Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book IV > Chapter V
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Book IV
V. Further Particulars of Claude Frollo
IN 1482 Quasimodo was about twenty, Claude Frollo about thirty-six. The one had grown up, the other had grown old.   1
  Claude Frollo was no longer the simple-minded scholar of the Torchi college, the tender guardian of a little child, the young and dreamy philosopher, who knew many things, but was ignorant of more. He was a priest—austere, grave, morose—having a cure of souls; Monsieur the Archdeacon of Josas; second acolyte to the Bishop; having the charge of the two deaneries of Montlhéry and Châteaufort, and of a hundred and seventy-four rural clergy. He was an imposing and sombre personage, before whom the chorister boys in alb and tunic, the brethren of Saint-Augustine, and the clerics on early morning duty at Notre Dame, quailed and trembled, when he passed slowly under the high Gothic arches of the choir—stately, deep in thought, with folded arms, and his head bent so low upon his breast that nothing was visible of his face but his high bald forehead.   2
  Dom 1 Claude Frollo, however, had abandoned neither science nor the education of his young brother—the two occupations of his life. But in the course of time some bitterness had mingled with these things he once had thought so sweet. With time, says Paul Diacre, even the best bacon turns rancid. Little Jehan Frollo, surnamed “of the Mill” from the place where he had been nursed, had not grown in the direction in which Claude would have wished to train him. The elder brother had counted on a pious pupil, docile, studious, and honourable. But the younger brother, like those young trees which baffle the efforts of the gardener, and turn obstinately towards that side from which they derive most air and sunshine—the younger brother increased and waxed great, and sent forth full and luxuriant branches only on the side of idleness, ignorance, and loose living. He was an unruly little devil, which made Dom Claude Knit his brows, but also very droll and very cunning, at which the elder was fain to smile. Claude had consigned him to that same Collége de Torchi in which he himself had passed his earliest years in study and seclusion; and it grieved him sorely that this retreat, once edified by the name of Frollo, should be so scandalized by it now. He would sometimes read Jehan long and stern lectures on the subject, under which the latter bore up courageously—after all, the young rascal’s heart was in the right place, as all the comedies declare; but the sermon over, he calmly resumed the evil tenor of his ways. Some times it was a béjaune, or yellow-beak, as they called the newcomers at the University—whom he had thoroughly badgered as a welcome—a valuable custom which has been carefully handed down to our day; now he had been the moving spirit of a band of scholars who had thrown themselves in classical fashion on a tavern, quasi classico excitati, then beaten the tavern-keeper “with cudgels of offensive character,” and joyously pillaged the tavern, even to staving in the hogsheads of wine. And the result was a fine report drawn up in Latin, brought by the sub-monitor of the Torchi College to Dom Claude, with piteous mien, the which bore the melancholy marginal remark, Rixa; prima causa vinum optimum potatum. 2 Finally, it was said—horrible in a lad of sixteen—that his backslidings frequently extended to the Rue de Glatigny. 3   3
  In consequence of all this, Claude—saddened, his faith in human affection shaken—threw himself with frenzied ardour into the arms of science, that sister who at least never laughs at you in derision, and who always repays you, albeit at times in somewhat light coin, for the care you have lavished on her. He became, therefore, more and more erudite, and, as a natural consequence, more and more rigid as a priest, less and less cheerful as a man. In each of us there are certain parallels between our mind, our manners, and our characters which develop in unbroken continuity, and are only shaken by the great cataclysms of life.   4
  Claude Frollo, having in his youth gone over the entire circle of human knowledge, positive, external, and lawful, was under the absolute necessity, unless he was to stop ubi defuit orbis, 4 of going farther afield in search of food for the insatiable appetite of his mind. The ancient symbol of the serpent biting its tail is especially appropriate to learning, as Claude Frollo had evidently proved. Many trustworthy persons asserted that, after having exhausted the fas of human knowledge, he had had the temerity to penetrate into the nefas, had tasted in succession all the apples of the Tree of Knowledge, and, whether from hunger or disgust, had finished by eating of the forbidden fruit. He had taken his seat by turns, as the reader has seen, at the conferences of the theologians at the Sorbonne, at the disputations of the decretalists near the image of Saint-Martin, at the meetings of the Faculty of Arts near the image of Saint-Hilary, at the confabulations of the physicians near the bénitier of Notre Dame, ad cupam Nostræ-Dominæ all the viands, permitted and approved which those four great kitchens, called the four Faculties, could prepare and set before the intelligence, he had devoured, and satiety had come upon him before his hunger was appeased. Then he had penetrated farther afield, had dug deeper, underneath all that finit, material, limited knowledge; he had risked his soul, and had seated himself at that mystic table of the Alchemists, the Astrologers, the Hermetics of which Averroës, Guillaume de Paris, and Nicolas Flamel occupy one end in the Middle Ages, and which reaches back in the East, under the rays of the seven-branched candlestick, to Solomon, Pythagoras, and Zoroaster.   5
  So, at least, it was supposed, whether rightly or not.   6
  It is certainly true that the Archdeacon frequently visited the cemetery of the Holy Innocents, where, to be sure, his mother and father lay buried with the other victims of the plague of 1466; but he seemed much less devoutly interested in the cross on their grave than in the strange figures covering the tombs of Nicolas Flamel and Claude Pernelle close by.   7
  It is certainly true that he had often been seen stealing down the Rue des Lombards and slipping furtively into a little house which formed the corner of the Rue des Ecrivains and the Rue Marivault. This was the house which Nicolas Flamel had built, in which he died about 1417, and which, uninhabited ever since, was beginning to fall into decay, so much had the Hermetics and Alchemists from all the ends of the world worn away its walls by merely engraving their names upon them. Some of the neighbours even declared how, through a hole in the wall, they had seen the Archdeacon digging and turning over the earth in those two cellars, of which the door-jambs had been scrawled over with innumerable verses and hieroglyphics by Nicolas Flamel himself. It was supposed that Flamel had buried here the philosopher’s stone; and for two centuries the Alchemists, from Magistri to Père Pacifique, never ceased to burrow in that ground, till at last the house, so cruelly ransacked and undermined, crumbled into dust under their feet.   8
  Again, it is true that the Archdeacon was seized with a remarkable passion for the symbolical portal of Notre Dame, that page of incantation written in stone by Bishop Guillaume of Paris, who is without doubt among the damned for having attached so infernal a frontispiece to the sacred poem eternally chanted by the rest of the edifice. The Archdeacon Claude was also credited with having solved the mystery of the colossal Saint-Christopher, and of that tall, enigmatical statue which stood then at the entrance of the Parvis of the Cathedral, and derisively styled by the people Monsieur le Gris—old curmudgeon. But what nobody could fail to observe, were the interminable hours he would sometimes spend, seated on the parapet of the Parvis, lost in contemplation of the statues; now looking fixedly at the Foolish Virgins with their overturned lamps, now at the Wise Virgins with their lamps upright; at other times calculating the angle of vision of that raven perched on the left side of the central door and peering at a mysterious point inside the church, where most certainly the philosopher’s stone is hidden, if it is not in Nicolas Flamel’s cellar.   9
  It was a singular destiny, we may remark in passing, for the Cathedral of Notre Dame to be thus beloved in different degrees and with so much devotion by two creatures so utterly dissimilar as Claude Frollo and Quasimodo; loved by the one—rudimentary, instinctive, savage—for its beauty, its lofty stature, the harmonies that flowed from its magnificent ensemble; loved by the other—a being of cultured and perfervid imagination—for its significance, its mystical meaning, the symbolic language lurking under the sculptures of its façade, like the first manuscript under the second in a palimpsest—in a word, for the enigma it eternally propounded to the intelligence.  10
  Furthermore, it is certain that in one of the towers which overlooks the Grève, close by the cage of the bells, the Archdeacon had fitted up for himself a little cell of great secrecy, into which no one ever entered—not even the Bishop, without his leave. This cell had been constructed long ago, almost at the summit of the tower among the crows’ nests, by Bishop Hugh of Besançon, 5 who had played the necromancer there in his time. What this cell contained nobody knew; but on many a night from the shore of the terrain, from which a little round window at the back of the tower was visible, an unaccountable, intermittent red glow might be seen, coming and going at regular intervals, as if in response to the blowing of a pair of bellows, and as if it proceeded rather from a flame than a light. In the darkness, and at that height, the effect was very singular, and the old wives would say, “There’s the Archdeacon blowing his bellows again! Hell-fire is blazing up there!”  11
  After all, these were no great proofs of sorcery; but still there was sufficient smoke to warrant the supposition of flame, and the Archdeacon therefore stood in decidedly bad odour. And yet we are bound to say that the occult sciences, that necromancy, magic—even of the whitest and most innocent—had no more virulent foe, no more merciless denouncer before the Holy Office of Notre Dame than himself. Whether this abhorrence was sincere, or merely the trick of the pickpocket who cries “Stop thief!” it did not prevent the learned heads of the Chapter regarding him as a soul adventuring into the very fore-court of hell, lost among the holes and underground workings of the Cabala, groping in the baleful gloom of occult science. The people, of course, were not to be hood-winked for a moment—any one with a grain of sense could see that Quasimodo was a demon, and Claude Frollo a sorcerer; and it was patent that the bell-ringer was bound to the Archdeacon for a certain time, after which he would carry off his master’s soul in guise of payment. Consequently, in spite of the excessive austerity of his life, the Archdeacon was in bad repute with all pious people, and there was no devout nose, however inexperienced, that did not smell out the wizard in him.  12
  Yet, if with advancing years deep fissures had opened in his mind, in his heart they were no less deep. So, at least, they had reason to think who narrowly scanned that face in which the soul shone forth as through a murky cloud. Else why that bald and furrowed brow, that constantly bowed head, those sighs that forever rent his breast? What secret thought sent that bitter smile to his lips at the selfsame moment that his frowning brows approached each other like two bulls about to fight? Why were his remaining hairs already gray? Whence came that inward fire that blazed at times in his eyes, till they looked like holes pierced in the wall of a furnace?  13
  These symptoms of violent moral preoccupation had developed to an extraordinary degree of intensity at the period of our narrative. More than once had a chorister boy field in terror when coming upon him suddenly in the Cathedral, so strange and piercing was his gaze. More than once, at the hour of service, had the occupant of the next stall in the choir heard him interspersing the plain song, ad omnem tonum, with unintelligible parentheses. More than once had the laundress of the terrain, whose duty it was to “wash the Chapter,” noticed with alarm the marks of finger-nails and clinched hands in the surplice of Monsieur the Archdeacon of Josas.  14
  However, he grew doubly austere, and his life had never been more exemplary. By inclination, as well as by calling, he had always kept severely aloof from women; now he seemed to hate them more virulently than ever. The mere rustle of a silken kirtle was sufficient to make him bring his cowl down over his eyes. So jealous were his reserve and his austerity on this point, that when the King’s daughter, the Lady of Beaujeu, came in December, I48I, to visit the cloister of Notre Dame, he earnestly opposed her admittance, reminding the Bishop of the statute in the Black Book, dated Saint-Bartholomew’s Eve, I334, forbidding access to the clositer to every woman whatsoever, “young or old, mistress or serving-maid.” Upon which the Bishop had been constrained to quote the ordinance of the legate Odo, which makes exception in favour of “certain ladies of high degree, who might not be turned away without offence”—“aliquæ magnates mulieres, quæ’ sine scandale vitari non possunt.” But the Archdeacon persisted in his protest, objecting that the legate’s ordinance, dating from as far back as I207, was anterior to the Black Book by a hundred and twenty-seven years, and thus practically abrogated by it, and he refused to appear before the princess.  15
  It was, moreover, noticed that, for some time past, his horror of gipsy-women and all Zingari in general had remarkably increased. He had solicited from the Bishop an edict expressly forbidding gipsies to dance or play the tambourine within the Parvis of the Cathedral; and simultaneously he was rummaging among the musty archives of the Holy Office, in order to collect all the cases of necromancers and sorcerers condemned to the flames or the halter for complicity in witchcraft with sows, he, or she-goats.  16

Note 1.  Title attaching to a certain class of the priesthood, equivalent to “The Reverend.” [back]
Note 2.  A brawl, the immediate result of too liberal potations. [back]
Note 3.  A street of ill-fame. [back]
Note 4.  Where the world comes to an end. [back]
Note 5.  Hugo II de Bisuncio, 1326–1332—AUTHOR’S NOTE. [back]


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