Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles BOOK ELEVENTH. CHAPTER I - PART 1. THE LITTLE SHOE. La Esmeralda was sleeping at the moment when the outcasts assailed the church. Soon the ever-increasing uproar around the edifice, and the uneasy bleating of her goat which had been awakened, had roused her from her slumbers. She had sat up, she had listened, she had looked; then, terrified by the light and noise, she had rushed from her cell to see. The aspect of the Place, the vision which was moving in it, the disorder of that nocturnal assault, that hideous crowd, leaping like a cloud of frogs, half seen in the gloom, the croaking of that hoarse multitude, those few red torches running and crossing each other in the darkness like the meteors which streak the misty surfaces of marshes, this whole scene produced upon her the effect of a mysterious battle between the phantoms of the witches' sabbath and the stone monsters of the church. Imbued from her very infancy with the superstitions of the Bohemian tribe, her first thought was that she had caught the strange beings peculiar to the night, in their deeds of witchcraft. Then she ran in terror to cower in her cell, asking of her pallet some less terrible nightmare. But little by little the first vapors of terror had been dissipated; from the constantly increasing noise, and from many other signs of reality, she felt herself besieged not by spectres, but by human beings. Then her fear, though it did not increase, changed its character. She had dreamed of the possibility of a popular mutiny to tear her from her asylum. The idea of once more recovering life, hope, Phoebus, who was ever present in her future, the extreme helplessness of her condition, flight cut off, no support, her abandonment, her isolation,--these thoughts and a thousand others overwhelmed her. She fell upon her knees, with her head on her bed, her hands clasped over her head, full of anxiety and tremors, and, although a gypsy, an idolater, and a pagan, she began to entreat with sobs, mercy from the good Christian God, and to pray to our Lady, her hostess. For even if one believes in nothing, there are moments in life when one is always of the religion of the temple which is nearest at hand. She remained thus prostrate for a very long time, trembling in truth, more than praying, chilled by the ever-closer breath of that furious multitude, understanding nothing of this outburst, ignorant of what was being plotted, what was being done, what they wanted, but foreseeing a terrible issue. In the midst of this anguish, she heard some one walking near her. She turned round. Two men, one of whom carried a lantern, had just entered her cell. She uttered a feeble cry. "Fear nothing," said a voice which was not unknown to her, "it is I." "Who are you?" she asked. "Pierre Gringoire." This name reassured her. She raised her eyes once more, and recognized the poet in very fact. But there stood beside him a black figure veiled from head to foot, which struck her by its silence. "Oh!" continued Gringoire in a tone of reproach, "Djali recognized me before you!" The little goat had not, in fact, waited for Gringoire to announce his name. No sooner had he entered than it rubbed itself gently against his knees, covering the poet with caresses and with white hairs, for it was shedding its hair. Gringoire returned the caresses. "Who is this with you?" said the gypsy, in a low voice. "Be at ease," replied Gringoire. "'Tis one of my friends." Then the philosopher setting his lantern on the ground, crouched upon the stones, and exclaimed enthusiastically, as he pressed Djali in his arms,-- "Oh! 'tis a graceful beast, more considerable no doubt, for it's neatness than for its size, but ingenious, subtle, and lettered as a grammarian! Let us see, my Djali, hast thou forgotten any of thy pretty tricks? How does Master Jacques Charmolue?..." The man in black did not allow him to finish. He approached Gringoire and shook him roughly by the shoulder. Gringoire rose. "'Tis true," said he: "I forgot that we are in haste. But that is no reason master, for getting furious with people in this manner. My dear and lovely child, your life is in danger, and Djali's also. They want to hang you again. We are your friends, and we have come to save you. Follow us." "Is it true?" she exclaimed in dismay. "Yes, perfectly true. Come quickly!" "I am willing," she stammered. "But why does not your friend speak?" "Ah!" said Gringoire, "'tis because his father and mother were fantastic people who made him of a taciturn temperament." She was obliged to content herself with this explanation. Gringoire took her by the hand; his companion picked up the lantern and walked on in front. Fear stunned the young girl. She allowed herself to be led away. The goat followed them, frisking, so joyous at seeing Gringoire again that it made him stumble every moment by thrusting its horns between his legs. "Such is life," said the philosopher, every time that he came near falling down; "'tis often our best friends who cause us to be overthrown." They rapidly descended the staircase of the towers, crossed the church, full of shadows and solitude, and all reverberating with uproar, which formed a frightful contrast, and emerged into the courtyard of the cloister by the red door. The cloister was deserted; the canons had fled to the bishop's palace in order to pray together; the courtyard was empty, a few frightened lackeys were crouching in dark corners. They directed their steps towards the door which opened from this court upon the Terrain. The man in black opened it with a key which he had about him. Our readers are aware that the Terrain was a tongue of land enclosed by walls on the side of the City and belonging to the chapter of Notre-Dame, which terminated the island on the east, behind the church. They found this enclosure perfectly deserted. There was here less tumult in the air. The roar of the outcasts' assault reached them more confusedly and less clamorously. The fresh breeze which follows the current of a stream, rustled the leaves of the only tree planted on the point of the Terrain, with a noise that was already perceptible. But they were still very close to danger. The nearest edifices to them were the bishop's palace and the church. It was plainly evident that there was great internal commotion in the bishop's palace. Its shadowy mass was all furrowed with lights which flitted from window to window; as, when one has just burned paper, there remains a sombre edifice of ashes in which bright sparks run a thousand eccentric courses. Beside them, the enormous towers of Notre- Dame, thus viewed from behind, with the long nave above which they rise cut out in black against the red and vast light which filled the Parvis, resembled two gigantic andirons of some cyclopean fire-grate. What was to be seen of Paris on all sides wavered before the eye in a gloom mingled with light. Rembrandt has such backgrounds to his pictures. The man with the lantern walked straight to the point of the Terrain. There, at the very brink of the water, stood the wormeaten remains of a fence of posts latticed with laths, whereon a low vine spread out a few thin branches like the fingers of an outspread hand. Behind, in the shadow cast by this trellis, a little boat lay concealed. The man made a sign to Gringoire and his companion to enter. The goat followed them. The man was the last to step in. Then he cut the boat's moorings, pushed it from the shore with a long boat-hook, and, seizing two oars, seated himself in the bow, rowing with all his might towards midstream. The Seine is very rapid at this point, and he had a good deal of trouble in leaving the point of the island. Gringoire's first care on entering the boat was to place the goat on his knees. He took a position in the stern; and the young girl, whom the stranger inspired with an indefinable uneasiness, seated herself close to the poet. When our philosopher felt the boat sway, he clapped his hands and kissed Djali between the horns. "Oh!" said he, "now we are safe, all four of us." He added with the air of a profound thinker, "One is indebted sometimes to fortune, sometimes to ruse, for the happy issue of great enterprises." The boat made its way slowly towards the right shore. The young girl watched the unknown man with secret terror. He had carefully turned off the light of his dark lantern. A glimpse could be caught of him in the obscurity, in the bow of the boat, like a spectre. His cowl, which was still lowered, formed a sort of mask; and every time that he spread his arms, upon which hung large black sleeves, as he rowed, one would have said they were two huge bat's wings. Moreover, he had not yet uttered a word or breathed a syllable. No other noise was heard in the boat than the splashing of the oars, mingled with the rippling of the water along her sides. "On my soul!" exclaimed Gringoire suddenly, "we are as cheerful and joyous as young owls! We preserve the silence of Pythagoreans or fishes! Pasque-Dieu! my friends, I should greatly like to have some one speak to me. The human voice is music to the human ear. 'Tis not I who say that, but Didymus of Alexandria, and they are illustrious words. Assuredly, Didymus of Alexandria is no mediocre philosopher.--One word, my lovely child! say but one word to me, I entreat you. By the way, you had a droll and peculiar little pout; do you still make it? Do you know, my dear, that parliament hath full jurisdiction over all places of asylum, and that you were running a great risk in your little chamber at Notre-Dame? Alas! the little bird trochylus maketh its nest in the jaws of the crocodile.--Master, here is the moon re-appearing. If only they do not perceive us. We are doing a laudable thing in saving mademoiselle, and yet we should be hung by order of the king if we were caught. Alas! human actions are taken by two handles. That is branded with disgrace in one which is crowned in another. He admires Cicero who blames Catiline. Is it not so, master? What say you to this philosophy? I possess philosophy by instinct, by nature, ut apes geometriam.--Come! no one answers me. What unpleasant moods you two are in! I must do all the talking alone. That is what we call a monologue in tragedy.--Pasque-Dieu! I must inform you that I have just seen the king, Louis XI., and that I have caught this oath from him,--Pasque-Dieu! They are still making a hearty howl in the city.--'Tis a villanous, malicious old king. He is all swathed in furs. He still owes me the money for my epithalamium, and he came within a nick of hanging me this evening, which would have been very inconvenient to me.--He is niggardly towards men of merit. He ought to read the four books of Salvien of Cologne, Adversits Avaritiam. In truth! 'Tis a paltry king in his ways with men of letters, and one who commits very barbarous cruelties. He is a sponge, to soak money raised from the people. His saving is like the spleen which swelleth with the leanness of all the other members. Hence complaints against the hardness of the times become murmurs against the prince. Under this gentle and pious sire, the gallows crack with the hung, the blocks rot with blood, the prisons burst like over full bellies. This king hath one hand which grasps, and one which hangs. He is the procurator of Dame Tax and Monsieur Gibbet. The great are despoiled of their dignities, and the little incessantly overwhelmed with fresh oppressions. He is an exorbitant prince. I love not this monarch. And you, master?" The man in black let the garrulous poet chatter on. He continued to struggle against the violent and narrow current, which separates the prow of the City and the stem of the island of Notre-Dame, which we call to-day the Isle St. Louis. "By the way, master!" continued Gringoire suddenly. "At the moment when we arrived on the Parvis, through the enraged outcasts, did your reverence observe that poor little devil whose skull your deaf man was just cracking on the railing of the gallery of the kings? I am near sighted and I could not recognize him. Do you know who he could be?" The stranger answered not a word. But he suddenly ceased rowing, his arms fell as though broken, his head sank on his breast, and la Esmeralda heard him sigh convulsively. She shuddered. She had heard such sighs before. The boat, abandoned to itself, floated for several minutes with the stream. But the man in black finally recovered himself, seized the oars once more and began to row against the current. He doubled the point of the Isle of Notre Dame, and made for the landing-place of the Port an Foin. "Ah!" said Gringoire, "yonder is the Barbeau mansion.--Stay, master, look: that group of black roofs which make such singular angles yonder, above that heap of black, fibrous grimy, dirty clouds, where the moon is completely crushed and spread out like the yolk of an egg whose shell is broken.--'Tis a fine mansion. There is a chapel crowned with a small vault full of very well carved enrichments. Above, you can see the bell tower, very delicately pierced. There is also a pleasant garden, which consists of a pond, an aviary, an echo, a mall, a labyrinth, a house for wild beasts, and a quantity of leafy alleys very agreeable to Venus. There is also a rascal of a tree which is called 'the lewd,' because it favored the pleasures of a famous princess and a constable of France, who was a gallant and a wit.--Alas! we poor philosophers are to a constable as a plot of cabbages or a radish bed to the garden of the Louvre. What matters it, after all? human life, for the great as well as for us, is a mixture of good and evil. Pain is always by the side of joy, the spondee by the dactyl.--Master, I must relate to you the history of the Barbeau mansion. It ends in tragic fashion. It was in 1319, in the reign of Philippe V., the longest reign of the kings of France.