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  • -BOOK FOURTH. CHAPTER V.

  • MORE ABOUT CLAUDE FROLLO.

  • In 1482, Quasimodo was about twenty years of age; Claude Frollo, about thirty-six.

  • One had grown up, the other had grown old.

  • Claude Frollo was no longer the simple scholar of the college of Torch, the tender

  • protector of a little child, the young and dreamy philosopher who knew many things and

  • was ignorant of many.

  • He was a priest, austere, grave, morose; one charged with souls; monsieur the

  • archdeacon of Josas, the bishop's second acolyte, having charge of the two deaneries

  • of Montlhery, and Chateaufort, and one hundred and seventy-four country curacies.

  • He was an imposing and sombre personage, before whom the choir boys in alb and in

  • jacket trembled, as well as the machicots, and the brothers of Saint-Augustine and the

  • matutinal clerks of Notre-Dame, when he

  • passed slowly beneath the lofty arches of the choir, majestic, thoughtful, with arms

  • folded and his head so bent upon his breast that all one saw of his face was his large,

  • bald brow.

  • Dom Claude Frollo had, however, abandoned neither science nor the education of his

  • young brother, those two occupations of his life.

  • But as time went on, some bitterness had been mingled with these things which were

  • so sweet. In the long run, says Paul Diacre, the best

  • lard turns rancid.

  • Little Jehan Frollo, surnamed (du Moulin) "of the Mill" because of the place where he

  • had been reared, had not grown up in the direction which Claude would have liked to

  • impose upon him.

  • The big brother counted upon a pious, docile, learned, and honorable pupil.

  • But the little brother, like those young trees which deceive the gardener's hopes

  • and turn obstinately to the quarter whence they receive sun and air, the little

  • brother did not grow and did not multiply,

  • but only put forth fine bushy and luxuriant branches on the side of laziness,

  • ignorance, and debauchery.

  • He was a regular devil, and a very disorderly one, who made Dom Claude scowl;

  • but very droll and very subtle, which made the big brother smile.

  • Claude had confided him to that same college of Torchi where he had passed his

  • early years in study and meditation; and it was a grief to him that this sanctuary,

  • formerly edified by the name of Frollo, should to-day be scandalized by it.

  • He sometimes preached Jehan very long and severe sermons, which the latter intrepidly

  • endured.

  • After all, the young scapegrace had a good heart, as can be seen in all comedies.

  • But the sermon over, he none the less tranquilly resumed his course of seditions

  • and enormities.

  • Now it was a bejaune or yellow beak (as they called the new arrivals at the

  • university), whom he had been mauling by way of welcome; a precious tradition which

  • has been carefully preserved to our own day.

  • Again, he had set in movement a band of scholars, who had flung themselves upon a

  • wine-shop in classic fashion, quasi classico excitati, had then beaten the

  • tavern-keeper "with offensive cudgels," and

  • joyously pillaged the tavern, even to smashing in the hogsheads of wine in the

  • cellar.

  • And then it was a fine report in Latin, which the sub-monitor of Torchi carried

  • piteously to Dom Claude with this dolorous marginal comment,--Rixa; prima causa vinum

  • optimum potatum.

  • Finally, it was said, a thing quite horrible in a boy of sixteen, that his

  • debauchery often extended as far as the Rue de Glatigny.

  • Claude, saddened and discouraged in his human affections, by all this, had flung

  • himself eagerly into the arms of learning, that sister which, at least does not laugh

  • in your face, and which always pays you,

  • though in money that is sometimes a little hollow, for the attention which you have

  • paid to her.

  • Hence, he became more and more learned, and, at the same time, as a natural

  • consequence, more and more rigid as a priest, more and more sad as a man.

  • There are for each of us several parallelisms between our intelligence, our

  • habits, and our character, which develop without a break, and break only in the

  • great disturbances of life.

  • As Claude Frollo had passed through nearly the entire circle of human learning--

  • positive, exterior, and permissible--since his youth, he was obliged, unless he came

  • to a halt, ubi defuit orbis, to proceed

  • further and seek other aliments for the insatiable activity of his intelligence.

  • The antique symbol of the serpent biting its tail is, above all, applicable to

  • science.

  • It would appear that Claude Frollo had experienced this.

  • Many grave persons affirm that, after having exhausted the fas of human learning,

  • he had dared to penetrate into the nefas.

  • He had, they said, tasted in succession all the apples of the tree of knowledge, and,

  • whether from hunger or disgust, had ended by tasting the forbidden fruit.

  • He had taken his place by turns, as the reader has seen, in the conferences of the

  • theologians in Sorbonne,--in the assemblies of the doctors of art, after the manner of

  • Saint-Hilaire,--in the disputes of the

  • decretalists, after the manner of Saint- Martin,--in the congregations of physicians

  • at the holy water font of Notre-Dame, ad cupam Nostroe-Dominoe.

  • All the dishes permitted and approved, which those four great kitchens called the

  • four faculties could elaborate and serve to the understanding, he had devoured, and had

  • been satiated with them before his hunger was appeased.

  • Then he had penetrated further, lower, beneath all that finished, material,

  • limited knowledge; he had, perhaps, risked his soul, and had seated himself in the

  • cavern at that mysterious table of the

  • alchemists, of the astrologers, of the hermetics, of which Averroes, Gillaume de

  • Paris, and Nicolas Flamel hold the end in the Middle Ages; and which extends in the

  • East, by the light of the seven-branched

  • candlestick, to Solomon, Pythagoras, and Zoroaster.

  • That is, at least, what was supposed, whether rightly or not.

  • It is certain that the archdeacon often visited the cemetery of the Saints-

  • Innocents, where, it is true, his father and mother had been buried, with other

  • victims of the plague of 1466; but that he

  • appeared far less devout before the cross of their grave than before the strange

  • figures with which the tomb of Nicolas Flamel and Claude Pernelle, erected just

  • beside it, was loaded.

  • It is certain that he had frequently been seen to pass along the Rue des Lombards,

  • and furtively enter a little house which formed the corner of the Rue des Ecrivans

  • and the Rue Marivault.

  • It was the house which Nicolas Flamel had built, where he had died about 1417, and

  • which, constantly deserted since that time, had already begun to fall in ruins,--so

  • greatly had the hermetics and the

  • alchemists of all countries wasted away the walls, merely by carving their names upon

  • them.

  • Some neighbors even affirm that they had once seen, through an air-hole, Archdeacon

  • Claude excavating, turning over, digging up the earth in the two cellars, whose

  • supports had been daubed with numberless

  • couplets and hieroglyphics by Nicolas Flamel himself.

  • It was supposed that Flamel had buried the philosopher's stone in the cellar; and the

  • alchemists, for the space of two centuries, from Magistri to Father Pacifique, never

  • ceased to worry the soil until the house,

  • so cruelly ransacked and turned over, ended by falling into dust beneath their feet.

  • Again, it is certain that the archdeacon had been seized with a singular passion for

  • the symbolical door of Notre-Dame, that page of a conjuring book written in stone,

  • by Bishop Guillaume de Paris, who has, no

  • doubt, been damned for having affixed so infernal a frontispiece to the sacred poem

  • chanted by the rest of the edifice.

  • Archdeacon Claude had the credit also of having fathomed the mystery of the colossus

  • of Saint Christopher, and of that lofty, enigmatical statue which then stood at the

  • entrance of the vestibule, and which the

  • people, in derision, called "Monsieur Legris."

  • But, what every one might have noticed was the interminable hours which he often

  • employed, seated upon the parapet of the area in front of the church, in

  • contemplating the sculptures of the front;

  • examining now the foolish virgins with their lamps reversed, now the wise virgins

  • with their lamps upright; again, calculating the angle of vision of that

  • raven which belongs to the left front, and

  • which is looking at a mysterious point inside the church, where is concealed the

  • philosopher's stone, if it be not in the cellar of Nicolas Flamel.

  • It was, let us remark in passing, a singular fate for the Church of Notre-Dame

  • at that epoch to be so beloved, in two different degrees, and with so much

  • devotion, by two beings so dissimilar as Claude and Quasimodo.

  • Beloved by one, a sort of instinctive and savage half-man, for its beauty, for its

  • stature, for the harmonies which emanated from its magnificent ensemble; beloved by

  • the other, a learned and passionate

  • imagination, for its myth, for the sense which it contains, for the symbolism

  • scattered beneath the sculptures of its front,--like the first text underneath the

  • second in a palimpsest,--in a word, for the

  • enigma which it is eternally propounding to the understanding.

  • Furthermore, it is certain that the archdeacon had established himself in that

  • one of the two towers which looks upon the Greve, just beside the frame for the bells,

  • a very secret little cell, into which no

  • one, not even the bishop, entered without his leave, it was said.

  • This tiny cell had formerly been made almost at the summit of the tower, among

  • the ravens' nests, by Bishop Hugo de Besancon who had wrought sorcery there in

  • his day.

  • What that cell contained, no one knew; but from the strand of the Terrain, at night,

  • there was often seen to appear, disappear, and reappear at brief and regular

  • intervals, at a little dormer window

  • opening upon the back of the tower, a certain red, intermittent, singular light

  • which seemed to follow the panting breaths of a bellows, and to proceed from a flame,

  • rather than from a light.

  • In the darkness, at that height, it produced a singular effect; and the

  • goodwives said: "There's the archdeacon blowing! hell is sparkling up yonder!"

  • .

  • There were no great proofs of sorcery in that, after all, but there was still enough

  • smoke to warrant a surmise of fire, and the archdeacon bore a tolerably formidable

  • reputation.

  • We ought to mention however, that the sciences of Egypt, that necromancy and

  • magic, even the whitest, even the most innocent, had no more envenomed enemy, no

  • more pitiless denunciator before the gentlemen of the officialty of Notre-Dame.

  • Whether this was sincere horror, or the game played by the thief who shouts, "stop

  • thief!" at all events, it did not prevent the archdeacon from being considered by the

  • learned heads of the chapter, as a soul who

  • had ventured