Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book II > Chapter IV
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Book II
IV. The Mishaps Consequent on Following a Pretty Woman through the Streets at Night
AT a venture, Grainier set off to follow the gipsy girl. He had seen her and her goat turn into the Rue de la Coutellerie, so he too turned down the Rue de la Coutellerie.   1
  “Why not?” said he to himself.   2
  Now, Grainier, being a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris, had observed that nothing is more conducive to pleasant reverie than to follow a pretty woman without knowing where she is going. There is in this voluntary abdication of one’s free-will, in this subordination of one’s whim to that of another person who is totally unconscious of one’s proceedings, a mixture of fanciful independence and blind obedience, an indefinable something between slavery and freedom which appealed to Grainier, whose mind was essentially mixed, vacillating, and complex, touching in turn all extremes, hanging continually suspended between all human propensities, and letting one neutralize the other. He was fond of comparing himself to Mahomet’s coffin, attracted equally by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally between heaven and earth, between the roof and the pavement, between the fall and the ascension, between the zenith and the nadir.   3
  Had Grainier lived in our day, how admirably he would have preserved the golden mean between the classical and the romantic. But he was not primitive enough to live three hundred years, a fact much to be deplored; his absence creates a void only too keenly felt in these days.   4
  For the rest, nothing disposes one more readily to follow passengers through the streets—especially female ones, as Grainier had a weakness for doing—than not to know where to find a bed.   5
  He therefore walked all pensively after the girl, who quickened her pace, making her pretty little goat trot beside her, as she saw the townsfolk going home, and the taverns—the only shops that had been open that day—preparing to close.   6
  “After all,” he thought, “she must lodge somewhere—gipsy women are kind-hearted—who knows…?”   7
  And he filled in the asterisks which followed this discreet break with I know not what engaging fancies.   8
  Meanwhile, from time to time, as he passed the last groups of burghers closing their doors, he caught scraps of their conversation which broke the charmed spell of his happy imaginings.   9
  Now it was two old men accosting each other:  10
  “Maître Thibaut Fernicle, do you know that it is very cold?” (Grainier had known it ever since the winter set in.)  11
  “You are right there, Maître Boniface Disome. Are we going to have another winter like three years ago, in ’80, when wood cost eight sols a load?”  12
  “Bah, Maître Thibaut! it is nothing to the winter of 1407—when there was frost from Martinmas to Candlemas, and so sharp that at every third word the ink froze in the pen of the registrar of the parliament, which interrupted the recording of the judgments——”  13
  Farther on were two gossips at their windows with candles that spluttered in the foggy air.  14
  “Has your husband told you of the accident, Mlle. La Boudraque?”  15
  “No; what is it, Mlle. Turquant?”  16
  “Why, the horse of M. Gilles Godin, notary at the Châtelet, was startled by the Flemings and their procession and knocked down Maître Phillipot Avrillot, a Celestine lay-brother.”  17
  “Is that so?”  18
  “Yes, truly.”  19
  “Just an ordinary horse too! That’s rather too bad. If it had been a cavalry horse, now!”  20
  And the windows were shut again; but not before Grainier had lost the thread of his ideas.  21
  Fortunately he soon picked it up again, and had no difficulty in resuming it, thanks to the gipsy and to Djali, who continued to walk before him—two graceful, delicate creatures, whose small feet, pretty forms, and engaging ways he admired exceedingly, almost confounding them in his contemplation: regarding them for their intelligence and good fellowship both as girls, while for their sure-footed, light and graceful gait, they might both have been goats.  22
  Meanwhile the streets were momentarily becoming darker and more deserted. Curfew had rung long ago, and it was only at rare intervals that one encountered a foot-passenger in the street or a light in a window. In following the gipsy, Grainier had become involved in that inextricable maze of alleys, lanes, and culs-de-sac which surrounds the ancient burial-ground of the Holy Innocents, and which resembles nothing so much as a skein of cotton ravelled by a kitten.  23
  “Very illogical streets, i’ faith!” said Grainier, quite lost in the thousand windings which seemed forever to return upon themselves, but through which the girl followed a path apparently quite familiar to her, and at an increasingly rapid pace. For his part, he would have been perfectly ignorant of his whereabouts, had he not caught sight at a turning of the octagonal mass of the pillory of the Halles, the perforated top of which was outlined sharply against a solitary lighted window in the Rue Verdelet.  24
  For some moments the girl had been aware of his presence, turning round two or three times uneasily; once, even, she had stopped short, and taking advantage of a ray of light from a half-open bakehouse door, had scanned him steadily from head to foot; then, with the little pouting grimace which Grainier had already noticed, she had proceeded on her way.  25
  That little moue gave Grainier food for reflection. There certainly was somewhat of disdain and mockery in that captivating grimace. In consequence he hung his head and began to count the paving-stones, and to follow the girl at a more respectful distance. Suddenly, at a street corner which for the moment had caused him to lose sight of her, he heard her utter a piercing shriek. He hastened forward. The street was very dark, but a twist of cotton steeped in oil that burned behind an iron grating at the feet of an image of the Virgin, enabled Grainier to descry the gipsy struggling in the arms of two men who were endeavouring to stifle her cries. The poor, frightened little goat lowered its horns and bleated piteously.  26
  “Help! help! gentlemen of the watch!” cried Grainier, advancing bravely. One of the men holding the girl turned towards him—it was the formidable countenance of Quasimodo.  27
  Grainier did not take to his heels, but neither did he advance one step.  28
  Quasimodo came at him, dealt him a blow that hurled him four paces off on the pavement, and disappeared rapidly into the darkness, carrying off the girl hanging limply over one of his arms like a silken scarf. His companion followed him, and the poor little goat ran after them bleating piteously.  29
  “Murder! murder!” screamed the hapless gipsy.  30
  “Hold, villains, and drop that wench!” thundered a voice suddenly, and a horseman sprang out from a neighbouring cross-road.  31
  It was a captain of the Royal Archers, armed cap-à-pie, and sabre in hand.  32
  He snatched the gipsy from the grasp of the stupefied Quasimodo and laid her across his saddle; and as the redoubtable hunchback, recovered from his surprise, was about to throw himself upon him and recover his prey, fifteen or sixteen archers who had followed close upon their captain appeared, broadsword in hand. It was a detachment going the night rounds by order of M. d’Estouteville, commandant of the Provostry of Paris.  33
  Quasimodo was instantly surrounded, seized, and bound. He roared, he foamed, he bit, and had it been daylight, no doubt his face alone, rendered still more hideous by rage, would have put the whole detachment to flight. But darkness deprived him of his most formidable weapon—his ugliness.  34
  His companion had vanished during the struggle.  35
  The gipsy girl sat up lightly on the officer’s saddle, put her two hands on the young man’s shoulders, and regarded him fixedly for several seconds, obviously charmed by his good looks and grateful for the service he had just rendered her.  36
  She was the first to break the silence. Infusing a still sweeter tone into her sweet voice, she said: “Monsieur the Gendarme, how are you called?”  37
  “Captain Phœbus de Châteaupers, at your service, ma belle.”  38
  “Thank you,” she replied; and while Monsieur the Captain was occupied in twirling his mustache à la Burguignonne, she slid from the saddle like a falling arrow and was gone—no lightning could have vanished more rapidly.  39
  “Nombril du Pape!” swore the captain while he made them tighten Quasimodo’s bonds. “I would rather have kept the girl.”  40
  “Well, captain,” returned one of the men, “though the bird has flown, we’ve got the bat safe.”  41



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