Victor Marie Hugo (18021885). Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction. 1917.
ON waking the next morning, she discovered to her surprise that she had sleptpoor girl, she had so long been a stranger to sleep. A cheerful ray from the rising sun streamed through her window and fell upon her face. But with the sun something else looked in at her window that frightened herthe unfortunate countenance of Quasimodo. Involuntarily she closed her eyes to shut out the sight, but in vain; she still seemed to see through her rosy eye-lids that goblin faceone-eyed, broken-toothed, mask-like. Then, while she continued to keep her eyes shut, she heard a grating voice say in gentlest accents:
Be not afraid. I am a friend. I did but come to watch you sleeping. That cannot hurt you, can it, that I should come and look at you asleep? What can it matter to you if I am here so long as your eyes are shut? Now I will go. There, I am behind the wallyou may open your eyes again.
There was something more plaintive still than his words, and that was the tone in which they were spoken. Much touched, the gipsy opened her eyes. It was true, he was no longer at the window. She ran to it and saw the poor hunchback crouching against a corner of the wall in an attitude of sorrow and resignation. Overcoming with an effort the repulsion he inspired in her, Come back, she said softly. From the movement of her lips, Quasimodo understood that she was driving him away; he therefore rose and hobbled off slowly, with hanging head, not venturing to lift even his despairing glance to the girl.
Come hither! she called, but he kept on his way. At this she hastened out of the cell, ran after him, and put her hand on his arm. At her touch Quasimodo thrilled from head to foot. He lifted a suppliant eye, and perceiving that she was drawing him towards her, his whole face lit up with tenderness and delight. She would have had him enter her cell, but he remained firmly on the threshold. No, no, said he; the owl goes not into the nest of the lark.
She proceeded, therefore, to nestle down prettily on her couch, with the goat asleep at her feet, and both remained thus for some time motionless, gazing in silencehe at so much beauty, she at so much ugliness. Each moment revealed to her some fresh deformity. Her eyes wandered from the bowed knees to the humped back, from the humped back to the cyclops eye. She could not imagine how so misshapen a being could carry on existence. And yet there was diffused over the whole such an air of melancholy and gentleness that she began to be reconciled to it.
Never did I realize my deformity as I do now. When I compare myself with you, I do indeed pity myselfpoor unhappy monster that I am! ConfessI look to you like some terrible beast? Youyou are like a sunbeam, a drop of dew, the song of a bird! While I am something fearsomeneither man nor beasta something that is harder, more trodden underfoot, more unsightly than a stone by the wayside! And he laughedthe most heart-rending kind of laughter in all the world.
Yes, I am deaf, he went on. But you can speak to me by signs and gestures. I have a master who talks to me in that manner. And then I shall soon know your will by the motion of your lips and by your face.
I understood, he replied, you were asking why I saved you. You have forgotten a poor wretch who tried to carry you off one nighta wretch to whom, next day, you brought relief on the shameful pillory. A drop of watera little pitythat is more than my whole life could repay. You have forgottenhe remembers.
Listen, he said, when he had regained control over himself. We have very high towers here; a man, if he fell from one, would be dead before he reached the ground. If ever you desire me to throw myself down, you have but to say the worda glance will suffice.
No, no, he answered, I may not stay here too long. I am not at my ease while you look at me. It is only from pity that you do not turn away your eyes. I will go to a spot where I can see you without being seen in my turn. It will be better.