Genevieve!"
"Ho he!
Master Joachim de Ladehors! Ho he!
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
"Seu de pellibus grisis fourratis!" "Hola he!
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-
"To the deuce with the whole set of canons!"
"Abbe 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
"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 black care."
"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
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 Flanders!"
"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.
"Silence! silence!"
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.
All that remained was that slight murmur which always rises above the silence of a
"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 of hooting. "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
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,--
"Michel Giborne!" "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 the cardinal." 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
The hand clapping was deafening, and Jupiter had already withdrawn under his
tapestry, while the hall still trembled with acclamations.
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 Giborne-Jupiter.
"Master," said one of them, making him a sign to approach.
"Hold your tongue, my dear Lienarde," 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 Lienarde. The stranger approached the railing.
"What would you have of me, damsels?" he asked, with alacrity.
"Oh! nothing," replied Lienarde, in great confusion; "it is my neighbor, Gisquette la
Gencienne, who wishes to speak with you."
"Not so," replied Gisquette, blushing; "it was Lienarde 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,
"Oh! nothing at all," replied Gisquette. "Nothing," said Lienarde.
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.
"He! yes," said Lienarde, "isn't she stupid?
So you know Jupiter?"
"Michel Giborne?" replied the unknown; "yes, madam."
"He has a fine beard!" said Lienarde. "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 Lienarde. "'The Good Judgment of Madame the Virgin,'-
-a morality, if you please, damsel."
"Ah! that makes a difference," responded Lienarde.
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 parts--"
"Of sirens," said Lienarde. "And all naked," added the young man.
Lienarde 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
"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 and bergerettes."
"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 Lienarde, "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 wished."
"And a little below the Ponceau, at the Trinity," pursued Lienarde, "there was a
passion performed, and without any speaking."
"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 once.
"And, further on, at the Painters' Gate, there were other personages, very richly
"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
"And when the legate passed, you remember, Gisquette? they made the assault, and the
English all had their throats cut." "And against the gate of the Chatelet,
there were very fine personages!"
"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, Lienarde?"
"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 Gisquette.
"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
"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 Pierre Gringoire." 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
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
"Hola he!" 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,
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
"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, please!"
"Well--upon my soul," resumed Joannes, "it's Clopin Trouillefou!
Hola 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,-- "Charity, please!"
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 two interrupters.
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 question.
"In that case, messire," she resumed, "would you have the courtesy to explain to
me--" "What they are about to say?" interrupted
"Well, listen." "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
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 patiently.
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."
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
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
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 self-esteem.
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
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
"The cardinal! The cardinal!" repeated all mouths.
The unhappy prologue stopped short for the second time.
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
Each person wished to get a better view of him.
Each man vied with the other in thrusting his head over his neighbor's shoulder.
He was, in fact, an exalted personage, the sight of whom was well worth any other
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
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
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
abbes 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 Tiara--Bibamus papaliter.
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 abbes invaded the
estrade in his train, not without causing redoubled tumult and curiosity among the
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, Abbe of Saint-Germain des
Pres, that libertine brother of a mistress of Louis XI.; all with many errors and
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
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 Piedebou.
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 mero!"
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 Flanders.
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 wisdom."
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 Ghent."
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.
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. "Jacques Coppenole."
"Your titles?" "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 cardinal.
"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." 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-Genevieve, the cardinal's
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 bad company.
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 Abbe of Saint Genevieve, 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 abbe, "wastes your politeness on these Flemish swine.
Margaritas ante porcos, pearls before swine."
"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
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 Lienarde, 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 redeemed all.
"Monsieur," he said, turning towards one of his neighbors, a fine, big man, with a
patient face, "suppose we begin again." "What?" said his neighbor.
"He! 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
"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
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 cardinal.
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 Ecclesiastical Courts!"
"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
"Master Dreux-Raguier, surveyor of the woods and forests of the king our
sovereign, in the land of France, Champagne and Brie!"
"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
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 Venus.
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 Lienarde, 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
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
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
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
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
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 gnat.
"Ho he! 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." "Another!"
"Belly of the pope! what sort of a grimace is that?"
"Hola he! that's cheating. One must show only one's face."
"That damned Perrette Callebotte! she's capable of that!"
"Good! Good!"
"I'm stifling!"
"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
As for Gisquette and Lienarde, 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 Chatelet of Paris, at your service."
"Monsieur, you are the only representative of the muses here," said Gringoire.
"You are too kind, sir," said the guardian of the seals at the Chatelet.
"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
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 been elected.
"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
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
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!" 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!"
"Whew!" 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
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.
Good-day, Quasimodo!" "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
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, stoically.
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 Hotel 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 are listening."
"Comrades," suddenly shouted one of the young scamps from the window, "La
La Esmeralda in the Place!" 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 without.
"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
It was precisely at the instant when Jupiter should have appeared with his
thunder. But Jupiter was standing motionless at the
foot of the stage.
"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!"


[英語オーディオブック] BOOK1 ノートルダムの鐘(ユーゴー)第一章から第六章まで’ (Book 01 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame Audiobook by Victor Hugo (Chs 1-6))

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