Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book I > Chapter VI
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Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
  
Book I
VI. Esmeralda
  
WE are charmed to be able to inform our readers that during this whole scene Grainier and his piece held their own. Spurred on by him, the actors had not ceased to declaim, nor he to listen. He had contributed his share to the clamor and was determined to stand fast to the end; nor did he despair of finally regaining the attention of the public. This spark of hope revived when he beheld Quasimodo, Coppenole, and the yelling cortège of the Pope of Fools troop out of the Hall with deafening up-roar, the crowd eagerly at their heels.   1
  “Good,” said he, “there goes the disturbing element.”   2
  But unfortunately the disturbing element comprised the entire public. In a twinkling the Hall was empty.   3
  To be exact, a sprinkling of spectators still remained, scattered about singly or grouped round the pillars—women, old men, and children who had had enough of the noise and the tumult. A few scholars sat astride the windows looking down into the Place.   4
  “Well,” thought Grainier, “here we have at least enough to listen to the end of my Mystery. They are few, but select—a lettered audience.”   5
  A moment afterward it was discovered that a band of music, which should have been immensely effective at the entry of the Blessed Virgin, was missing. Grainier found that his musicians had been pressed into the service of the Pope of Fools. “Go on without it,” he said stoically.   6
  Approaching a group of townsfolk who appeared to be discussing his play, he caught the following scraps of conversation:   7
  “Maitre Cheneteau, you know the Hôtel de Navarre, which used to belong to M. de Nemours?”   8
  “Opposite the Chapelle de Braque—yes.”   9
  “Well, the fiscal authorities have just let it to Guillaume Alisandre, the historical painter, for six livres eight sols parisis a year.”  10
  “How rents are rising!”  11
  “Come,” thought Grainier with a sigh, “at least the others are listening.”  12
  “Comrades!” suddenly cried one of the young rascals at the window, “Esmeralda—Esmeralda down in the Place!”  13
  The name acted like a charm. Every soul in the Hall rushed to the window, clambering up the walls to see, and repeating “Esmeralda! Esmeralda!” while from the outside came a great burst of applause.  14
  “Now what do they mean with their ‘Esmeralda’?” Grainier inquired, clasping his hands in despair. “Ah, mon Dieu! it appears that the windows are the attraction now.”  15
  He turned towards the marble table and discovered that the play had suffered an interruption. It was the moment at which Jupiter was to appear on the scene with his thunder. But Jupiter was standing stock-still below the stage.  16
  “Michel Giborne, what are you doing there?” cried the exasperated poet. “Is that playing your part? Get up on the stage at once.”  17
  “Alas!” said Jupiter, “one of the scholars has just taken away the ladder.”  18
  Grainier looked. It was but too true; the connection between the knot of his play and the untying had been cut.  19
  “Rascal,” he muttered, “what did he want with the ladder?”  20
  “To help him to see Esmeralda,” answered Jupiter, in an injured tone. “He said, ‘Hallo, here’s a ladder that nobody’s using,’ and away he went with it.”  21
  This was the last straw. Grainier accepted it with resignation.  22
  “May the devil fly away with you!” said he to the actors, “and if I am paid you shall be.” Whereupon he beat a retreat, hanging his head, but the last in the field, like a general who has made a good fight.  23
  “A precious set of boobies and asses, these Parisians!” he growled between his teeth, as he descended the tortuous stairs of the Palais. “They come to hear a Mystery, and don’t listen to a word. They’ve been taken up with all the world—with Clopin Trouillefou, with the Cardinal, with Coppenole, with Quasimodo, with the devil; but with Madame the Virgin Mary not a bit. Dolts! if I had only known! I’d have given you some Virgin Marys with a vengeance. To think that I should have come here to see faces and found nothing but backs! I, a poet, to have the success of an apothecary! True, Homerus had to beg his bread through the Greek villages, and Ovidius Naso died in exile among the Muscovites. But the devil flay me if I know what they mean with their Esmeralda. To begin with, where can the word come from?—ah, it’s Egyptian.”  24

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