Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book VII > Chapter VIII
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Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
  
Book VII
VIII. The Convenience of Windows Overlooking the River
  
CLAUDE FROLLO—for we presume the reader, more intelligent than Phœbus, has seen throughout this adventure no other spectre-monk than the Archdeacon—Claude Frollo groped about him for some moments in the darksome hole into which the captain had thrust him. It was one of those corners which builders sometimes reserve in the angle between the roof and the supporting wall. The vertical section of this den, as Phœbus had very aptly termed it, would have exhibited a triangle. It had no window of any description, and the slope of the roof prevented one standing upright in it. Claude, therefore, was forced to crouch in the dust and the plaster that cracked under him. His head was burning. Groping about him on the floor, he found a piece of broken glass which he pressed to his forehead, and so found some slight relief from its coldness.   1
  What was passing at that moment in the dark soul of the Archdeacon? God and himself alone knew.   2
  According to what fatal order was he disposing in his thoughts La Esmeralda, Phœbus, Jacques Charmolue, his fondly loved young brother, abandoned by him in the gutter, his cloth, his reputation perhaps, dragged thus into the house of the notorious old procuress—all these images—these wild doings? I cannot say; but it is very certain that they formed a horrible group in his mind’s eye.   3
  He had been waiting a quarter of an hour, and he felt that he had aged a century in that time. Suddenly he heard the wooden ladder creak. Some one was ascending it. The trap-door opened again, and once more the light made its appearance. In the worm-eaten door of his retreat there was a crack; to this he pressed his face and could thus see all that went on in the adjoining space. The old cat-faced hag came first through the trap-door, lamp in hand; then followed Phœbus, twirling his mustaches; and lastly a third person, a beautiful and graceful figure—La Esmeralda. To the priest she issued from below like a dazzling apparition. Claude shook, a mist spread before his eyes, his pulses throbbed violently, everything turned round him, there was a roaring in his ears; he saw and heard no more.   4
  When he came to himself again, Phœbus and Esmeralda were alone, seated upon the wooden chest beside the lamp, the light of which revealed to the Archdeacon the two youthful figures and a miserable pallet at the back of the attic.   5
  Close to the couch was a window, the casement of which, cracked and bulging like a spider’s web in the rain, showed through its broken strands a small patch of sky, and far down it the moon reclining on a pillow of soft clouds.   6
  The girl was blushing, panting, confused. Her long, drooping lashes shaded her glowing cheeks. The officer, to whom she dared not lift her eyes, was radiant. Mechanically, and with a ravishing coy air, she was tracing incoherent lines on the bench with the tip of her finger, her eyes following the movement. Her foot was hidden, for the little goat was lying on it.   7
  The captain was arrayed for conquest, with ruffles of gold lace at his throat and wrists—the extreme of elegance in those days.   8
  It was not without difficulty that Dom Claude could hear their conversation, so loudly did the blood beat in his ears.   9
  A dull affair enough, the conversation of a pair of lovers—one never-ending “I love you”; a musical phrase, but terribly monotonous and insipid to the indifferent listener. But Claude was no indifferent listener.  10
  “Oh,” said the girl, without lifting her eyes, “do not despise me, Monseigneur Phœbus. I feel that I am doing very wrong!”  11
  “Despise you, pretty one!” returned the officer with an air of superior and princely gallantry, “despise you,Tête-Dieu, and what for?”  12
  “For having followed you.”  13
  “On that score, my charmer, we do not at all agree. I ought not to despise, but to hate you.”  14
  The girl looked up at him frightened. “Hate me! What have I done?”  15
  “Why, you have taken so much soliciting.”  16
  “Alas!” said she, “it is that I am breaking a vow—I shall never find my parents—the amulet will lose its virtue—but what of that?—what need have I of a father or mother now?” And she fixed on the soldier her large dark eyes, dewy with tenderness and delight.  17
  “The devil fly away with me if I know what you mean!” cried Phœbus.  18
  Esmeralda was silent for a moment, then a tear rose to her eyes, and a sigh to her lips, as she murmured, “Oh, sir, I love you!”  19
  There was around the girl such a halo of chastity, such a perfume of virtue, that Phœbus was not quite at his ease with her. These words, however, emboldened him. “You love me!” he exclaimed with transport, and threw his arm round the gipsy’s waist. He had only been on the lookout for an opportunity.  20
  The priest beheld this, and tried with his finger-tip the edge of the dagger which he kept concealed in his bosom.  21
  “Phœbus,” the gipsy went on, at the same time gently disengaging her waist from the officer’s clinging hands, “you are good, you are generous, you are handsome. You saved me—me, who am but a poor wandering gipsy girl. I had long dreamed of an officer who should save my life. It was of you I dreamed before I met you, my Phœbus. The officer of my dream wore a fine uniform like yours, a grand look, a sword. You are called Phœbus; it is a beautiful name. I love your name; I love your sword. Draw your sword, Phœbus, and let me look at it.”  22
  “Child!” said the captain, unsheathing his sword with an indulgent smile.  23
  The Egyptian looked at the hilt, at the blade, examined with adorable curiosity the monogram on the guard, and then kissed the sword. “You are the sword of a brave man,” she said. “I love my officer.”  24
  Here Phœbus availed himself of the opportunity, as she bent over the sword, to press a kiss upon her fair neck which made the girl flush crimson and draw herself up, while the priest ground his teeth in the darkness.  25
  “Phœbus,” the gipsy resumed, “let me talk to you. But first, pray you, walk about a little that I may see you at your full height, and hear the ring of your spurs. How handsome you are!”  26
  The captain rose to please her, chiding her the while with a smile of satisfied vanity. “What a child it is! Apropos, sweetheart, have you ever seen me in gala uniform?”  27
  “Alas! no,” said she.  28
  “Ah, that’s worth looking at!” He reseated himself beside the gipsy, but much closer this time than before. “Listen, my sweet——”  29
  The gipsy girl gave two or three little taps of her pretty hand on his mouth with a playfulness that was full of childlike grace and gaiety. “No, no, I will not listen to anything. Do you love me? I want you to tell me if you love me.”  30
  “Do I love thee, angel of my life!” exclaimed the captain, sinking on one knee before her. “I am thine—body, blood, and soul; all, all would I give for thee. I love thee, and have never loved but thee.”  31
  The captain had so often repeated this sentence, on so many similar occasions, that he delivered it at one breath, and without a single blunder. At this passionate declaration the Egyptian raised to the dingy ceiling—which here took the place of heaven—a look full of ineffable happiness. “Oh,” she murmured, “this is the moment at which one should die!”  32
  Phœbus found “the moment” more suitable for snatching another kiss, which went to torture the miserable Archdeacon in his hiding-place.  33
  “Die!” cried the amorous captain. “What are you saying, my angel? This is the time to live, or Jupiter is but a scoundrel! To die at the beginning of so delicious an occasion! Corne de bæuf—that were a poor joke indeed! No, indeed. Listen, my dear Similar, Esmenarda—Pardon me! but you’ve got a name so prodigiously Saracen that I can’t get it out properly—’tis a thicket that always brings me up short.”  34
  “Alas!” said the poor girl, “and I used to like the name for its singularity. But since it displeases you, I would I were called Goton.”  35
  “Oh, ’tis not worth crying about, sweetheart! It’s a name one must get accustomed to, that’s all. Once I know it by heart, ’twill come readily enough. Listen, then, my Similar, I love you to distraction—it’s positively miraculous how much I love you. I know a little girl who is bursting with rage over it.”  36
  “Who is that?” the gipsy broke in jealously.  37
  “What does it matter to us?” answered Phœbus. “Do you love me?”  38
  “Oh!” said she.  39
  “Well, that’s enough. You shall see how much I love you too. May the great demon Neptune stick me on his fork, if I don’t make you the happiest creature living. We’ll have a pretty little lodging somewhere. My archers shall parade before your windows. They are all mounted, and cut out those of Captain Mignon completely. There are billmen, cross-bowmen, and culverin-men. I will take you to the great musters of the Paris men-at-arms at the Grange de Rully. That’s a very magnificent sight. Eighty thousand sixty-seven banners of the trade guilds; the standards of the Parliament, of the Chamber of Accounts, the Public Treasury, of the Workers in the Mint—in short, a devilish fine show! Then I’ll take you to see the lions at the King’s palace—beasts of prey, you know—women always like that.”  40
  For some minutes the girl, absorbed in her own happy thoughts, had been dreaming to the sound of his voice with out attending to his words.  41
  “Oh, how happy you will be,” continued the soldier, and at the same time gently unfastening the gipsy’s belt.  42
  “What are you doing?” she said brusquely—this forceful proceeding had roused her from her dreams.  43
  “Nothing,” answered Phœbus. “I was only saying that you would have to put away all this mountebank, street dancer costume when you are going to be with me.”  44
  “To be with you, my Phœbus.” said the girl fondly, and she fell silent and dreamy again.  45
  Emboldened by her gentleness the captain clasped his arm about her waist without her offering any resistance; he then began softly to unlace the pretty creature’s bodice, and so disarranged her neckerchief, that from out of it the panting priest beheld the gipsy’s beautiful bare shoulder rise, round and dusky as the moon through a misty horizon.  46
  The girl let Phœbus work his will. She seemed unconscious of what he was doing. The captain’s eyes gleamed. Suddenly she turned to him “Phœbus,” she said with a look of boundless love, “teach me your religion.”  47
  “My religion!” exclaimed the captain with a guffaw. “Teach you my religion! Thunder and lightning! what do you want with my religion?”  48
  “That we may be married,” answered she.  49
  A mingled look of surprise, disdain, unconcern, and licentious passion swept over the captain’s face. “Ah, bah!” said he, “who talks of marriage?”  50
  The gipsy turned pale, and let her head droop sadly on her breast.  51
  “Sweetheart,” went on Phœbus fondly, “what matters such foolery as marriage? Shall we be any less loving for not having gabbled some Latin in a priest’s shop?”  52
  And as he said this in his most insinuating tones, he drew still closer to the gipsy; his caressing arms had resumed their clasp about that slender, pliant waist; his eye kindled more and more, and everything proclaimed that Captain Phœbus was obviously approaching one of those moments at which Jupiter himself behaves so foolishly that worthy old Homer is obliged to draw a cloud over the scene.  53
  Dom Claude, however, saw everything. The door was merely of worm-eaten old puncheon ribs, and left between them ample passage for his vulture gaze. This dark-skinned, broad-shouldered priest, condemned hitherto to the austere chastity of the cloister, shivered and burned alternately at this night-scene of love and passion. The sight of this lovely, dishevelled girl in the arms of a young and ardent lover turned the blood in his veins to molten lead. He felt an extraordinary commotion within him; his eye penetrated with lascivious jealously under all these unfastened clasps and laces. Any one seeing the wretched man’s countenance pressed close against the worm-eaten bars would have taken it for the face of a tiger looking through his cage at some jackal devouring a gazelle.  54
  By a sudden, rapid movement Phœbus snatched the gipsy’s kerchief completely off her neck. The poor girl, who had sat pale and dreamy, started from her reverie. She brusquely tore herself away from the too enterprising young officer, and catching sight of her bare neck and shoulders, blushing, confused, and mute with shame, she crossed her beautiful arms over her bosom to hide it. But for the flame that burned in her cheeks, to see her thus standing, silent and motionless, with drooping eyes, you would have taken her for a statue of Modesty.  55
  But this action of the captain’s had laid bare the mysterious amulet which she wore round her neck.  56
  “What is that?” he asked, seizing this pretext for once more approaching the beautiful creature he had frightened away.  57
  “Do not touch it,” she answered quickly, “it is my protection. Through it I shall find my parents again if I remain worthy of that. Oh, leave me, Monsieur le Captaine! Mother! my poor mother! where art thou? Come to my aid! Have pity, Monsieur Phœbus—give me back my kerchief to cover my bosom.”  58
  But Phœbus drew back coldly. “Ah, mademoiselle,” he said, “I see very plainly that you do not love me!”  59
  “Not love him!” cried the poor unhappy child, clinging wildly to him and drawing him down to the seat beside her. “I do not love thee, my Phœbus? What words are these, cruel, to rend my heart! Oh, come—take me! take all! do with me what thou wilt! I am thine. What matters the amulet! What is my mother to me now! Thou art father and mother to me now, since I love thee! Phœbus, beloved, look at me—see, ’tis I—’tis that poor little one whom thou wilt not spurn from thee, and who comes, who comes herself to seek thee. My soul, my life, myself—all, all belong to thee, my captain. Well, so be it—we will not marry, since it is not thy wish. Besides, what am I but a miserable child of the gutter, while thou, my Phœbus, art a gentleman. A fine thing, truly! A dancing girl to espouse an officer! I was mad! No, Phœbus, I will be thy paramour, thy toy, thy pleasure—what thou wilt—only something that belongs to thee—for what else was I made? Soiled, despised, dishonoured, what care I? if only I be loved I shall be the proudest and happiest of women. And when I shall be old and ugly, when I am no longer worthy of your love, monseigneur, you will suffer me to serve you. Others will embroider scarfs for you—I, the handmaid, will have care of them. You will let me polish your spurs, brush your doublet, and rub the dust from off your riding-boots—will you not, Phœbus? You will grant me so much? And meanwhile, take me—I am thine—only love me! We gipsies, that is all we ask—love and the free air of heaven!”  60
  Speaking thus, she threw her arms around the soldier’s neck and raised her eyes to his in fond entreaty, smiling through her tears. Her tender bosom was chafed by the woolen doublet and its rough embroidery as the fair, half-nude form clung to his breast. The captain, quite intoxicated, pressed his lips to those exquisite shoulders, and the girl, lying back in his arms, with half-closed eyes, glowed and trembled under his kisses.  61
  Suddenly above the head of Phœbus she beheld another head—a livid, convulsed face with the look as of one of the damned, and beside that face a raised hand holding a dagger. It was the face and the hand of the priest. He had broken in the door and stood behind the pair. Phœbus could not see him.  62
  The girl lay motionless, petrified and speechless with terror at the appalling apparition, like a dove that raises her head and catches the terrible keen eye of the hawk fixed upon her nest.  63
  She was unable to even cry out. She saw the dagger descend upon Phœbus and rise again, reeking.  64
  “Malediction!” groaned the captain, and fell.  65
  The girl swooned, but at the moment ere her eyes closed and she lost all consciousness, she seemed to feel a fiery pressure on her lips, a kiss more searing than the brand of the torturer.  66
  When she came to her senses she found herself surrounded by the soldiers of the watch; the captain was being borne away bathed in his blood, the priest had vanished, the window at the back of the room overlooking the river was wide open; they picked up a cloak which they supposed to belong to the officer, and she heard them saying to one another:  67
  “It is a witch who has stabbed a captain.”  68

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