The family had inherited from the brothers Packet the fief of Tirechappe, which was held of the Bishop of Paris, and the twenty-one houses of which had, since the thirteenth century, been the object of countless litigations in the Ecclesiastical Court. As owner of this fief, Claude Follow was one of the seven times twenty-one seigneurs claiming manorial dues in Paris and its suburbs; and in that capacity his name was long to be seen inscribed between the Hôtel de Tancarville, belonging to Maître François le Rez, and the College of Tours, in the cartulary deposited at Saint-Martin des Champs.
From his childhood Claude Follow had been destined by his parents for the priesthood. He had been taught to read in Latin; he had early been trained to keep his eyes down-cast, and to speak in subdued tones. While still quite a child his father had bound him to the monastic seclusion of the Collége de Torchi in the University, and there he had grown up over the missal and the lexicon.
He was, however, by nature a melancholy, reserved, serious boy, studying with ardour and learning easily. He never shouted in the recreation hour; he mixed but little in the bacchanalia of the Rue du Fouarre; did not know what it was to dare alapas et capillos laniare,1 and had taken no part in that Students riot of 1463, which the chroniclers gravely record as The Sixth Disturbance in the University. It rarely happened that he jibed at the poor scholars of Montaigu for their cappettes, from which they derived their nickname, or the exhibitioners of the Collége de Dormans for their smooth tonsure and their tricoloured surcoats of dark blue, light blue and violet clothazurini coloris et bruni, as the charter of the Cardinal des Quatre-Couronnes puts it.
On the other hand, he was assiduous in his attendance at the higher and lower schools of the Rue Saint-Jean de Beauvais. The first scholar whom the Abbé de Saint-Pierre de Val caught sight of, established against a pillar in the Ecole Saint-Vendregesile, exactly opposite to his desk when he began his lecture on Canon Law, was invariably Claude Follow, armed with his inkhorn, chewing his pen, scribbling on his threadbare knees, or, in winter, blowing on his fingers. The first pupil Messier Miles dIsliers, doctor of ecclesiastical law, saw arrive breathless every Monday morning as the door of the Chef-Saint-Denis schools opened, was Claude Follow. Consequently, by the time he was sixteen, the young cleric was a match in mystical theology for a Father of the Church, and in scholastic theology for a Doctor of the Sorbonne.
From the Magister Sententiarum he had fallen upon the Capitularies of Charlemagne, and in his insatiable hunger for knowledge had devoured decretal after decretal: those of Theodore, Bishop of Hispalis, those of Bouchard, Bishop of Worms, those of Yves, Bishop of Chartres; then the decretal of Gratian, which came after Charlemagnes Capitularies; then the collection of Gregory IX; then the epistle Super specula of Honorius III. He thoroughly investigated and made himself familiar with that vast and stormy period of bitter and protracted struggle between Civil and Ecclesiastical Law during the chaos of the Middle Ages, a period which Bishop Theodore began in 618, and Pope Gregory closed in 1227.
The decretals assimilated, he turned his attention to medicine and the liberal arts; studied the science of herbs and of slaves; became an expert in the treatment of fevers and contusions, of wounds and of abscesses. Jacques dEspars would have passed him as physician; Richard Hellain, as surgeon. He ran through the degrees of Licentiate, Master, and Doctor of Arts; he studied languages: Latin, Greek, and Hebrewa thrice inner sanctuary of learning seldom penetrated at that time. He was possessed by a veritable rage for acquiring and storing up knowledge. At eighteen, he had made his way through the four faculties. Life for this young man seemed to have but one aim and objectknowledge.
It was just about this time that the excessive heat of the summer of 1466 caused the outbreak of that great pestilence which carried off more than forty thousand people in the jurisdiction of Paris, among others, says Jean de Troyes, Maître Arnoul, the Kings astrologer, a right honest man, both wise and merry withal. The rumour spread through the University that the Rue Tirechappe had been specially devastated by the malady. It was here, in the middle of their fief, that Claudes parents dwelt. Much alarmed, the young student hastened forthwith to his fathers house, only to find that both father and mother had died the previous day. An infant brother, in swaddling-clothes, was still alive and lay wailing and abandoned in the cradle. This was all that remained to Claude of his family. The young man took the child in his arms and went thoughtfully away. Hitherto he had lived only in the world of Learning; now he was to begin living in the world of Life.
This catastrophe was a turning point in Claude Frollos existence. An orphan, an elder brother, and the head of his house at nineteen, he felt himself rudely recalled from the reveries of the school to the realities of the world. It was then that, moved with pity, he was seized with a passionate devotion for this infant brother. How strange and sweet a thing this human affection to him, who had never yet loved aught but books!
This affection waxed strong to a singular degree; in a soul so new to passion, it was like a first love. Separated since his childhood from his parents whom he had scarcely known; cloistered and immured, as it were, in his books, eager before all things to study, to learn; attentive hitherto only to his intellect which expanded in science, to his imagination which grew with his literary studies, the poor scholar had not yet had time to feel that he had a heart. This young brother, without mother or father, this helpless babe, suddenly fallen from the skies into his arms, made a new man of him. He perceived for the first time that there were other things in the world besides the speculations of the Sorbonne and the verses of Homer; that Man has need of the affections; that life without tenderness and without love is a piece of heartless mechanism, insensate, noisy, wearisome. Only, he imagined, being as yet at the age when one illusion is replaced merely by another illusion, that the affections of blood and kindred were the only ones necessary, and the love for a little brother was sufficient to fill his whole existence.
He threw himself, therefore, into the love of his little Jehan with all the passion of a character already profound, ardent, and concentrated. The thought of this poor, pretty, rosy, golden-haired creature, this orphan with another orphan for its sole support, moved him to the hearts core, and like the earnest thinker that he was, he began to reflect upon Jehan with a sense of infinite compassion. He lavished all his solicitude upon him as upon something very fragile, very specially recommended to his care. He became more than a brother to the babe: he became a mother.
Little Jehan having still been at the breast when he lost his mother, Claude put him out at nurse. Besides the fief of Tirechappe, he inherited from his father that of Moulin, which was held of the square tower of Gentilly. It was a mill standing upon rising ground, near the Castle of Winchestre, the present Bicêtre. The millers wife was suckling a fine boy at the time; the mill was not far from the University, and Claude carried his little Jehan to her himself.
Thenceforward, feeling he had a heavy responsibility on his shoulders, he took life very seriously. The thought of his little brother not only became his recreation from study, but the chief object of those studies. He resolved to devote himself wholly to the future of that being for whom he was answerable before God, and never to have any other spouse, any other child than the happiness and welfare of his little brother.
He bound himself, therefore, still more closely to his clerical vocation. His personal merits, his learning, his position as an immediate vassal of the Bishop of Paris, opened wide to him the doors of the Church. At twenty, by special dispensation from the Holy See, he was ordained priest, and as the youngest of the chaplains of Notre Dame, performed the service at the altar called, from the late hour at which the mass was celebrated there, altare pigrorumthe sluggards altar.
After this, and because he was more than ever immersed in his beloved books, which he only left to hasten for an hour to the mill, this union of wisdom and austerity, so rare at his age, had speedily gained him the respect and admiration of the cloister. From the cloister his fame for erudition had spread to the people, by whom, as frequently happened in those days, it had been converted in some sort into a reputation for necromancy.
It was just as he was returning on Quasimodo-Sunday from celebrating mass for the sluggards at their altarwhich was beside the door in the choir leading into the nave, on the right, near the image of the Virginthat his attention had been arrested by the group of old women chattering round the foundling.
He accordingly drew nearer to the poor little creature, the object of so much abhorrence and ill-will. The sight of its distress, its deformity, its abandonment, the remembrance of his young brother, the horror that suddenly assailed him at the thought that if he were to die his beloved little Jehan might thus be miserably exposed upon the self-same bedall this rushed into his mind at once, and, moved by an impulse of profound compassion, he had carried away the child.
When he took the child out of the sack, he found it was indeed ill-favoured. The poor little wretch had a great wart over the left eye, its head was sunk between its shoulders, the spine arched, the breastbone protruding, the legs bowed. Yet he seemed lively enough; and although it was impossible to make out the language of his uncouth stammerings, his voice evidenced a fair degree of health and strength. Claudes compassion was increased by this ugliness, and he vowed in his heart to bring up this child for love of his brother; so that, whatever in the future might be the faults of little Jehan, this good deed, performed in his stead, might be accounted to him for righteousness. It was a sort of investment in charity effected in his brothers name, a stock of good work laid up for him in advance, on which the little rogue might fall back if some day he found himself short of that peculiar form of small changethe only kind accepted at the Gate of Heaven.
He christened his adopted child by the name of Quasimodo, either to commemorate thereby the day on which he found him, or to indicate by that name how incomplete and indefinite of shape the unfortunate little creature was. And, in truth, one-eyed, humpbacked, bow-legged, poor Quasimodo could hardly be accounted more than quasi human.