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A very happy personage in the year of grace 1482, was the noble gentleman Robert
d'Estouteville, chevalier, Sieur de Beyne, Baron d'Ivry and Saint Andry en la Marche,
counsellor and chamberlain to the king, and guard of the provostship of Paris.
It was already nearly seventeen years since he had received from the king, on November
7, 1465, the comet year, that fine charge of the provostship of Paris, which was
reputed rather a seigneury than an office.
Dignitas, says Joannes Loemnoeus, quoe cum non exigua potestate politiam concernente,
atque proerogativis multis et juribus conjuncta est.
A marvellous thing in '82 was a gentleman bearing the king's commission, and whose
letters of institution ran back to the epoch of the marriage of the natural
daughter of Louis XI. with Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon.
The same day on which Robert d'Estouteville took the place of Jacques de Villiers in
the provostship of Paris, Master Jehan Dauvet replaced Messire Helye de Thorrettes
in the first presidency of the Court of
Parliament, Jehan Jouvenel des Ursins supplanted Pierre de Morvilliers in the
office of chancellor of France, Regnault des Dormans ousted Pierre Puy from the
charge of master of requests in ordinary of the king's household.
Now, upon how many heads had the presidency, the chancellorship, the
mastership passed since Robert d'Estouteville had held the provostship of
It had been "granted to him for safekeeping," as the letters patent said;
and certainly he kept it well.
He had clung to it, he had incorporated himself with it, he had so identified
himself with it that he had escaped that fury for change which possessed Louis XI.,
a tormenting and industrious king, whose
policy it was to maintain the elasticity of his power by frequent appointments and
More than this; the brave chevalier had obtained the reversion of the office for
his son, and for two years already, the name of the noble man Jacques
d'Estouteville, equerry, had figured beside
his at the head of the register of the salary list of the provostship of Paris.
A rare and notable favor indeed!
It is true that Robert d'Estouteville was a good soldier, that he had loyally raised
his pennon against "the league of public good," and that he had presented to the
queen a very marvellous stag in
confectionery on the day of her entrance to Paris in 14...
Moreover, he possessed the good friendship of Messire Tristan l'Hermite, provost of
the marshals of the king's household.
Hence a very sweet and pleasant existence was that of Messire Robert.
In the first place, very good wages, to which were attached, and from which hung,
like extra bunches of grapes on his vine, the revenues of the civil and criminal
registries of the provostship, plus the
civil and criminal revenues of the tribunals of Embas of the Chatelet, without
reckoning some little toll from the bridges of Mantes and of Corbeil, and the profits
on the craft of Shagreen-makers of Paris,
on the corders of firewood and the measurers of salt.
Add to this the pleasure of displaying himself in rides about the city, and of
making his fine military costume, which you may still admire sculptured on his tomb in
the abbey of Valmont in Normandy, and his
morion, all embossed at Montlhery, stand out a contrast against the parti-colored
red and tawny robes of the aldermen and police.
And then, was it nothing to wield absolute supremacy over the sergeants of the police,
the porter and watch of the Chatelet, the two auditors of the Chatelet, auditores
castelleti, the sixteen commissioners of
the sixteen quarters, the jailer of the Chatelet, the four enfeoffed sergeants, the
hundred and twenty mounted sergeants, with maces, the chevalier of the watch with his
watch, his sub-watch, his counter-watch and his rear-watch?
Was it nothing to exercise high and low justice, the right to interrogate, to hang
and to draw, without reckoning petty jurisdiction in the first resort (in prima
instantia, as the charters say), on that
viscomty of Paris, so nobly appanaged with seven noble bailiwicks?
Can anything sweeter be imagined than rendering judgments and decisions, as
Messire Robert d'Estouteville daily did in the Grand Chatelet, under the large and
flattened arches of Philip Augustus? and
going, as he was wont to do every evening, to that charming house situated in the Rue
Galilee, in the enclosure of the royal palace, which he held in right of his wife,
Madame Ambroise de Lore, to repose after
the fatigue of having sent some poor wretch to pass the night in "that little cell of
the Rue de Escorcherie, which the provosts and aldermen of Paris used to make their
prison; the same being eleven feet long,
seven feet and four inches wide, and eleven feet high?"
And not only had Messire Robert d'Estouteville his special court as provost
and vicomte of Paris; but in addition he had a share, both for eye and tooth, in the
grand court of the king.
There was no head in the least elevated which had not passed through his hands
before it came to the headsman.
It was he who went to seek M. de Nemours at the Bastille Saint Antoine, in order to
conduct him to the Halles; and to conduct to the Greve M. de Saint-Pol, who clamored
and resisted, to the great joy of the
provost, who did not love monsieur the constable.
Here, assuredly, is more than sufficient to render a life happy and illustrious, and to
deserve some day a notable page in that interesting history of the provosts of
Paris, where one learns that Oudard de
Villeneuve had a house in the Rue des Boucheries, that Guillaume de Hangest
purchased the great and the little Savoy, that Guillaume Thiboust gave the nuns of
Sainte-Genevieve his houses in the Rue
Clopin, that Hugues Aubriot lived in the Hotel du Pore-Epic, and other domestic
Nevertheless, with so many reasons for taking life patiently and joyously, Messire
Robert d'Estouteville woke up on the morning of the seventh of January, 1482, in
a very surly and peevish mood.
Whence came this ill temper? He could not have told himself.
Was it because the sky was gray? or was the buckle of his old belt of Montlhery badly
fastened, so that it confined his provostal portliness too closely? had he beheld
ribald fellows, marching in bands of four,
beneath his window, and setting him at defiance, in doublets but no shirts, hats
without crowns, with wallet and bottle at their side?
Was it a vague presentiment of the three hundred and seventy livres, sixteen sous,
eight farthings, which the future King Charles VII. was to cut off from the
provostship in the following year?
The reader can take his choice; we, for our part, are much inclined to believe that he
was in a bad humor, simply because he was in a bad humor.
Moreover, it was the day after a festival, a tiresome day for every one, and above all
for the magistrate who is charged with sweeping away all the filth, properly and
figuratively speaking, which a festival day produces in Paris.
And then he had to hold a sitting at the Grand Chatelet.
Now, we have noticed that judges in general so arrange matters that their day of
audience shall also be their day of bad humor, so that they may always have some
one upon whom to vent it conveniently, in the name of the king, law, and justice.
However, the audience had begun without him.
His lieutenants, civil, criminal, and private, were doing his work, according to
usage; and from eight o'clock in the morning, some scores of bourgeois and
bourgeoises, heaped and crowded into an
obscure corner of the audience chamber of Embas du Chatelet, between a stout oaken
barrier and the wall, had been gazing blissfully at the varied and cheerful
spectacle of civil and criminal justice
dispensed by Master Florian Barbedienne, auditor of the Chatelet, lieutenant of
monsieur the provost, in a somewhat confused and utterly haphazard manner.
The hall was small, low, vaulted.
A table studded with fleurs-de-lis stood at one end, with a large arm-chair of carved
oak, which belonged to the provost and was empty, and a stool on the left for the
auditor, Master Florian.
Below sat the clerk of the court, scribbling; opposite was the populace; and
in front of the door, and in front of the table were many sergeants of the
provostship in sleeveless jackets of violet camlet, with white crosses.
Two sergeants of the Parloir-aux-Bourgeois, clothed in their jackets of Toussaint, half
red, half blue, were posted as sentinels before a low, closed door, which was
visible at the extremity of the hall, behind the table.
A single pointed window, narrowly encased in the thick wall, illuminated with a pale
ray of January sun two grotesque figures,-- the capricious demon of stone carved as a
tail-piece in the keystone of the vaulted
ceiling, and the judge seated at the end of the hall on the fleurs-de-lis.
Imagine, in fact, at the provost's table, leaning upon his elbows between two bundles
of documents of cases, with his foot on the train of his robe of plain brown cloth, his
face buried in his hood of white lamb's
skin, of which his brows seemed to be of a piece, red, crabbed, winking, bearing
majestically the load of fat on his cheeks which met under his chin, Master Florian
Barbedienne, auditor of the Chatelet.
Now, the auditor was deaf. A slight defect in an auditor.
Master Florian delivered judgment, none the less, without appeal and very suitably.
It is certainly quite sufficient for a judge to have the air of listening; and the
venerable auditor fulfilled this condition, the sole one in justice, all the better
because his attention could not be distracted by any noise.
Moreover, he had in the audience, a pitiless censor of his deeds and gestures,
in the person of our friend Jehan Frollo du Moulin, that little student of yesterday,
that "stroller," whom one was sure of
encountering all over Paris, anywhere except before the rostrums of the
"Stay," he said in a low tone to his companion, Robin Poussepain, who was
grinning at his side, while he was making his comments on the scenes which were being
unfolded before his eyes, "yonder is Jehanneton du Buisson.
The beautiful daughter of the lazy dog at the Marche-Neuf!--Upon my soul, he is
condemning her, the old rascal! he has no more eyes than ears.
Fifteen sous, four farthings, parisian, for having worn two rosaries!
'Tis somewhat dear. Lex duri carminis.
Who's that?
Robin Chief-de-Ville, hauberkmaker. For having been passed and received master
of the said trade! That's his entrance money.
He! two gentlemen among these knaves!
Aiglet de Soins, Hutin de Mailly Two equerries, Corpus Christi!
Ah! they have been playing at dice. When shall I see our rector here?
A hundred livres parisian, fine to the king!
That Barbedienne strikes like a deaf man,-- as he is!
I'll be my brother the archdeacon, if that keeps me from gaming; gaming by day, gaming
by night, living at play, dying at play, and gaming away my soul after my shirt.
Holy Virgin, what damsels!
One after the other my lambs. Ambroise Lecuyere, Isabeau la Paynette,
Berarde Gironin! I know them all, by Heavens!
A fine! a fine!
That's what will teach you to wear gilded girdles! ten sous parisis! you coquettes!
Oh! the old snout of a judge! deaf and imbecile!
Oh! Florian the dolt! Oh!
Barbedienne the blockhead! There he is at the table!
He's eating the plaintiff, he's eating the suits, he eats, he chews, he crams, he
fills himself.
Fines, lost goods, taxes, expenses, loyal charges, salaries, damages, and interests,
gehenna, prison, and jail, and fetters with expenses are Christmas spice cake and
marchpanes of Saint-John to him!
Look at him, the pig!--Come! Good!
Another amorous woman! Thibaud-la-Thibaude, neither more nor less!
For having come from the Rue Glatigny!
What fellow is this? Gieffroy Mabonne, gendarme bearing the
crossbow. He has cursed the name of the Father.
A fine for la Thibaude!
A fine for Gieffroy! A fine for them both!
The deaf old fool! he must have mixed up the two cases!
Ten to one that he makes the wench pay for the oath and the gendarme for the amour!
Attention, Robin Poussepain! What are they going to bring in?
Here are many sergeants!
By Jupiter! all the bloodhounds of the pack are there.
It must be the great beast of the hunt--a wild boar.
And 'tis one, Robin, 'tis one.
And a fine one too! Hercle!
'tis our prince of yesterday, our Pope of the Fools, our bellringer, our one-eyed
man, our hunchback, our grimace!
'Tis Quasimodo!" It was he indeed.
It was Quasimodo, bound, encircled, roped, pinioned, and under good guard.
The squad of policemen who surrounded him was assisted by the chevalier of the watch
in person, wearing the arms of France embroidered on his breast, and the arms of
the city on his back.
There was nothing, however, about Quasimodo, except his deformity, which
could justify the display of halberds and arquebuses; he was gloomy, silent, and
Only now and then did his single eye cast a sly and wrathful glance upon the bonds with
which he was loaded.
He cast the same glance about him, but it was so dull and sleepy that the women only
pointed him out to each other in derision.
Meanwhile Master Florian, the auditor, turned over attentively the document in the
complaint entered against Quasimodo, which the clerk handed him, and, having thus
glanced at it, appeared to reflect for a moment.
Thanks to this precaution, which he always was careful to take at the moment when on
the point of beginning an examination, he knew beforehand the names, titles, and
misdeeds of the accused, made cut and dried
responses to questions foreseen, and succeeded in extricating himself from all
the windings of the interrogation without allowing his deafness to be too apparent.
The written charges were to him what the dog is to the blind man.
If his deafness did happen to betray him here and there, by some incoherent
apostrophe or some unintelligible question, it passed for profundity with some, and for
imbecility with others.
In neither case did the honor of the magistracy sustain any injury; for it is
far better that a judge should be reputed imbecile or profound than deaf.
Hence he took great care to conceal his deafness from the eyes of all, and he
generally succeeded so well that he had reached the point of deluding himself,
which is, by the way, easier than is supposed.
All hunchbacks walk with their heads held high, all stutterers harangue, all deaf
people speak low.
As for him, he believed, at the most, that his ear was a little refractory.
It was the sole concession which he made on this point to public opinion, in his
moments of frankness and examination of his conscience.
Having, then, thoroughly ruminated Quasimodo's affair, he threw back his head
and half closed his eyes, for the sake of more majesty and impartiality, so that, at
that moment, he was both deaf and blind.
A double condition, without which no judge is perfect.
It was in this magisterial attitude that he began the examination.
"Your name?"
Now this was a case which had not been "provided for by law," where a deaf man
should be obliged to question a deaf man.
Quasimodo, whom nothing warned that a question had been addressed to him,
continued to stare intently at the judge, and made no reply.
The judge, being deaf, and being in no way warned of the deafness of the accused,
thought that the latter had answered, as all accused do in general, and therefore he
pursued, with his mechanical and stupid self-possession,--
"Very well. And your age?"
Again Quasimodo made no reply to this question.
The judge supposed that it had been replied to, and continued,--
"Now, your profession?"
Still the same silence. The spectators had begun, meanwhile, to
whisper together, and to exchange glances.
"That will do," went on the imperturbable auditor, when he supposed that the accused
had finished his third reply.
"You are accused before us, primo, of nocturnal disturbance; secundo, of a
dishonorable act of violence upon the person of a foolish woman, in proejudicium
meretricis; tertio, of rebellion and
disloyalty towards the archers of the police of our lord, the king.
Explain yourself upon all these points.--- Clerk, have you written down what the
prisoner has said thus far?"
At this unlucky question, a burst of laughter rose from the clerk's table caught
by the audience, so violent, so wild, so contagious, so universal, that the two deaf
men were forced to perceive it.
Quasimodo turned round, shrugging his hump with disdain, while Master Florian, equally
astonished, and supposing that the laughter of the spectators had been provoked by some
irreverent reply from the accused, rendered
visible to him by that shrug of the shoulders, apostrophized him indignantly,--
"You have uttered a reply, knave, which deserves the halter.
Do you know to whom you are speaking?"
This sally was not fitted to arrest the explosion of general merriment.
It struck all as so whimsical, and so ridiculous, that the wild laughter even
attacked the sergeants of the Parloi-aux- Bourgeois, a sort of pikemen, whose
stupidity was part of their uniform.
Quasimodo alone preserved his seriousness, for the good reason that he understood
nothing of what was going on around him.
The judge, more and more irritated, thought it his duty to continue in the same tone,
hoping thereby to strike the accused with a terror which should react upon the
audience, and bring it back to respect.
"So this is as much as to say, perverse and thieving knave that you are, that you
permit yourself to be lacking in respect towards the Auditor of the Chatelet, to the
magistrate committed to the popular police
of Paris, charged with searching out crimes, delinquencies, and evil conduct;
with controlling all trades, and interdicting monopoly; with maintaining the
pavements; with debarring the hucksters of
chickens, poultry, and water-fowl; of superintending the measuring of fagots and
other sorts of wood; of purging the city of mud, and the air of contagious maladies; in
a word, with attending continually to
public affairs, without wages or hope of salary!
Do you know that I am called Florian Barbedienne, actual lieutenant to monsieur
the provost, and, moreover, commissioner, inquisitor, controller, and examiner, with
equal power in provostship, bailiwick,
preservation, and inferior court of judicature?--"
There is no reason why a deaf man talking to a deaf man should stop.
God knows where and when Master Florian would have landed, when thus launched at
full speed in lofty eloquence, if the low door at the extreme end of the room had not
suddenly opened, and given entrance to the provost in person.
At his entrance Master Florian did not stop short, but, making a half-turn on his
heels, and aiming at the provost the harangue with which he had been withering
Quasimodo a moment before,--
"Monseigneur," said he, "I demand such penalty as you shall deem fitting against
the prisoner here present, for grave and aggravated offence against the court."
And he seated himself, utterly breathless, wiping away the great drops of sweat which
fell from his brow and drenched, like tears, the parchments spread out before
Messire Robert d'Estouteville frowned and made a gesture so imperious and significant
to Quasimodo, that the deaf man in some measure understood it.
The provost addressed him with severity, "What have you done that you have been
brought hither, knave?"
The poor fellow, supposing that the provost was asking his name, broke the silence
which he habitually preserved, and replied, in a harsh and guttural voice, "Quasimodo."
The reply matched the question so little that the wild laugh began to circulate once
more, and Messire Robert exclaimed, red with wrath,--
"Are you mocking me also, you arrant knave?"
"Bellringer of Notre-Dame," replied Quasimodo, supposing that what was required
of him was to explain to the judge who he was.
"Bellringer!" interpolated the provost, who had waked up early enough to be in a
sufficiently bad temper, as we have said, not to require to have his fury inflamed by
such strange responses.
"Bellringer! I'll play you a chime of rods on your back
through the squares of Paris! Do you hear, knave?"
"If it is my age that you wish to know," said Quasimodo, "I think that I shall be
twenty at Saint Martin's day." This was too much; the provost could no
longer restrain himself.
"Ah! you are scoffing at the provostship, wretch!
Messieurs the sergeants of the mace, you will take me this knave to the pillory of
the Greve, you will flog him, and turn him for an hour.
He shall pay me for it, tete Dieu!
And I order that the present judgment shall be cried, with the assistance of four sworn
trumpeters, in the seven castellanies of the viscomty of Paris."
The clerk set to work incontinently to draw up the account of the sentence.
"Ventre Dieu!
'tis well adjudged!" cried the little scholar, Jehan Frollo du Moulin, from his
corner. The provost turned and fixed his flashing
eyes once more on Quasimodo.
"I believe the knave said 'Ventre Dieu' Clerk, add twelve deniers Parisian for the
oath, and let the vestry of Saint Eustache have the half of it; I have a particular
devotion for Saint Eustache."
In a few minutes the sentence was drawn up. Its tenor was simple and brief.
The customs of the provostship and the viscomty had not yet been worked over by
President Thibaut Baillet, and by Roger Barmne, the king's advocate; they had not
been obstructed, at that time, by that
lofty hedge of quibbles and procedures, which the two jurisconsults planted there
at the beginning of the sixteenth century. All was clear, expeditious, explicit.
One went straight to the point then, and at the end of every path there was immediately
visible, without thickets and without turnings; the wheel, the gibbet, or the
One at least knew whither one was going.
The clerk presented the sentence to the provost, who affixed his seal to it, and
departed to pursue his round of the audience hall, in a frame of mind which
seemed destined to fill all the jails in Paris that day.
Jehan Frollo and Robin Poussepain laughed in their sleeves.
Quasimodo gazed on the whole with an indifferent and astonished air.
However, at the moment when Master Florian Barbedienne was reading the sentence in his
turn, before signing it, the clerk felt himself moved with pity for the poor wretch
of a prisoner, and, in the hope of
obtaining some mitigation of the penalty, he approached as near the auditor's ear as
possible, and said, pointing to Quasimodo, "That man is deaf."
He hoped that this community of infirmity would awaken Master Florian's interest in
behalf of the condemned man.
But, in the first place, we have already observed that Master Florian did not care
to have his deafness noticed.
In the next place, he was so hard of hearing That he did not catch a single word
of what the clerk said to him; nevertheless, he wished to have the
appearance of hearing, and replied, "Ah! ah! that is different; I did not know that.
An hour more of the pillory, in that case." And he signed the sentence thus modified.
"'Tis well done," said Robin Poussepain, who cherished a grudge against Quasimodo.
"That will teach him to handle people roughly."
The reader must permit us to take him back to the Place de Greve, which we quitted
yesterday with Gringoire, in order to follow la Esmeralda.
It is ten o'clock in the morning; everything is indicative of the day after a
The pavement is covered with rubbish; ribbons, rags, feathers from tufts of
plumes, drops of wax from the torches, crumbs of the public feast.
A goodly number of bourgeois are "sauntering," as we say, here and there,
turning over with their feet the extinct brands of the bonfire, going into raptures
in front of the Pillar House, over the
memory of the fine hangings of the day before, and to-day staring at the nails
that secured them a last pleasure. The venders of cider and beer are rolling
their barrels among the groups.
Some busy passers-by come and go. The merchants converse and call to each
other from the thresholds of their shops.
The festival, the ambassadors, Coppenole, the Pope of the Fools, are in all mouths;
they vie with each other, each trying to criticise it best and laugh the most.
And, meanwhile, four mounted sergeants, who have just posted themselves at the four
sides of the pillory, have already concentrated around themselves a goodly
proportion of the populace scattered on the
Place, who condemn themselves to immobility and fatigue in the hope of a small
If the reader, after having contemplated this lively and noisy scene which is being
enacted in all parts of the Place, will now transfer his gaze towards that ancient
demi-Gothic, demi-Romanesque house of the
Tour-Roland, which forms the corner on the quay to the west, he will observe, at the
angle of the facade, a large public breviary, with rich illuminations,
protected from the rain by a little
penthouse, and from thieves by a small grating, which, however, permits of the
leaves being turned.
Beside this breviary is a narrow, arched window, closed by two iron bars in the form
of a cross, and looking on the square; the only opening which admits a small quantity
of light and air to a little cell without a
door, constructed on the ground-floor, in the thickness of the walls of the old
house, and filled with a peace all the more profound, with a silence all the more
gloomy, because a public place, the most
populous and most noisy in Paris swarms and shrieks around it.
This little cell had been celebrated in Paris for nearly three centuries, ever
since Madame Rolande de la Tour-Roland, in mourning for her father who died in the
Crusades, had caused it to be hollowed out
in the wall of her own house, in order to immure herself there forever, keeping of
all her palace only this lodging whose door was walled up, and whose window stood open,
winter and summer, giving all the rest to the poor and to God.
The afflicted damsel had, in fact, waited twenty years for death in this premature
tomb, praying night and day for the soul of her father, sleeping in ashes, without even
a stone for a pillow, clothed in a black
sack, and subsisting on the bread and water which the compassion of the passers-by led
them to deposit on the ledge of her window, thus receiving charity after having
bestowed it.
At her death, at the moment when she was passing to the other sepulchre, she had
bequeathed this one in perpetuity to afflicted women, mothers, widows, or
maidens, who should wish to pray much for
others or for themselves, and who should desire to inter themselves alive in a great
grief or a great penance.
The poor of her day had made her a fine funeral, with tears and benedictions; but,
to their great regret, the pious maid had not been canonized, for lack of influence.
Those among them who were a little inclined to impiety, had hoped that the matter might
be accomplished in Paradise more easily than at Rome, and had frankly besought God,
instead of the pope, in behalf of the deceased.
The majority had contented themselves with holding the memory of Rolande sacred, and
converting her rags into relics.
The city, on its side, had founded in honor of the damoiselle, a public breviary, which
had been fastened near the window of the cell, in order that passers-by might halt
there from time to time, were it only to
pray; that prayer might remind them of alms, and that the poor recluses, heiresses
of Madame Rolande's vault, might not die outright of hunger and forgetfulness.
Moreover, this sort of tomb was not so very rare a thing in the cities of the Middle
One often encountered in the most frequented street, in the most crowded and
noisy market, in the very middle, under the feet of the horses, under the wheels of the
carts, as it were, a cellar, a well, a tiny
walled and grated cabin, at the bottom of which a human being prayed night and day,
voluntarily devoted to some eternal lamentation, to some great expiation.
And all the reflections which that strange spectacle would awaken in us to-day; that
horrible cell, a sort of intermediary link between a house and the tomb, the cemetery
and the city; that living being cut off
from the human community, and thenceforth reckoned among the dead; that lamp
consuming its last drop of oil in the darkness; that remnant of life flickering
in the grave; that breath, that voice, that
eternal prayer in a box of stone; that face forever turned towards the other world;
that eye already illuminated with another sun; that ear pressed to the walls of a
tomb; that soul a prisoner in that body;
that body a prisoner in that dungeon cell, and beneath that double envelope of flesh
and granite, the murmur of that soul in pain;--nothing of all this was perceived by
the crowd.
The piety of that age, not very subtle nor much given to reasoning, did not see so
many facets in an act of religion.
It took the thing in the block, honored, venerated, hallowed the sacrifice at need,
but did not analyze the sufferings, and felt but moderate pity for them.
It brought some pittance to the miserable penitent from time to time, looked through
the hole to see whether he were still living, forgot his name, hardly knew how
many years ago he had begun to die, and to
the stranger, who questioned them about the living skeleton who was perishing in that
cellar, the neighbors replied simply, "It is the recluse."
Everything was then viewed without metaphysics, without exaggeration, without
magnifying glass, with the naked eye.
The microscope had not yet been invented, either for things of matter or for things
of the mind.
Moreover, although people were but little surprised by it, the examples of this sort
of cloistration in the hearts of cities were in truth frequent, as we have just
There were in Paris a considerable number of these cells, for praying to God and
doing penance; they were nearly all occupied.
It is true that the clergy did not like to have them empty, since that implied
lukewarmness in believers, and that lepers were put into them when there were no
penitents on hand.
Besides the cell on the Greve, there was one at Montfaucon, one at the Charnier des
Innocents, another I hardly know where,--at the Clichon House, I think; others still at
many spots where traces of them are found in traditions, in default of memorials.
The University had also its own.
On Mount Sainte-Genevieve a sort of Job of the Middle Ages, for the space of thirty
years, chanted the seven penitential psalms on a dunghill at the bottom of a cistern,
beginning anew when he had finished,
singing loudest at night, magna voce per umbras, and to-day, the antiquary fancies
that he hears his voice as he enters the Rue du Puits-qui-parle--the street of the
"Speaking Well."
To confine ourselves to the cell in the Tour-Roland, we must say that it had never
lacked recluses.
After the death of Madame Roland, it had stood vacant for a year or two, though
rarely. Many women had come thither to mourn, until
their death, for relatives, lovers, faults.
Parisian malice, which thrusts its finger into everything, even into things which
concern it the least, affirmed that it had beheld but few widows there.
In accordance with the fashion of the epoch, a Latin inscription on the wall
indicated to the learned passer-by the pious purpose of this cell.
The custom was retained until the middle of the sixteenth century of explaining an
edifice by a brief device inscribed above the door.
Thus, one still reads in France, above the wicket of the prison in the seignorial
mansion of Tourville, Sileto et spera; in Ireland, beneath the armorial bearings
which surmount the grand door to Fortescue
Castle, Forte scutum, salus ducum; in England, over the principal entrance to the
hospitable mansion of the Earls Cowper: Tuum est.
At that time every edifice was a thought.
As there was no door to the walled cell of the Tour-Roland, these two words had been
carved in large Roman capitals over the window,--
And this caused the people, whose good sense does not perceive so much refinement
in things, and likes to translate Ludovico Magno by "Porte Saint-Denis," to give to
this dark, gloomy, damp cavity, the name of "The Rat-Hole."
An explanation less sublime, perhaps, than the other; but, on the other hand, more
At the epoch of this history, the cell in the Tour-Roland was occupied.
If the reader desires to know by whom, he has only to lend an ear to the conversation
of three worthy gossips, who, at the moment when we have directed his attention to the
Rat-Hole, were directing their steps
towards the same spot, coming up along the water's edge from the Chatelet, towards the
Greve. Two of these women were dressed like good
bourgeoises of Paris.
Their fine white ruffs; their petticoats of linsey-woolsey, striped red and blue; their
white knitted stockings, with clocks embroidered in colors, well drawn upon
their legs; the square-toed shoes of tawny
leather with black soles, and, above all, their headgear, that sort of tinsel horn,
loaded down with ribbons and laces, which the women of Champagne still wear, in
company with the grenadiers of the imperial
guard of Russia, announced that they belonged to that class wives which holds
the middle ground between what the lackeys call a woman and what they term a lady.
They wore neither rings nor gold crosses, and it was easy to see that, in their ease,
this did not proceed from poverty, but simply from fear of being fined.
Their companion was attired in very much the same manner; but there was that
indescribable something about her dress and bearing which suggested the wife of a
provincial notary.
One could see, by the way in which her girdle rose above her hips, that she had
not been long in Paris.--Add to this a plaited tucker, knots of ribbon on her
shoes--and that the stripes of her
petticoat ran horizontally instead of vertically, and a thousand other enormities
which shocked good taste.
The two first walked with that step peculiar to Parisian ladies, showing Paris
to women from the country. The provincial held by the hand a big boy,
who held in his a large, flat cake.
We regret to be obliged to add, that, owing to the rigor of the season, he was using
his tongue as a handkerchief.
The child was making them drag him along, non passibus Cequis, as Virgil says, and
stumbling at every moment, to the great indignation of his mother.
It is true that he was looking at his cake more than at the pavement.
Some serious motive, no doubt, prevented his biting it (the cake), for he contented
himself with gazing tenderly at it.
But the mother should have rather taken charge of the cake.
It was cruel to make a Tantalus of the chubby-checked boy.
Meanwhile, the three demoiselles (for the name of dames was then reserved for noble
women) were all talking at once.
"Let us make haste, Demoiselle Mahiette," said the youngest of the three, who was
also the largest, to the provincial, "I greatly fear that we shall arrive too late;
they told us at the Chatelet that they were going to take him directly to the pillory."
"Ah, bah! what are you saying, Demoiselle Oudarde Musnier?" interposed the other
"There are two hours yet to the pillory. We have time enough.
Have you ever seen any one pilloried, my dear Mahiette?"
"Yes," said the provincial, "at Reims."
"Ah, bah! What is your pillory at Reims?
A miserable cage into which only peasants are turned.
A great affair, truly!"
"Only peasants!" said Mahiette, "at the cloth market in Reims!
We have seen very fine criminals there, who have killed their father and mother!
For what do you take us, Gervaise?" It is certain that the provincial was on
the point of taking offence, for the honor of her pillory.
Fortunately, that discreet damoiselle, Oudarde Musnier, turned the conversation in
time. "By the way, Damoiselle Mahiette, what say
you to our Flemish Ambassadors?
Have you as fine ones at Reims?" "I admit," replied Mahiette, "that it is
only in Paris that such Flemings can be seen."
"Did you see among the embassy, that big ambassador who is a hosier?" asked Oudarde.
"Yes," said Mahiette. "He has the eye of a Saturn."
"And the big fellow whose face resembles a bare belly?" resumed Gervaise.
"And the little one, with small eyes framed in red eyelids, pared down and slashed up
like a thistle head?"
"'Tis their horses that are worth seeing," said Oudarde, "caparisoned as they are
after the fashion of their country!"
"Ah my dear," interrupted provincial Mahiette, assuming in her turn an air of
superiority, "what would you say then, if you had seen in '61, at the consecration at
Reims, eighteen years ago, the horses of the princes and of the king's company?
Housings and caparisons of all sorts; some of damask cloth, of fine cloth of gold,
furred with sables; others of velvet, furred with ermine; others all embellished
with goldsmith's work and large bells of gold and silver!
And what money that had cost! And what handsome boy pages rode upon
"That," replied Oudarde dryly, "does not prevent the Flemings having very fine
horses, and having had a superb supper yesterday with monsieur, the provost of the
merchants, at the Hotel-de-Ville, where
they were served with comfits and hippocras, and spices, and other
singularities." "What are you saying, neighbor!" exclaimed
"It was with monsieur the cardinal, at the Petit Bourbon that they supped."
"Not at all. At the Hotel-de-Ville.
"Yes, indeed.
At the Petit Bourbon!" "It was at the Hotel-de-Ville," retorted
Oudarde sharply, "and Dr. Scourable addressed them a harangue in Latin, which
pleased them greatly.
My husband, who is sworn bookseller told me."
"It was at the Petit Bourbon," replied Gervaise, with no less spirit, "and this is
what monsieur the cardinal's procurator presented to them: twelve double quarts of
hippocras, white, claret, and red; twenty-
four boxes of double Lyons marchpane, gilded; as many torches, worth two livres a
piece; and six demi-queues of Beaune wine, white and claret, the best that could be
I have it from my husband, who is a cinquantenier, at the Parloir-aux
Bourgeois, and who was this morning comparing the Flemish ambassadors with
those of Prester John and the Emperor of
Trebizond, who came from Mesopotamia to Paris, under the last king, and who wore
rings in their ears."
"So true is it that they supped at the Hotel-de-Ville," replied Oudarde but little
affected by this catalogue, "that such a triumph of viands and comfits has never
been seen."
"I tell you that they were served by Le Sec, sergeant of the city, at the Hotel du
Petit-Bourbon, and that that is where you are mistaken."
"At the Hotel-de-Ville, I tell you!"
"At the Petit-Bourbon, my dear! and they had illuminated with magic glasses the word
hope, which is written on the grand portal."
"At the Hotel-de-Ville!
At the Hotel-de-Ville! And Husson-le-Voir played the flute!"
"I tell you, no!" "I tell you, yes!"
"I say, no!"
Plump and worthy Oudarde was preparing to retort, and the quarrel might, perhaps,
have proceeded to a pulling of caps, had not Mahiette suddenly exclaimed,--"Look at
those people assembled yonder at the end of the bridge!
There is something in their midst that they are looking at!"
"In sooth," said Gervaise, "I hear the sounds of a tambourine.
I believe 'tis the little Esmeralda, who plays her mummeries with her goat.
Eh, be quick, Mahiette! redouble your pace and drag along your boy.
You are come hither to visit the curiosities of Paris.
You saw the Flemings yesterday; you must see the gypsy to-day."
"The gypsy!" said Mahiette, suddenly retracing her steps, and clasping her son's
arm forcibly.
"God preserve me from it! She would steal my child from me!
Come, Eustache!"
And she set out on a run along the quay towards the Greve, until she had left the
bridge far behind her.
In the meanwhile, the child whom she was dragging after her fell upon his knees; she
halted breathless. Oudarde and Gervaise rejoined her.
"That gypsy steal your child from you!" said Gervaise.
"That's a singular freak of yours!" Mahiette shook her head with a pensive air.
"The singular point is," observed Oudarde, "that la sachette has the same idea about
the Egyptian woman." "What is la sachette?" asked Mahiette.
"He!" said Oudarde, "Sister Gudule."
"And who is Sister Gudule?" persisted Mahiette.
"You are certainly ignorant of all but your Reims, not to know that!" replied Oudarde.
"'Tis the recluse of the Rat-Hole."
"What!" demanded Mahiette, "that poor woman to whom we are carrying this cake?"
Oudarde nodded affirmatively. "Precisely.
You will see her presently at her window on the Greve.
She has the same opinion as yourself of these vagabonds of Egypt, who play the
tambourine and tell fortunes to the public.
No one knows whence comes her horror of the gypsies and Egyptians.
But you, Mahiette--why do you run so at the mere sight of them?"
"Oh!" said Mahiette, seizing her child's round head in both hands, "I don't want
that to happen to me which happened to Paquette la Chantefleurie."
"Oh! you must tell us that story, my good Mahiette," said Gervaise, taking her arm.
"Gladly," replied Mahiette, "but you must be ignorant of all but your Paris not to
know that!
I will tell you then (but 'tis not necessary for us to halt that I may tell
you the tale), that Paquette la Chantefleurie was a pretty maid of eighteen
when I was one myself, that is to say,
eighteen years ago, and 'tis her own fault if she is not to-day, like me, a good,
plump, fresh mother of six and thirty, with a husband and a son.
However, after the age of fourteen, it was too late!
Well, she was the daughter of Guybertant, minstrel of the barges at Reims, the same
who had played before King Charles VII., at his coronation, when he descended our river
Vesle from Sillery to Muison, when Madame
the Maid of Orleans was also in the boat.
The old father died when Paquette was still a mere child; she had then no one but her
mother, the sister of M. Pradon, master- brazier and coppersmith in Paris, Rue Farm-
Garlin, who died last year.
You see she was of good family.
The mother was a good simple woman, unfortunately, and she taught Paquette
nothing but a bit of embroidery and toy- making which did not prevent the little one
from growing very large and remaining very poor.
They both dwelt at Reims, on the river front, Rue de Folle-Peine.
Mark this: For I believe it was this which brought misfortune to Paquette.
In '61, the year of the coronation of our King Louis XI. whom God preserve!
Paquette was so gay and so pretty that she was called everywhere by no other name than
"la Chantefleurie"--blossoming song. Poor girl!
She had handsome teeth, she was fond of laughing and displaying them.
Now, a maid who loves to laugh is on the road to weeping; handsome teeth ruin
handsome eyes.
So she was la Chantefleurie.
She and her mother earned a precarious living; they had been very destitute since
the death of the minstrel; their embroidery did not bring them in more than six
farthings a week, which does not amount to quite two eagle liards.
Where were the days when Father Guybertant had earned twelve sous parisian, in a
single coronation, with a song?
One winter (it was in that same year of '61), when the two women had neither fagots
nor firewood, it was very cold, which gave la Chantefleurie such a fine color that the
men called her Paquette! and many called
her Paquerette! and she was ruined.-- Eustache, just let me see you bite that
cake if you dare!--We immediately perceived that she was ruined, one Sunday when she
came to church with a gold cross about her neck.
At fourteen years of age! do you see?
First it was the young Vicomte de Cormontreuil, who has his bell tower three
leagues distant from Reims; then Messire Henri de Triancourt, equerry to the King;
then less than that, Chiart de Beaulion,
sergeant-at-arms; then, still descending, Guery Aubergeon, carver to the King; then,
Mace de Frepus, barber to monsieur the dauphin; then, Thevenin le Moine, King's
cook; then, the men growing continually
younger and less noble, she fell to Guillaume Racine, minstrel of the hurdy
gurdy and to Thierry de Mer, lamplighter.
Then, poor Chantefleurie, she belonged to every one: she had reached the last sou of
her gold piece. What shall I say to you, my damoiselles?
At the coronation, in the same year, '61, 'twas she who made the bed of the king of
the debauchees! In the same year!"
Mahiette sighed, and wiped away a tear which trickled from her eyes.
"This is no very extraordinary history," said Gervaise, "and in the whole of it I
see nothing of any Egyptian women or children."
"Patience!" resumed Mahiette, "you will see one child.--In '66, 'twill be sixteen years
ago this month, at Sainte-Paule's day, Paquette was brought to bed of a little
The unhappy creature! it was a great joy to her; she had long wished for a child.
Her mother, good woman, who had never known what to do except to shut her eyes, her
mother was dead.
Paquette had no longer any one to love in the world or any one to love her.
La Chantefleurie had been a poor creature during the five years since her fall.
She was alone, alone in this life, fingers were pointed at her, she was hooted at in
the streets, beaten by the sergeants, jeered at by the little boys in rags.
And then, twenty had arrived: and twenty is an old age for amorous women.
Folly began to bring her in no more than her trade of embroidery in former days; for
every wrinkle that came, a crown fled; winter became hard to her once more, wood
became rare again in her brazier, and bread in her cupboard.
She could no longer work because, in becoming voluptuous, she had grown lazy;
and she suffered much more because, in growing lazy, she had become voluptuous.
At least, that is the way in which monsieur the cure of Saint-Remy explains why these
women are colder and hungrier than other poor women, when they are old."
"Yes," remarked Gervaise, "but the gypsies?"
"One moment, Gervaise!" said Oudarde, whose attention was less impatient.
"What would be left for the end if all were in the beginning?
Continue, Mahiette, I entreat you. That poor Chantefleurie!"
Mahiette went on.
"So she was very sad, very miserable, and furrowed her cheeks with tears.
But in the midst of her shame, her folly, her debauchery, it seemed to her that she
should be less wild, less shameful, less dissipated, if there were something or some
one in the world whom she could love, and who could love her.
It was necessary that it should be a child, because only a child could be sufficiently
innocent for that.
She had recognized this fact after having tried to love a thief, the only man who
wanted her; but after a short time, she perceived that the thief despised her.
Those women of love require either a lover or a child to fill their hearts.
Otherwise, they are very unhappy.
As she could not have a lover, she turned wholly towards a desire for a child, and as
she had not ceased to be pious, she made her constant prayer to the good God for it.
So the good God took pity on her, and gave her a little daughter.
I will not speak to you of her joy; it was a fury of tears, and caresses, and kisses.
She nursed her child herself, made swaddling-bands for it out of her coverlet,
the only one which she had on her bed, and no longer felt either cold or hunger.
She became beautiful once more, in consequence of it.
An old maid makes a young mother.
Gallantry claimed her once more; men came to see la Chantefleurie; she found
customers again for her merchandise, and out of all these horrors she made baby
clothes, caps and bibs, bodices with
shoulder-straps of lace, and tiny bonnets of satin, without even thinking of buying
herself another coverlet.--Master Eustache, I have already told you not to eat that
cake.--It is certain that little Agnes,
that was the child's name, a baptismal name, for it was a long time since la
Chantefleurie had had any surname--it is certain that that little one was more
swathed in ribbons and embroideries than a dauphiness of Dauphiny!
Among other things, she had a pair of little shoes, the like of which King Louis
XI. certainly never had!
Her mother had stitched and embroidered them herself; she had lavished on them all
the delicacies of her art of embroideress, and all the embellishments of a robe for
the good Virgin.
They certainly were the two prettiest little pink shoes that could be seen.
They were no longer than my thumb, and one had to see the child's little feet come out
of them, in order to believe that they had been able to get into them.
'Tis true that those little feet were so small, so pretty, so rosy! rosier than the
satin of the shoes!
When you have children, Oudarde, you will find that there is nothing prettier than
those little hands and feet."
"I ask no better," said Oudarde with a sigh, "but I am waiting until it shall suit
the good pleasure of M. Andry Musnier." "However, Paquette's child had more that
was pretty about it besides its feet.
I saw her when she was only four months old; she was a love!
She had eyes larger than her mouth, and the most charming black hair, which already
She would have been a magnificent brunette at the age of sixteen!
Her mother became more crazy over her every day.
She kissed her, caressed her, tickled her, washed her, decked her out, devoured her!
She lost her head over her, she thanked God for her.
Her pretty, little rosy feet above all were an endless source of wonderment, they were
a delirium of joy!
She was always pressing her lips to them, and she could never recover from her
amazement at their smallness.
She put them into the tiny shoes, took them out, admired them, marvelled at them,
looked at the light through them, was curious to see them try to walk on her bed,
and would gladly have passed her life on
her knees, putting on and taking off the shoes from those feet, as though they had
been those of an Infant Jesus."
"The tale is fair and good," said Gervaise in a low tone; "but where do gypsies come
into all that?" "Here," replied Mahiette.
"One day there arrived in Reims a very queer sort of people.
They were beggars and vagabonds who were roaming over the country, led by their duke
and their counts.
They were browned by exposure to the sun, they had closely curling hair, and silver
rings in their ears. The women were still uglier than the men.
They had blacker faces, which were always uncovered, a miserable frock on their
bodies, an old cloth woven of cords bound upon their shoulder, and their hair hanging
like the tail of a horse.
The children who scrambled between their legs would have frightened as many monkeys.
A band of excommunicates. All these persons came direct from lower
Egypt to Reims through Poland.
The Pope had confessed them, it was said, and had prescribed to them as penance to
roam through the world for seven years, without sleeping in a bed; and so they were
called penancers, and smelt horribly.
It appears that they had formerly been Saracens, which was why they believed in
Jupiter, and claimed ten livres of Tournay from all archbishops, bishops, and mitred
abbots with croziers.
A bull from the Pope empowered them to do that.
They came to Reims to tell fortunes in the name of the King of Algiers, and the
Emperor of Germany.
You can readily imagine that no more was needed to cause the entrance to the town to
be forbidden them.
Then the whole band camped with good grace outside the gate of Braine, on that hill
where stands a mill, beside the cavities of the ancient chalk pits.
And everybody in Reims vied with his neighbor in going to see them.
They looked at your hand, and told you marvellous prophecies; they were equal to
predicting to Judas that he would become Pope.
Nevertheless, ugly rumors were in circulation in regard to them; about
children stolen, purses cut, and human flesh devoured.
The wise people said to the foolish: "Don't go there!" and then went themselves on the
sly. It was an infatuation.
The fact is, that they said things fit to astonish a cardinal.
Mothers triumphed greatly over their little ones after the Egyptians had read in their
hands all sorts of marvels written in pagan and in Turkish.
One had an emperor; another, a pope; another, a captain.
Poor Chantefleurie was seized with curiosity; she wished to know about
herself, and whether her pretty little Agnes would not become some day Empress of
Armenia, or something else.
So she carried her to the Egyptians; and the Egyptian women fell to admiring the
child, and to caressing it, and to kissing it with their black mouths, and to
marvelling over its little band, alas! to the great joy of the mother.
They were especially enthusiastic over her pretty feet and shoes.
The child was not yet a year old.
She already lisped a little, laughed at her mother like a little mad thing, was plump
and quite round, and possessed a thousand charming little gestures of the angels of
"She was very much frightened by the Egyptians, and wept.
But her mother kissed her more warmly and went away enchanted with the good fortune
which the soothsayers had foretold for her Agnes.
She was to be a beauty, virtuous, a queen.
So she returned to her attic in the Rue Folle-Peine, very proud of bearing with her
a queen.
The next day she took advantage of a moment when the child was asleep on her bed, (for
they always slept together), gently left the door a little way open, and ran to tell
a neighbor in the Rue de la Sechesserie,
that the day would come when her daughter Agnes would be served at table by the King
of England and the Archduke of Ethiopia, and a hundred other marvels.
On her return, hearing no cries on the staircase, she said to herself: 'Good! the
child is still asleep!'
She found her door wider open than she had left it, but she entered, poor mother, and
ran to the bed.---The child was no longer there, the place was empty.
Nothing remained of the child, but one of her pretty little shoes.
She flew out of the room, dashed down the stairs, and began to beat her head against
the wall, crying: 'My child! who has my child?
Who has taken my child?'
The street was deserted, the house isolated; no one could tell her anything
about it.
She went about the town, searched all the streets, ran hither and thither the whole
day long, wild, beside herself, terrible, snuffing at doors and windows like a wild
beast which has lost its young.
She was breathless, dishevelled, frightful to see, and there was a fire in her eyes
which dried her tears.
She stopped the passers-by and cried: 'My daughter! my daughter! my pretty little
If any one will give me back my daughter, I will be his servant, the servant of his
dog, and he shall eat my heart if he will.'
She met M. le Cure of Saint-Remy, and said to him: 'Monsieur, I will till the earth
with my finger-nails, but give me back my child!'
It was heartrending, Oudarde; and IL saw a very hard man, Master Ponce Lacabre, the
procurator, weep. Ah! poor mother!
In the evening she returned home.
During her absence, a neighbor had seen two gypsies ascend up to it with a bundle in
their arms, then descend again, after closing the door.
After their departure, something like the cries of a child were heard in Paquette's
The mother, burst into shrieks of laughter, ascended the stairs as though on wings, and
entered.--A frightful thing to tell, Oudarde!
Instead of her pretty little Agnes, so rosy and so fresh, who was a gift of the good
God, a sort of hideous little monster, lame, one-eyed, deformed, was crawling and
squalling over the floor.
She hid her eyes in horror. 'Oh!' said she, 'have the witches
transformed my daughter into this horrible animal?'
They hastened to carry away the little club-foot; he would have driven her mad.
It was the monstrous child of some gypsy woman, who had given herself to the devil.
He appeared to be about four years old, and talked a language which was no human
tongue; there were words in it which were impossible.