Victor Marie Hugo (18021885). Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
VII. Châteaupers to the Rescue
THE READER probably remembers the critical situation in which we left Quasimodo. The doughty hunchback, assailed on all sides, had lost, if not his courage, at least all hope of saving, not himselffor of that he took no thoughtbut the Egyptian. He ran distractedly along the gallery. Notre Dame was on the point of being carried by the truands. Suddenly the thunder of galloping hoofs filled the adjacent streets, and with a long file of torches and a dense column of horsemen, lances down and bridles hanging loose, the furious sound swept into the Place like a hurricane.
Quasimodo, though he heard nothing, saw the naked swords, the torches, the lances, the mass of cavalry, at the head of which he recognized Captain Phbus. He saw the confusion of the truands, the terror of some, the consternation of the stoutest-hearted among them, and the unexpected succour so revived his energy that he hurled back the foremost of the assailants who had already gained a footing on the gallery.
The truands bore themselves bravely, defending themselves with the energy of despair. Attacked on the flank from the Rue Saint-Pierre-aux-Bufs, and in the rear from the Rue du Parvis, jammed against Notre Dame, which they were attacking and Quasimodo still defendingat once besiegers and besiegedthey were in the peculiar position in which Count Henry dHarcourt found himself at the famous siege of Turin in 1640, between Prince Thomas of Savoy, whom he was besieging, and the Marquis de Langane, who, in turn, was blockading himTaurinum obsessor idem et obsessus1 as his epitaph expresses it.
The mêlée was terrific. To wolves flesh dogs teeth, says Father Mathieu. The Kings horsemen, among whom Phbus de Châteaupers displayed great valour, gave no quarter, and they that escaped the lance fell by the sword. The truands, ill-armed, foamed and bit in rage and despair. Men, women, and children fastened themselves on the flanks and chests of the horses, clinging to them tooth and nail, like cats; others battered the faces of the archers with their torches; others, again, caught the horsemen by the neck in their iron bill-hooks, striving to pull them down. Those who fell, they tore to pieces.
One among them had a long and glittering scythe, with which, for a long time, he mowed the legs of the horses. It was an appalling sight. On he came, singing a droning song and taking long sweeping strokes with his deadly scythe.
At every stroke he laid around him a circle of severed limbs. He advanced in this manner into the thickest of the cavalry, calm and unhasting, with the even swing of the head and regular breathing of a reaper cutting a field of corn. It was Clopin Trouillefou. A volley of musketry laid him low.
In the meantime the windows had opened again. The burghers, hearing the war-cry of the Kings men, had taken part in the affray, and from every storey bullets rained upon the truands. The Parvis was thick with smoke streaked with the flashing fire of the musketry. Through it the façade of Notre Dame was dimly discernible, and the tumble-down Hôtel-Dieu, with a wan face or two peering frightened from its many windowed roofs.
At last the truands gave way. Exhaustion, want of proper arms, the alarming effect of this surprise, the volleys from the windows, the spirited charge of the Kings menall combined to overpower them. Breaking through the line of their assailants, they fled in all directions, leaving the Parvis heaped with their dead.
When Quasimodo, who had not for a moment ceased fighting, beheld this rout, he fell upon his knees and lifted his hands to heaven. Then, frenzied with joy, he ran to the stairs, and ascended with the swiftness of a bird to that cell, the approaches to which he had so intrepidly defended. He had but one thought nowto go and fall on his knees at the feet of her whom he had saved for the second time.