Victor Marie Hugo (18021885). Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
IV. An Awkward Friend
QUASIMODO on that night was not asleep. He had just gone his last round through the church. He had failed to remark that at the moment when he was closing the doors the Archdeacon had passed near him and evinced some annoyance at seeing him bolt and padlock with care the enormous iron bars which gave the wide doors the solidity of a wall. Dome Claude seemed even more preoccupied than usual. Moreover, since the nocturnal adventure in the cell, he treated Quasimodo with constant unkindness; but in vain he used him harshly, sometimes even striking himnothing could shake the submissive patience, the devoted resignation of the faithful bell-ringer. From the Archdeacon he would endure anythingabuse, threats, blowswithout a murmur of reproach, without even a sigh of complaint. The utmost that he did was to follow Dome Claude with an anxious eye if he mounted the stair of the tower; but the Archdeacon had of himself abstained from appearing again before the gipsy girl.
That night, then, Quasimodo, after a glance at his poor forsaken bells, Jacqueline, Marie, Thibauld, had ascended to the top of the northern tower, and there, after setting down his dark-lantern on the leads, he fell to contemplating Paris. The night, as we have said, was very dark. Paris, which, speaking broadly, was not lighted at all at that period, presented to the eye a confused mass of black blots, cut here and there by the pale windings of the river. Quasimodo saw not a light except in the window of a distant edifice, whose vague and sombre outline was distinguishable high above the roofs in the direction of the Porte Saint-Antoine. Here, too, some one kept vigil.
While his eye thus lingered over the dark and misty scene, the bell-ringer felt an indescribable sense of anxiety rising within him. For several days he had been on the watch. He had constantly noticed men of sinister aspect loitering round the church and never taking their eyes off the gipsy girls hiding-place. He feared lest some plot should be hatching against the unfortunate refugee. He conceived her to be an object of popular hatred, as he was himself, and that something might very well be going to happen in the immediate future. Thus he remained on his tower on the lookoutRevant dans son revoirMusing in his museryas Rabelais says, his eye by turns on the cell and on Paris, keeping safe watch, like a trusty dog, with a thousand suspicions in his mind.
All at once, while he was reconnoitring the great city with that solitary eye which nature, as if by way of compensation, had made so piercing that it almost supplied the deficiency of other organs in Quasimodo, it struck him that there was something unusual in the appearance of the outline of the quay of the Veille Pelleterie, that there was some movement at this point, that the line of the parapet which stood out black against the whiteness of the water was not straight and still like that of the other quays, but that it appeared to undulate like the waves of a river or the heads of a crowd in motion.
He thought this very peculiar. He redoubled his attention. The movement appeared to be coming towards the citynot a light, however. It lasted some time on the quay, and then flowed away by degrees, as if whatever was passing along was entering the interior of the island; then it ceased altogether, and the line of the quay returned to its wonted straightness and immobility.
Just as Quasimodo was exhausting himself in conjectures, it seemed to him that the movement was reappearing in the Rue du Parvis, which runs into the city in a straight line with the front of Notre Dame. At last, despite the great darkness, he could descry the head of a column issuing from that street, and the next instant a crowd spreading out into the square, of which he could distinguish nothing further than that it was a crowd.
It was a fear-compelling spectacle. No doubt this strange procession, which seemed so anxious to cloak itself under the profound darkness, preserved a silence no less profound. Still, some sound must have escaped from it, were it only the tramp of feet. But even this sound did not reach the deaf hunchback, and the great multitude, which he could only dimly see, but which he heard not at all, moving so near him, seemed to him like an assemblage of the deadmute, ghostly shapes, hovering in a mistshadows in a shade.
Then his former fears returned; the idea of an attempt against the gipsy girl presented itself once more to his mind. He had a vague premonition of some violent situation approaching. At this critical moment he held counsel with himself, reasoning with greater acumen and promptness than would have been expected from so ill-organized a brain. Should he awaken the gipsy girl?help her to escape? Which way? The streets were blocked, the church was backed by the riverno boatno egress. There remained but one thing thereforeto face death on threshold of Notre Dame; to hold them off at least until assistance came, supposing there were any to come, and not to disturb the slumbers of Esmeralda. The unhappy girl would always be awakened early enough to die. This resolution once taken, he proceeded to observe the enemy with greater calmness.
The crowd in the Parvis appeared to be increasing momentarily; though, seeing that the windows of the streets and the Place remained closed, he concluded that they could not be making much noise. Suddenly a light shone out, and in an instant seven or eight torches were waving above the heads, tossing their plumes of flame through the darkness. By their light Quasimodo had a clear vision of an appalling band of tatterdemalionsmen and womenflocking into the Parvis, armed with scythes, pikes, pruning-forks, partisanstheir thousand blades glittering as they caught the fitful lightand here and there black pitchforks furnishing horns to these hideous visages. He had a confused remembrance of that populace, and thought to recognise in them the crowd which but a few months before had acclaimed him Pope of Fools. A man holding a torch in one hand and a birch rod in the other was mounted on a corner post and apparently haranguing the multitude, and at the same time the ghostly army performed some evolutions as if taking up a position round the church. Quasimodo picked up his lantern and descended to the platform between the towers to observe more closely and deliberate on the means of defence.
Arrived in front of the great door of Notre Dame, Clop in Trouillefou had in fact drawn up his troops in battle array. Though anticipating no resistance, yet, like a prudent general, he determined to preserve so much order as would, in case of need, enable him to face a sudden attack of the watch or the city guard. Accordingly, he had so disposed his brigade that, seen from above and at distance, it might have been taken for the Roman triangle at the battle of Ecnoma, the boars head of Alexander, or the famous wedge of Gustavus Adolphus. The base of this triangle ran along the back of the Place in such a manner as to bar the Rue du Parvis, one side looked towards the Hotel Dieu, the other towards the Rue Saint-Pierre aux Bufs; Clop in Trouillenfou had posted himself at the point with the Duke of Egypt, our friend Jean, and the boldest of the beggar tribe.
An enterprise such as the truandswere now attempting against Notre Dame was no means an uncommon occurrence in the Middle Ages. What we now call police did not then exist. In the populous cities, particularly in the capitals, there was no united central power regulating the whole. Feudalism had shaped these great municipalities after an absurd fashion. A city was a collection of innumerable seigneuries, cutting it up into divisions of all shapes and sizes; hence its crowd of contradictory police establishments, or rather no police at all. In Paris, for instance, independently of the hundred and forty-one feudal lords claiming manorial dues, there were twenty-five claiming justiciary and manorial rights, from the Bishop of Paris, who possessed a hundred and five streets, to the Prior of Notre Dame des Chaps, who had only four. All these feudal justiciaries recognised only nominally the paramount authority of the king. All exercised right of highway, all were their own masters. Louis XIthat in defatigable workman, who commenced on so large a scale the demolition of the feudal edifice, continued by Richelieu and Louis XIV to the advantage of royalty, and completed by Mirabeau to the advantage of the peopleLouis XI had done his utmost to break up this network of seigneuries which covered Paris, by casting violently athwart it two or three ordinances of general police. Thus, in 1465, we find the inhabitants ordered to put lighted candles in their windows at nightfall, and to shut up their dogs on pain of the halter; in the same year, the order to bar the streets at night with iron chains, and the prohibition against their carrying daggers or any other offensive weapon in the streets at night. But in a short time all these attempts at municipal legislation fell into disuse; the citizens let the candles at their windows be extinguished by the wind and their dogs roam at large; the iron chains were only stretched across the street in case of siege, and the prohibition against carrying weapons brought about no other changes than converting the Rue Coupe-Gueule into Coupe-Gorge; which, to be sure, is a clear evidence of progress. The old framework of the feudal jurisdictions remained standingan immense accumulation of bailiwicks and seigneuries, crossing one another in all directions through the length and breadth of the city, embarrassing, entangling, overlapping one anothera useless thicket of watches, counter-watches, and out-watches, through the very midst of which stalked brigandage, rapine, and sedition, sword in hand. Under such condition of disorder, therefore, it excited no very great remark if a part of the populace laid violent hands on a palace, a mansion, or any ordinary dwelling-house in the most populated quarters of the city. In most cases the neighbours did interfere in the matter unless the plundering extended to themselves. They stopped their ears to the report of the musketry, closed their shutters, barricaded their doors, and let the struggle exhaust itself with or without the assistance of the watch, and the next day it would be quietly said in Paris: Last night Etienne Barbettes house was broken into. or The Marshal de Clermont was attacked, etc. Hence, not only royal residences, the Louvre, the Palais, the Bastille, the Tournelles, but the mansions of the nobility, such as the Petit-Bourbon, the Hotel de Sens, the Hotel dAngoulême, and so on, had their battlemented walls and their fortified turrets over the entrances. The churches were protected turrets over the entrances. The churches were protected by their sanctity. Some of them, neverthelessamong which was not Notre Damewere fortified. The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was castellated like a baronial mansion, and more copper had been used there for bombards than for bells. These fortifications were still to be seen in 1610; now scarcely the church remains.
The first arrangements completedand it must be said, to the honour of the truand discipline, that Clopins orders were carried out in silence and with admirable precisionthe worthy leader mounted the parapet of the Parvis, turned his face to Notre Dame, and raising his harsh and churlish voice while he shook his torchthe light of which flaring in the wind and veiled at intervals by its own smoke, made the dark front of the Cathedral vanish and reappear by turns
Unto thee, he cried, Louis de Beaumont, Bishop of Paris, Councillor in the Court of Parliament, thus say I, Clop in Trouillefou, King of Tunis, Grand Coësre, Prince of Argot, Bishop of the Fools: Our sister, falsely condemned for witchcraft, has taken refuge in thy church. Thou art bound to accord her shelter and safeguard; but now the Parliament designs to take her thence, and thou consentest thereunto, so that she would be hanged to-morrow at the Grève if God and the truands were no at hand. We come to thee, then, Bishop. If thy church is sacred, our sister is so too; if our sister is not sacred, neither is thy church. Wherefore we summon thee to give up the maid if thou wouldst save thy church, or we will take the maid ourselves sand plunder the church: which will most certainly happen. In token where of I here set up my banner. And so God help thee, Bishop of Paris!
Unfortunately Quasimodo could no hear these words, which were delivered with a sort of savage and morose dignity. A Vagabond handed Clop in his banner, which he gravely planted between two paving-stones. It was a pitchfork on which hung gory piece of carrion.
This done, the King of Tunis turned about and cast his eye over his army, a ferocious multitude whose eyes gleamed almost as savagely as their pikes. After a moments pauseForward, lads! he cried. To your work, house breakers!
Thirty thick-set, strong-limbed men with hammers, pincers, and iron crowbars on their shoulders, stepped from the ranks They advanced towards the main entrance of the church, ascended the steps, and immediately set to work on the door with pincers and levers. A large party of truands followed them to assist or look on, so that the whole flight of eleven steps was crowded with them.
The door, however, held firm. The devil! but shes hard and headstrong! said one. Shes old, and her gristles tough! said another. Courage, comrades! said Clop in. I wager my head against a slipper that youll have burst the door, got the maid, and stripped the high altar before ever theres a beadle of them all awake. ThereI believe the locks going.
Clop in was interrupted by a frightful noise which at that moment resounded behind him. He turned round. An enormous beam had just fallen from on high, crushing a dozen truands on the steps of the church and rebounding on to the pavement with the noise of a piece of artillery, breaking here and there the legs of others among the Vagabond crowd, which fled in all directions with cries of terror. In a trice the enclosure of the Parvis was empty. The doorbreakers, though protected by the deep arches of the doorway, abandoned it, and Clop in himself fell back to a respectful distance from the church.
It would be impossible to describe the mingled astonishment and alarm that fell with this beam upon the bandit crew. They remained for a few minutes gazing openmouthed into the air in greater consternation at this piece of wood than at twenty thousand Kings archers.
A thousand popes! cried Clop in, youre a parcel of dunderheads, the whole lot of you! But he knew no better than they how to account for the beam, for nothing was perceptible on the front of the building, to the top of which the light of the torches could not reach. The ponderous beam lay in the middle of the Parvis, and the groans of the poor wretches could be heard who had received its first shock and had been almost cut in two on the sharp edges of the stone steps.
Fire at the windows! shouted Clop in. The shutters closed on the instant, and the poor citizens, who had only had time to catch a bewildered glimpse of the scene of glare and tumult, returned in a cold perspiration of fright to their wives, wondering whether the witches now held their Sabbaths in the Parvis of Notre Dame, or whether it was another assault by the Burgundians, as in 64. The men thought of robbery; the wives, of rape; and all trembled.
To the sack! repeated the Argotiers; but they did not venture closer. They looked from the Cathedral to the mysterious beam. The beam lay perfectly still, the church preserved its peaceful, solitary aspect; but something froze the courage of the Vagabonds.
The King of Tunis ran boldly to the formidable piece of timber and set his foot on it. Heres one! cried he, and the reverend canons themselves have sent it you. Then, making a mock salute to the Cathedral, My thanks to you, canons! he added.
This piece of bravado had excellent effectthe spell of the miraculous rafter was broken. The truands plucked up their courage, and soon the heavy beam, lifted like a feather by two hundred vigorous arms, was driven furiously against the great door which they had already endeavoured in vain to loosen. Seen thus in the dim light cast over the Place by the scattered torches of the truands, the vast beam borne along by that crowd of men and pointed against the church looked like some miraculous animal with innumerable legs charging head foremost at the stone giantess.
As the beam struck the half-metal door it droned like an enormous drum. The door did not give, but the Cathedral shook from top to bottom, and rumbling echoes woke in its deepest depths. At the same moment a shower of great stones began to fall from the upper part of the façade on to the assailants.
But the impulse had been given. The King of Tunis stuck to his assertion that it was the Bishop acting on the defensive, and they only battered the door the more furiously for the stones that fractured the skulls right and left.
It was certainly curious that these stones fell one by one, but they followed quickly on one another. The Argotiers always felt two of them at onceone against their legs, the other on their heads. There were few that missed their mark, and already a heap of dead and wounded, bleeding and panting, lay thick under the feet of the assailants, who, now grown furious, renewed their numbers every moment. The long beam continued to batter the door at regular intervals like the strokes of a bell, the stones to rain down, and the door to groan.
Accident had unfortunately favoured the devoted hunchback. When he had descended to the platform between the towers, his ideas were in a state of chaos. He had run to and fro along the gallery for some minutes like one demented, looking down upon the compact mass of the beggars ready to rush the church, and calling upon God or the devil to save the gipsy girl. He thought of ascending the southern steeple and sounding the tocsin, but before he could have got the bell in motion, before the loud voice of Marie could have sent forth a single stroke, there would have been time to burst in the door ten times over. This was the instant at which the Vagabonds advanced with their lock-breaking instruments. What was to be done?
Suddenly he recollected that masons had been at work all day repairing the wall, the wood-work, and the roofing of the southern tower. This was a flash of light to him. The wall was of stone, the roofing of lead, the rafters of wood, and so enormous and close-packed that it was called the forest.
Quasimodo flew to this tower. The lower chambers in effect were full of building materialspiles of stone blocks, sheets of lead in rolls, bundles of laths, strong beams already shaped by the saw, several rubbish heapsa complete arsenal.
Time pressedthe levers and hammers were at work below. With a strength multiplied ten fold by the consciousness of danger, he lifted an end of one of the beamsthe longest and heaviest of all. He managed to push it through one of the loopholes; then, laying hold of it again outside the tower, he pushed it over the outer corner of the balustrade surrounding the platform and let it drop into the abyss below. In this fall of a hundred and sixty feet the enormous beamgrazing the wall and breaking the sculptured figuresturned several times on its own axis, like the sail of a windmill going round of itself through space. Finally it reached the ground, a horrid cry went up, and the black piece of timber rebounded on the pavement, like a serpent rearing.
Quasimodo saw the enemy scattered by the fall of the beam like ashes by the breath of a child; and while they fixed their superstitious gaze on this immense log fallen from the skies, and were peppering the stone saints of the doorway with a volley of bolts and bullets, Quasimodo was silently piling up stones and rubbish, and even the masons bags of tools, upon the edge of the balustrade from which he had already hurled the beam.
Any one who could have seen Quasimodo at that moment would have been appalled. Besides the missiles which he had piled up on the balustrade, he had collected a heap of stones on the platform itself. As soon as the blocks of stones on the parapet were spent, he turned to this latter heap. He stooped, rose, stooped and rose again with incredible agility. He would thrust his great gnomes head over the balustrade; then there dropped an enormous stonethen another and another. Now and then he followed a specially promising one with his eye, and when he saw that it killed its man, he grunted a hm! of satisfaction.
Nevertheless the beggars did not lose courage. Twenty times already had the massive door which they were so furiously storming shaken under the weight of their oaken battering-ram, multiplied by the strength of a hundred men. The panels cracked, the carvings flew in splinters, the hinges at each shock danced upon their hooks, the planks were displaced, the wood smashed to atoms ground between the sheathings of iron. Fortunately for Quasimodo there was more iron than wood.
He felt, however, that the great door was giving way. Although he could not hear it, every crash of the batteringram shook him to his foundation, as it did the church. As he looked down upon the Vagabonds, full of exaltation and rage, shaking their fists at the gloomy and impassive façade, he coveted for himself and the gipsy girl the wings of the owls flitting away in terror over his head.
At this desperate moment his eye fell on two long stone rain-gutters which discharged themselves immediately over the great doorway, a little below the balustrade from whence he had been crushing the Angotiers. The internal orifice of these gutters was in the floor of the platform. An idea occurred to him. He ran and fetched a fagot from the little chamber he occupied, laid over the fagot several bundles of laths and rolls of leadammunition he had not yet made use ofand after placing this pile in position in front of the orifice of the gutters, he set fire to it with his lantern.
During this time, as the stones no longer fell, the truands had ceased looking upward. The bandits, panting like a pack of hounds baying the wild boar in his lair, pressed tumultuously round the great door, disfigured now and injured by the great battering-ram, but still erect. They waited, eager and trembling, for the grand strokethe blow that should bring it crashing down. Each strove to get nearest to be the first, when it should open, to rush into that opulent Cathedral, that vast repository in which the riches of three centuries were heaped up. They reminded one another with roars of exultation and rapacity of the splendid silver crosses, the fine brocade copes, the silver-gilt tombs, of all the magnificence of the choir, the dazzling display on high festivals, the Christmas illuminations, the Easter monstrances glittering like the sun, and all the splendid solemnities in which shrines, candlesticks, pixes, tabernacles, and reliquaries crusted the altars with gold and diamonds. It is very certain that at this exciting moment every one of the truands was thinking much less about the deliverance of the gipsy girl than the plundering of Notre Dame. Indeed, we can very well believe that to the majority of them Esmeralda was merely a pretextif plunderers have any call for pretexts.
Suddenly, at the moment when they were crowding round the battering-ram for a final effort, each one holding his breath and gathering up his muscles to give full force to the decisive blow, a howl more agonizing than that which succeeded the fall of the great beam arose from the midst of them.
Those who were not screaming, those who were still alive, looked and saw two streams of molten lead pouring from the top of the edifice into the thickest of the crowd. The waves of that human sea had sunk under the boiling metal which, at the two points where it fell, had made two black and reeking hollows, like hot water poured on snow. There lay dying, wretches burned almost to a cinder and moaning in agony; and besides the two principal streams, drops of this hideous rain fell from scattered points on to the assailants, penetrating their skulls like fiery gimlets, pattering on them like red-hot hailstones.
Every eye was now directed upward to the top of the church. They beheld an extraordinary sight. On the top-most gallery, higher up than the great rose-window, a huge flame ascended between the two steeples, throwing out whirlwinds of sparks and shooting tongues of fire into the smoke as it was caught by the wind. Below this flame, under the balustrade whose carved trefoils showed black against the glare, two gargoyles vomited incessantly that burning shower, the silvery stream of which shone out upon the darkness of the lower part of the façade. As they neared the ground the two streams of liquid lead spread out into a spray, like water from the rose of a monster watering-can. Above the flame, the huge towers, of each of which two sides sharply outlinedone black, the other glowing redwere visible, seemed more enormous still by the immensity of the shadow they cast upon the sky. Their myriad sculptured devils and dragons assumed a sinister aspect. In the flickering radiance of the fire they appeared to movevampires grinned, gargoyles barked, salamanders blew the fire, griffins sneezed in the smoke. And among these monsters, thus awakened from their stony slumber by all this flame and uproar, there was one that walked about and passed from time to time before the blazing front of the pile, like a bat before a torch.
The silence of terror now fell upon the truands; and through it they heard the cries of alarm of the clergy shut up in their cloister like frightened horses in a burning stable, the stealthy sound of windows opened quickly and still more quickly shut again, the stir inside the surrounding houses and the Hôtel-Dieu, the roar and crackle of the fire, the groans of the dying, and the continuous patter of the shower of boiling lead upon the pavement.
Meanwhile the chief Vagabonds had retired under the porch of the Gondelaurier mansion and were holding a council of war. The Duke of Egypt, seated on a post, was contemplating with religious awe the phantasmagoric pile blazing two hundred feet aloft in the air. Clopin Trouillefou gnawed his great fists with rage.
The Bohemian shook his head. I tell you tis the spirit Sabnac, the great marquis, the demon of fortifications. He has the form of an armed soldier and a lions head. Sometimes he is mounted on a grewsome horse. He turns men into stones and builds towers of them. He has command over near on fifty legions. Tis he, sure enough. I should know him anywhere. Sometimes he has on a fine robe wrought with gold, after the fashion of the Turks.
Churches have been known to defend themselves thus, he observed with a sigh. Saint-Sophia in Constantinople, forty years ago, threw down the crescent of Mahomet three times running just by shaking her domes, which are her heads. William of Paris, who built this one, was a magician.
It was, in truth, Jehan, coming along as quickly as his cumbrous paladin accoutrements would permit of with a long ladder, which he tugged stoutly over the pavement, more breathless than an ant harnessed to a blade of grass twenty times her own length.
Ive secured it, answered Jehan panting. I knew where it wasunder the shed of the lieutenants house. Theres a girl there whom I knowshe thinks me a very Cupido for beauty. It was through her I managed to get the ladder, and here I am, Pasque-Mahom! The poor soul came out in her smock to let me in.
Jehan gave him a sly, knowing look and snapped his fingers like castanets. He was sublime at this moment. He had on his head one of those overloaded helmets of the fifteenth century which struck terror to the heart of the foe by their monstrous-looking crests. Jehans bristled with ten iron beaks, so that he might have contended with the Homeric ship of Nestor for the epithet of [Greek].
In an instant the ladder was set up and placed against the balustrade of the lower gallery over one of the side doors. The crowd of beggars, shouting and hustling, pressed round the foot of it wanting to ascend; but Jehan maintained his right, and was the first to set foot on the steps of the ladder. The ascent was pretty long. The gallery of the kings is, at this day, about sixty feet from the ground; but at that period it was raised still higher by the eleven steps of the entrance. Jehan ascended slowly, much encumbered by his heavy armour, one hand on the ladder, the other grasping his crossbow. When he was half-way up he cast a mournful glance over the poor dead Argotiers heaped on the steps. Alas! said he, here are corpses enough for the fifth canto of the Iliad! He continued his ascent, the Vagabonds following him, one on every step of the ladder. To see that line of mailed backs rising and undulating in the dark, one might have taken it for a serpent with steely scales rearing itself on end to attack the church, and the whistling of Jehan, who represented its head, completed the illusion.
The scholar at last reached the parapet of the gallery, and strode lightly over it amid the applause of the whole truandry. Finding himself thus master of the citadel, he uttered a joyful shoutand then stopped short, petrified. He had just caught sight, behind one of the royal statues, of Quasimodo crouching in the gloom, his eye glittering ominously.
Before another of the besiegers had time to gain a footing on the gallery, the redoubtable hunchback sprang to the head of the ladder, seized without a word the ends of the two uprights in his powerful hands, heaved them away from the wall, let the long and pliant ladder, packed with truands from top to bottom, sway for a moment amid a sudden outcry of fear, then suddenly, with superhuman force, flung back this living cluster into the Place. For an instant the stoutest heart quailed. The ladder thrust backward stood upright for a moment, swayed, then suddenly, describing a frightful arc of eighty feet in radius, crashed down upon the pavement with its living load more rapidly than a drawbridge when its chain gives way. There was one universal imprecation, then silence, and a few mutilated wretches were seen crawling out from among the heap of dead.
A murmur of mingled agony and resentment succeeded the besiegers first shouts of triumph. Quasimodo, leaning on his elbows on the balustrade, regarded them impassively. He might have been one of the old long-haired kings at his window.
Jehan Frollo found himself in a critical position. He was alone on the gallery with the redoubtable bell-ringer, separated from his companions by eighty feet of sheer wall. While Quasimodo was engaged with the ladder, the scholar had run to the postern which he expected to find on the latch. Foiled! The bell-ringer, as he entered the gallery, had locked it behind him. Thereupon Jehan had hidden himself behind one of the stone kings, not daring to breathe, but fixing upon the terrible hunchback a wide-eyed and bewildered gaze, like the man who courted the wife of a menagerie keeper, and going one evening to a rendezvous, scaled the wrong wall and found himself suddenly face to face with the polar bear.
Ho! ho! said Jehan, why dost thou glare at me so with that single surly eye? And so saying, the young scamp began stealthily raising his cross-bow. Quasimodo! he cried, Im going to change thy nickname. Henceforth they shall call thee the blind bell-ringer.
He let fly the winged shaft; it whistled and drove into the hunchbacks left arm. Quasimodo was no more disturbed by it than the effigy of King Pharamond by the scratch of a penknife. He took hold of the arrow, drew it out of his arm, and calmly broke it across his powerful knee. Then he dropped rather than threw the two pieces to the ground. But he did not give Jehan time to discharge another shaft. The arrow broken, Quasimodo with a snort leapt like a locust upon the boy, whose armour was flattened by the shock against the wall.
In his left hand Quasimodo grasped both Jehans arms, who made no struggle, so utterly did he give himself up for lost; then, with his right, the hunchback proceeded to take off one by one, and with sinister deliberation, the several pieces of the scholars iron shellsword, dagger, helmet, breastplate, armpieceslike a monkey peeling a walnut, and dropped them at his feet.
When Jehan found himself thus disarmed, divested of all shield and covering, naked and helpless in those formidable arms, he did not attempt to parley with his deaf enemy. Instead, he fell to laughing impudently in his face, and with all the careless assurance of a boy of sixteen, burst into a song at that time popular in the streets:
He had not time to finish. Quasimodo was seen to mount the parapet of the gallery, holding the scholar by the feet in one hand only and swinging him over the abyss like a sling. Then came a sound like a box of bones dashing against a wall, and something came hurtling down that stopped halfway in its descent, caught by one of the projections of the building. It was a dead body bent double, the loins broken, the skull empty.
An appalling uproar followed, in which every language, every patois, every conceivable accent was mingled. The death of the poor little scholar inspired the crowd with furious energy. They were torn with anger and shame at having been so long held in check by a miserable hunchback. Their rage found them ladders, multiplied their torches, and in a few minutes Quasimodo, to his consternation and despair, beheld the hideous swarm mounting from all sides to the assault of Notre Dame. They who had no ladders had knotted ropes; they who had no ropes clambered up by the carvings, helping themselves up by one anothers rags. There was no means of forcing back this rising tide of frightful forms. Fury reddened the ferocious faces, sweat poured from the grimy foreheads, eyes glared viciously. It was as if some other church had sent out her gorgons, her dragons, her goblins, her demons, all her most fantastic sculptures to the assault of Notre Damea coating of living monsters covering the stone monsters of the façade.
Meanwhile a thousand torches had kindled in the Place. The wild scene, wrapped until now in dense obscurity, suddenly leapt out in a blaze of light. The Parvis was brilliantly illumined and cast a radiance on the sky, while the blazing pile on the high platform of the church still burned and lit up the city far around. The vast outline of the two towers, thrown far across the roofs of Paris, broke this brightness with a wide mass of shadow. The city appeared to be rousing itself from its slumbers. Distant tocsins uttered their warning plaints. The truands howled, panted, blasphemed, and climbed steadily higher, while Quasimodo, impotent against so many enemies, trembling for the gipsy girl as he saw those savage faces approaching nearer and nearer to his gallery, implored a miracle from heaven, and wrung his hands in despair.