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  • BOOK FIRST. PREFACE.

  • A few years ago, while visiting or, rather, rummaging about Notre-Dame, the author of

  • this book found, in an obscure nook of one of the towers, the following word, engraved

  • by hand upon the wall:--

  • ANArKH.

  • These Greek capitals, black with age, and quite deeply graven in the stone, with I

  • know not what signs peculiar to Gothic caligraphy imprinted upon their forms and

  • upon their attitudes, as though with the

  • purpose of revealing that it had been a hand of the Middle Ages which had inscribed

  • them there, and especially the fatal and melancholy meaning contained in them,

  • struck the author deeply.

  • He questioned himself; he sought to divine who could have been that soul in torment

  • which had not been willing to quit this world without leaving this stigma of crime

  • or unhappiness upon the brow of the ancient church.

  • Afterwards, the wall was whitewashed or scraped down, I know not which, and the

  • inscription disappeared.

  • For it is thus that people have been in the habit of proceeding with the marvellous

  • churches of the Middle Ages for the last two hundred years.

  • Mutilations come to them from every quarter, from within as well as from

  • without.

  • The priest whitewashes them, the archdeacon scrapes them down; then the populace

  • arrives and demolishes them.

  • Thus, with the exception of the fragile memory which the author of this book here

  • consecrates to it, there remains to-day nothing whatever of the mysterious word

  • engraved within the gloomy tower of Notre-

  • Dame,--nothing of the destiny which it so sadly summed up.

  • The man who wrote that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the

  • generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn, has been effaced from

  • the wall of the church; the church will,

  • perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the earth.

  • It is upon this word that this book is founded.

  • March, 1831.

  • CHAPTER I. THE GRAND HALL.

  • Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago to-day, the

  • Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bells in the triple circuit of the city,

  • the university, and the town ringing a full peal.

  • The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of which history has

  • preserved the memory.

  • There was nothing notable in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois

  • of Paris in a ferment from early morning.

  • It was neither an assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led along

  • in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of Laas, nor an entry of "our much

  • dread lord, monsieur the king," nor even a

  • pretty hanging of male and female thieves by the courts of Paris.

  • Neither was it the arrival, so frequent in the fifteenth century, of some plumed and

  • bedizened embassy.

  • It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of that nature, that of the

  • Flemish ambassadors charged with concluding the marriage between the dauphin and

  • Marguerite of Flanders, had made its entry

  • into Paris, to the great annoyance of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of

  • pleasing the king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien towards this whole

  • rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and

  • to regale them at his Hotel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty morality, allegorical

  • satire, and farce," while a driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his

  • door.

  • What put the "whole population of Paris in commotion," as Jehan de Troyes expresses

  • it, on the sixth of January, was the double solemnity, united from time immemorial, of

  • the Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.

  • On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place de Greve, a maypole at the

  • Chapelle de Braque, and a mystery at the Palais de Justice.

  • It had been cried, to the sound of the trumpet, the preceding evening at all the

  • cross roads, by the provost's men, clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats of violet

  • camelot, with large white crosses upon their breasts.

  • So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed their houses and shops,

  • thronged from every direction, at early morn, towards some one of the three spots

  • designated.

  • Each had made his choice; one, the bonfire; another, the maypole; another, the mystery

  • play.

  • It must be stated, in honor of the good sense of the loungers of Paris, that the

  • greater part of this crowd directed their steps towards the bonfire, which was quite

  • in season, or towards the mystery play,

  • which was to be presented in the grand hall of the Palais de Justice (the courts of

  • law), which was well roofed and walled; and that the curious left the poor, scantily

  • flowered maypole to shiver all alone

  • beneath the sky of January, in the cemetery of the Chapel of Braque.

  • The populace thronged the avenues of the law courts in particular, because they knew

  • that the Flemish ambassadors, who had arrived two days previously, intended to be

  • present at the representation of the

  • mystery, and at the election of the Pope of the Fools, which was also to take place in

  • the grand hall.

  • It was no easy matter on that day, to force one's way into that grand hall, although it

  • was then reputed to be the largest covered enclosure in the world (it is true that

  • Sauval had not yet measured the grand hall of the Chateau of Montargis).

  • The palace place, encumbered with people, offered to the curious gazers at the

  • windows the aspect of a sea; into which five or six streets, like so many mouths of

  • rivers, discharged every moment fresh floods of heads.

  • The waves of this crowd, augmented incessantly, dashed against the angles of

  • the houses which projected here and there, like so many promontories, into the

  • irregular basin of the place.

  • In the centre of the lofty Gothic facade of the palace, the grand staircase,

  • incessantly ascended and descended by a double current, which, after parting on the

  • intermediate landing-place, flowed in broad

  • waves along its lateral slopes,--the grand staircase, I say, trickled incessantly into

  • the place, like a cascade into a lake.

  • The cries, the laughter, the trampling of those thousands of feet, produced a great

  • noise and a great clamor.

  • From time to time, this noise and clamor redoubled; the current which drove the

  • crowd towards the grand staircase flowed backwards, became troubled, formed

  • whirlpools.

  • This was produced by the buffet of an archer, or the horse of one of the

  • provost's sergeants, which kicked to restore order; an admirable tradition which

  • the provostship has bequeathed to the

  • constablery, the constablery to the marechaussee, the marechaussee to our

  • gendarmeri of Paris.

  • Thousands of good, calm, bourgeois faces thronged the windows, the doors, the dormer

  • windows, the roofs, gazing at the palace, gazing at the populace, and asking nothing

  • more; for many Parisians content themselves

  • with the spectacle of the spectators, and a wall behind which something is going on

  • becomes at once, for us, a very curious thing indeed.

  • If it could be granted to us, the men of 1830, to mingle in thought with those

  • Parisians of the fifteenth century, and to enter with them, jostled, elbowed, pulled

  • about, into that immense hall of the

  • palace, which was so cramped on that sixth of January, 1482, the spectacle would not

  • be devoid of either interest or charm, and we should have about us only things that

  • were so old that they would seem new.

  • With the reader's consent, we will endeavor to retrace in thought, the impression which

  • he would have experienced in company with us on crossing the threshold of that grand

  • hall, in the midst of that tumultuous crowd

  • in surcoats, short, sleeveless jackets, and doublets.

  • And, first of all, there is a buzzing in the ears, a dazzlement in the eyes.

  • Above our heads is a double ogive vault, panelled with wood carving, painted azure,

  • and sown with golden fleurs-de-lis; beneath our feet a pavement of black and white

  • marble, alternating.

  • A few paces distant, an enormous pillar, then another, then another; seven pillars

  • in all, down the length of the hall, sustaining the spring of the arches of the

  • double vault, in the centre of its width.

  • Around four of the pillars, stalls of merchants, all sparkling with glass and

  • tinsel; around the last three, benches of oak, worn and polished by the trunk hose of

  • the litigants, and the robes of the attorneys.

  • Around the hall, along the lofty wall, between the doors, between the windows,

  • between the pillars, the interminable row of all the kings of France, from Pharamond

  • down: the lazy kings, with pendent arms and

  • downcast eyes; the valiant and combative kings, with heads and arms raised boldly

  • heavenward.

  • Then in the long, pointed windows, glass of a thousand hues; at the wide entrances to

  • the hall, rich doors, finely sculptured; and all, the vaults, pillars, walls, jambs,

  • panelling, doors, statues, covered from top

  • to bottom with a splendid blue and gold illumination, which, a trifle tarnished at

  • the epoch when we behold it, had almost entirely disappeared beneath dust and

  • spiders in the year of grace, 1549, when du Breul still admired it from tradition.

  • Let the reader picture to himself now, this immense, oblong hall, illuminated by the

  • pallid light of a January day, invaded by a motley and noisy throng which drifts along

  • the walls, and eddies round the seven

  • pillars, and he will have a confused idea of the whole effect of the picture, whose

  • curious details we shall make an effort to indicate with more precision.

  • It is certain, that if Ravaillac had not assassinated Henri IV., there would have

  • been no documents in the trial of Ravaillac deposited in the clerk's office of the

  • Palais de Justice, no accomplices

  • interested in causing the said documents to disappear; hence, no incendiaries obliged,

  • for lack of better means, to burn the clerk's office in order to burn the

  • documents, and to burn the Palais de

  • Justice in order to burn the clerk's office; consequently, in short, no

  • conflagration in 1618.

  • The old Palais would be standing still, with its ancient grand hall; I should be

  • able to say to the reader, "Go and look at it," and we should thus both escape the

  • necessity,--I of making, and he of reading, a description of it, such as it is.

  • Which demonstrates a new truth: that great events have incalculable results.

  • It is true that it may be quite possible, in the first place, that Ravaillac had no

  • accomplices; and in the second, that if he had any, they were in no way connected with

  • the fire of 1618.

  • Two other very plausible explanations exist: First, the great flaming star, a

  • foot broad, and a cubit high, which fell from heaven, as every one knows, upon the

  • law courts, after midnight on the seventh of March; second, Theophile's quatrain,--

  • "Sure, 'twas but a sorry game When at Paris, Dame Justice,