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  • BOOK SECOND. CHAPTER I.

  • FROM CHARYBDIS TO SCYLLA.

  • Night comes on early in January. The streets were already dark when

  • Gringoire issued forth from the Courts.

  • This gloom pleased him; he was in haste to reach some obscure and deserted alley, in

  • order there to meditate at his ease, and in order that the philosopher might place the

  • first dressing upon the wound of the poet.

  • Philosophy, moreover, was his sole refuge, for he did not know where he was to lodge

  • for the night.

  • After the brilliant failure of his first theatrical venture, he dared not return to

  • the lodging which he occupied in the Rue Grenier-sur-l'Eau, opposite to the Port-au-

  • Foin, having depended upon receiving from

  • monsieur the provost for his epithalamium, the wherewithal to pay Master Guillaume

  • Doulx-Sire, farmer of the taxes on cloven- footed animals in Paris, the rent which he

  • owed him, that is to say, twelve sols

  • parisian; twelve times the value of all that he possessed in the world, including

  • his trunk-hose, his shirt, and his cap.

  • After reflecting a moment, temporarily sheltered beneath the little wicket of the

  • prison of the treasurer of the Sainte- Chappelle, as to the shelter which he would

  • select for the night, having all the

  • pavements of Paris to choose from, he remembered to have noticed the week

  • previously in the Rue de la Savaterie, at the door of a councillor of the parliament,

  • a stepping stone for mounting a mule, and

  • to have said to himself that that stone would furnish, on occasion, a very

  • excellent pillow for a mendicant or a poet.

  • He thanked Providence for having sent this happy idea to him; but, as he was preparing

  • to cross the Place, in order to reach the tortuous labyrinth of the city, where

  • meander all those old sister streets, the

  • Rues de la Barillerie, de la Vielle- Draperie, de la Savaterie, de la Juiverie,

  • etc., still extant to-day, with their nine- story houses, he saw the procession of the

  • Pope of the Fools, which was also emerging

  • from the court house, and rushing across the courtyard, with great cries, a great

  • flashing of torches, and the music which belonged to him, Gringoire.

  • This sight revived the pain of his self- love; he fled.

  • In the bitterness of his dramatic misadventure, everything which reminded him

  • of the festival of that day irritated his wound and made it bleed.

  • He was on the point of turning to the Pont Saint-Michel; children were running about

  • here and there with fire lances and rockets.

  • "Pest on firework candles!" said Gringoire; and he fell back on the Pont au Change.

  • To the house at the head of the bridge there had been affixed three small banners,

  • representing the king, the dauphin, and Marguerite of Flanders, and six little

  • pennons on which were portrayed the Duke of

  • Austria, the Cardinal de Bourbon, M. de Beaujeu, and Madame Jeanne de France, and

  • Monsieur the Bastard of Bourbon, and I know not whom else; all being illuminated with

  • torches.

  • The rabble were admiring. "Happy painter, Jehan Fourbault!" said

  • Gringoire with a deep sigh; and he turned his back upon the bannerets and pennons.

  • A street opened before him; he thought it so dark and deserted that he hoped to there

  • escape from all the rumors as well as from all the gleams of the festival.

  • At the end of a few moments his foot came in contact with an obstacle; he stumbled

  • and fell.

  • It was the May truss, which the clerks of the clerks' law court had deposited that

  • morning at the door of a president of the parliament, in honor of the solemnity of

  • the day.

  • Gringoire bore this new disaster heroically; he picked himself up, and

  • reached the water's edge.

  • After leaving behind him the civic Tournelle and the criminal tower, and

  • skirted the great walls of the king's garden, on that unpaved strand where the

  • mud reached to his ankles, he reached the

  • western point of the city, and considered for some time the islet of the Passeur-aux-

  • Vaches, which has disappeared beneath the bronze horse of the Pont Neuf.

  • The islet appeared to him in the shadow like a black mass, beyond the narrow strip

  • of whitish water which separated him from it.

  • One could divine by the ray of a tiny light the sort of hut in the form of a beehive

  • where the ferryman of cows took refuge at night.

  • "Happy ferryman!" thought Gringoire; "you do not dream of glory, and you do not make

  • marriage songs! What matters it to you, if kings and

  • Duchesses of Burgundy marry?

  • You know no other daisies (marguerites) than those which your April greensward

  • gives your cows to browse upon; while I, a poet, am hooted, and shiver, and owe twelve

  • sous, and the soles of my shoes are so

  • transparent, that they might serve as glasses for your lantern!

  • Thanks, ferryman, your cabin rests my eyes, and makes me forget Paris!"

  • He was roused from his almost lyric ecstacy, by a big double Saint-Jean

  • cracker, which suddenly went off from the happy cabin.

  • It was the cow ferryman, who was taking his part in the rejoicings of the day, and

  • letting off fireworks. This cracker made Gringoire's skin bristle

  • up all over.

  • "Accursed festival!" he exclaimed, "wilt thou pursue me everywhere?

  • Oh! good God! even to the ferryman's!"

  • Then he looked at the Seine at his feet, and a horrible temptation took possession

  • of him: "Oh!" said he, "I would gladly drown

  • myself, were the water not so cold!"

  • Then a desperate resolution occurred to him.

  • It was, since he could not escape from the Pope of the Fools, from Jehan Fourbault's

  • bannerets, from May trusses, from squibs and crackers, to go to the Place de Greve.

  • "At least," he said to himself, "I shall there have a firebrand of joy wherewith to

  • warm myself, and I can sup on some crumbs of the three great armorial bearings of

  • royal sugar which have been erected on the public refreshment-stall of the city."

  • -BOOK SECOND. CHAPTER II.

  • THE PLACE DE GREVE.

  • There remains to-day but a very imperceptible vestige of the Place de

  • Greve, such as it existed then; it consists in the charming little turret, which

  • occupies the angle north of the Place, and

  • which, already enshrouded in the ignoble plaster which fills with paste the delicate

  • lines of its sculpture, would soon have disappeared, perhaps submerged by that

  • flood of new houses which so rapidly devours all the ancient facades of Paris.

  • The persons who, like ourselves, never cross the Place de Greve without casting a

  • glance of pity and sympathy on that poor turret strangled between two hovels of the

  • time of Louis XV., can easily reconstruct

  • in their minds the aggregate of edifices to which it belonged, and find again entire in

  • it the ancient Gothic place of the fifteenth century.

  • It was then, as it is to-day, an irregular trapezoid, bordered on one side by the

  • quay, and on the other three by a series of lofty, narrow, and gloomy houses.

  • By day, one could admire the variety of its edifices, all sculptured in stone or wood,

  • and already presenting complete specimens of the different domestic architectures of

  • the Middle Ages, running back from the

  • fifteenth to the eleventh century, from the casement which had begun to dethrone the

  • arch, to the Roman semicircle, which had been supplanted by the ogive, and which

  • still occupies, below it, the first story

  • of that ancient house de la Tour Roland, at the corner of the Place upon the Seine, on

  • the side of the street with the Tannerie.

  • At night, one could distinguish nothing of all that mass of buildings, except the

  • black indentation of the roofs, unrolling their chain of acute angles round the

  • place; for one of the radical differences

  • between the cities of that time, and the cities of the present day, lay in the

  • facades which looked upon the places and streets, and which were then gables.

  • For the last two centuries the houses have been turned round.

  • In the centre of the eastern side of the Place, rose a heavy and hybrid

  • construction, formed of three buildings placed in juxtaposition.

  • It was called by three names which explain its history, its destination, and its

  • architecture: "The House of the Dauphin," because Charles V., when Dauphin, had

  • inhabited it; "The Marchandise," because it

  • had served as town hall; and "The Pillared House" (domus ad piloria), because of a

  • series of large pillars which sustained the three stories.

  • The city found there all that is required for a city like Paris; a chapel in which to

  • pray to God; a plaidoyer, or pleading room, in which to hold hearings, and to repel, at

  • need, the King's people; and under the roof, an arsenac full of artillery.

  • For the bourgeois of Paris were aware that it is not sufficient to pray in every

  • conjuncture, and to plead for the franchises of the city, and they had always

  • in reserve, in the garret of the town hall, a few good rusty arquebuses.

  • The Greve had then that sinister aspect which it preserves to-day from the

  • execrable ideas which it awakens, and from the sombre town hall of Dominique Bocador,

  • which has replaced the Pillared House.

  • It must be admitted that a permanent gibbet and a pillory, "a justice and a ladder," as

  • they were called in that day, erected side by side in the centre of the pavement,

  • contributed not a little to cause eyes to

  • be turned away from that fatal place, where so many beings full of life and health have

  • agonized; where, fifty years later, that fever of Saint Vallier was destined to have

  • its birth, that terror of the scaffold, the

  • most monstrous of all maladies because it comes not from God, but from man.

  • It is a consoling idea (let us remark in passing), to think that the death penalty,

  • which three hundred years ago still encumbered with its iron wheels, its stone

  • gibbets, and all its paraphernalia of

  • torture, permanent and riveted to the pavement, the Greve, the Halles, the Place

  • Dauphine, the Cross du Trahoir, the Marche aux Pourceaux, that hideous Montfaucon, the

  • barrier des Sergents, the Place aux Chats,

  • the Porte Saint-Denis, Champeaux, the Porte Baudets, the Porte Saint Jacques, without

  • reckoning the innumerable ladders of the provosts, the bishop of the chapters, of

  • the abbots, of the priors, who had the

  • decree of life and death,--without reckoning the judicial drownings in the

  • river Seine; it is consoling to-day, after having lost successively all the pieces of

  • its armor, its luxury of torment, its

  • penalty of imagination and fancy, its torture for which it reconstructed every

  • five years a leather bed at the Grand Chatelet, that ancient suzerain of feudal

  • society almost expunged from our laws and

  • our cities, hunted from code to code, chased from place to place, has no longer,

  • in our immense Paris, any more than a dishonored corner of the Greve,--than a

  • miserable guillotine, furtive, uneasy,

  • shameful, which seems always afraid of being caught in the act, so quickly does it

  • disappear after having dealt its blow.

  • -BOOK SECOND. CHAPTER III.

  • KISSES FOR BLOWS.

  • When Pierre Gringoire arrived on the Place de Greve, he was paralyzed.

  • He had directed his course across the Pont aux Meuniers, in order to avoid the rabble

  • on the Pont au Change, and the pennons of Jehan Fourbault; but the wheels of all the

  • bishop's mills had splashed him as he

  • passed, and his doublet was drenched; it seemed to him besides, that the failure of

  • his piece had rendered him still more sensible to cold than usual.

  • Hence he made haste to draw near the bonfire, which was burning magnificently in

  • the middle of the Place. But a considerable crowd formed a circle

  • around it.

  • "Accursed Parisians!" he said to himself (for Gringoire, like a true dramatic poet,

  • was subject to monologues) "there they are obstructing my fire!

  • Nevertheless, I am greatly in need of a chimney corner; my shoes drink in the

  • water, and all those cursed mills wept upon me!

  • That devil of a Bishop of Paris, with his mills!

  • I'd just like to know what use a bishop can make of a mill!

  • Does he expect to become a miller instead of a bishop?

  • If only my malediction is needed for that, I bestow it upon him! and his cathedral,

  • and his mills!

  • Just see if those boobies will put themselves out!

  • Move aside! I'd like to know what they are doing there!

  • They are warming themselves, much pleasure may it give them!

  • They are watching a hundred fagots burn; a fine spectacle!"

  • On looking more closely, he perceived that the circle was much larger than was

  • required simply for the purpose of getting warm at the king's fire, and that this

  • concourse of people had not been attracted

  • solely by the beauty of the hundred fagots which were burning.

  • In a vast space left free between the crowd and the fire, a young girl was dancing.

  • Whether this young girl was a human being, a fairy, or an angel, is what Gringoire,

  • sceptical philosopher and ironical poet that he was, could not decide at the first

  • moment, so fascinated was he by this dazzling vision.

  • She was not tall, though she seemed so, so boldly did her slender form dart about.

  • She was swarthy of complexion, but one divined that, by day, her skin must possess

  • that beautiful golden tone of the Andalusians and the Roman women.

  • Her little foot, too, was Andalusian, for it was both pinched and at ease in its

  • graceful shoe.

  • She danced, she turned, she whirled rapidly about on an old Persian rug, spread

  • negligently under her feet; and each time that her radiant face passed before you, as

  • she whirled, her great black eyes darted a flash of lightning at you.

  • All around her, all glances were riveted, all mouths open; and, in fact, when she

  • danced thus, to the humming of the Basque tambourine, which her two pure, rounded

  • arms raised above her head, slender, frail

  • and vivacious as a wasp, with her corsage of gold without a fold, her variegated gown

  • puffing out, her bare shoulders, her delicate limbs, which her petticoat

  • revealed at times, her black hair, her eyes of flame, she was a supernatural creature.

  • "In truth," said Gringoire to himself, "she is a salamander, she is a nymph, she is a

  • goddess, she is a bacchante of the Menelean Mount!"

  • At that moment, one of the salamander's braids of hair became unfastened, and a

  • piece of yellow copper which was attached to it, rolled to the ground.

  • "He, no!" said he, "she is a gypsy!"

  • All illusions had disappeared.

  • She began her dance once more; she took from the ground two swords, whose points

  • she rested against her brow, and which she made to turn in one direction, while she

  • turned in the other; it was a purely gypsy effect.

  • But, disenchanted though Gringoire was, the whole effect of this picture was not

  • without its charm and its magic; the bonfire illuminated, with a red flaring

  • light, which trembled, all alive, over the

  • circle of faces in the crowd, on the brow of the young girl, and at the background of

  • the Place cast a pallid reflection, on one side upon the ancient, black, and wrinkled

  • facade of the House of Pillars, on the other, upon the old stone gibbet.

  • Among the thousands of visages which that light tinged with scarlet, there was one

  • which seemed, even more than all the others, absorbed in contemplation of the

  • dancer.

  • It was the face of a man, austere, calm, and sombre.

  • This man, whose costume was concealed by the crowd which surrounded him, did not

  • appear to be more than five and thirty years of age; nevertheless, he was bald; he

  • had merely a few tufts of thin, gray hair

  • on his temples; his broad, high forehead had begun to be furrowed with wrinkles, but

  • his deep-set eyes sparkled with extraordinary youthfulness, an ardent life,

  • a profound passion.

  • He kept them fixed incessantly on the gypsy, and, while the giddy young girl of

  • sixteen danced and whirled, for the pleasure of all, his revery seemed to