Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book VII > Chapter VI
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Book VII
VI. Of the Result of Launching a String of Seven Oaths in a Public Square
“TE Deum laudamus!” exclaimed Master Jehan, crawling out of his hole; “the two old owls have gone at last. Och! och! Hax! pax! max!—fleas!—mad dogs!—the devil! I’ve had enough of their conversation. My head hums like a belfry. And mouldy cheese into the bargain! Well, cheer up! let’s be off with the big brother’s purse and convert all these coins into bottles.”   1
  He cast a look of fond admiration into the interior of the precious pouch, adjusted his dress, rubbed his shoes, dusted his shabby sleeves, which were white with ashes, whistled a tune, cut a lively step or two, looked about the cell to see if there was anything else worth taking, rummaged about the furnace and managed to collect a glass amulet or so by way of trinket to give to Isabeau la Thierrye, and finally opened the door, which his brother had left unfastened as a last indulgence, and which he in turn left open as a lost piece of mischief, and descended the spiral staircase, hopping like a bird. In the thick darkness of the winding stairs he stumbled against something which moved out of the way with a growl. He surmised that it was Quasimodo, which circumstance so tickled his fancy that he descended the rest of the stairs holding his sides with laughter. He was still laughing when he issued out into the square.   2
  He stamped his foot when he found himself on level ground.   3
  “Oh, most excellent and honourable pavement of Paris!” he exclaimed. “Oh, cursed staircase, that would wind the very angels of Jacob’s ladder! What was I thinking of to go and thrust myself up that stone gimlet that pierces the sky, just to eat bearded cheese and look at the steeples of Paris through a hole in the wall!”   4
  He went on a few steps, and caught sight of the “two owls” lost in contemplation of the sculpture in the doorway. Approaching them softly on tip-toe, he heard the Archdeacon say in low tones to Charmolue: “It was Guillaume of Paris who had the Job engraven on the lapis-lazuli coloured stone. Job represents the philosopher’s stone, which also must be tried and tormented in order to become perfect, as Raymond Lulle says: ‘Sub conservatione formæ specificæ salva anima.”’ 1    5
  “It’s all one to me,” said Jehan; “I’ve got the purse.”   6
  At that moment he heard a powerful and ringing voice behind him give vent to a string of terrible oaths:   7
  “Sang-Dieu! Ventre-Dieu! Bé-Dieu! Corps de Dieu! Nombril de Belzébuth! Nom d’un pape! Corne et tonnerre!”   8
  “My soul on it!” exclaimed Jehan, “that can be no other than my friend Captain Phœbus!”   9
  The name Phœbus reached the ear of the Archdeacon just as he was explaining to the King’s attorney the meaning of the dragon hiding its tail in a caldron from which issued smoke and a king’s head. Dom Claude started and broke off short to the great astonishment of Charmolue, then turned and saw his brother Jehan accosting a tall officer at the door of the Gondelaurier mansion.  10
  It was, in fact, Captain Phœbus Châteaupers. He was leaning his back against a corner of the house of his betrothed and swearing like a Turk.  11
  “My faith, Captain Phœbus,” said Jehan, taking his hand, “but you are a wonderfully spirited swearer!”  12
  “Thunder and devils!” answered the captain.  13
  “Thunder and devils to you!” retorted the scholar. “How now, my gentle captain, whence this overflow of elegant language?”  14
  “Your pardon, friend Jehan!” cried Phœbus, shaking his hand, “a runaway horse can’t be pulled up short! Now I was swearing at full gallop. I’ve just been with those mincing prudes, and by the time I come away my throat’s so full of oaths that I must spit them out, or by thunder I should choke!”  15
  “Come and have a drink?” asked the scholar.  16
  This proposal calmed the young soldier.  17
  “With all my heart, but I’ve no money.”  18
  “But I have.”  19
  “Nonsense! let’s see.”  20
  With an air of good-natured superiority Jehan displayed the purse before his friend’s eyes.  21
  Meanwhile the Archdeacon, leaving Charmolue standing gaping had approached the two and stopped a few paces off, observing them without their noticing him, so absorbed were they in examining the contents of the purse.  22
  “A purse in your pocket, Jehan!” exclaimed Phœbus, “why, ’tis the moon in a pail of water—one sees it, but it is not there, it is only the reflection. Par Dieu! I’ll wager it’s full of pebbles!”  23
  “These are the pebbles with which I pave my breeches pockets,” answered Jehan coldly; and without further wasting of words he emptied the purse on a corner-stone near by, with the air of a Roman saving his country.  24
  “As I live!” muttered Phœbus, “targes! grands blancs! petits blancs! deniers parisis! and real eagle pieces! ’Tis enough to stagger one!”  25
  Jehan preserved his dignified and impassive air. A few liards had rolled into the mud; the captain in his enthusiasm stooped to pick them up. But Jehan restrained him.  26
  “Fie, Captain Phœbus de Châteaupers!”  27
  Phœbus counted the money, and turning solemnly to Jehan: “Do you know, Jehan,” said he, “that there are twenty-three sous parisis here? Whom did you rob last night in the Rue Coupe-Gueule?”  28
  Jehan tossed his curly head. “How if one has a brother,” he said, narrowing his eyes as if in scorn, “an archdeacon and a simpleton?”  29
  “Corne de Dieu!” cried Phœbus, “the worthy man!”  30
  “Let’s go and drink,” said Jehan.  31
  “Where shall we go?” said Phœbus, “to the Pomme d’Eve?”  32
  “No, captain, let’s go to the Vieille-Science.”  33
  “A fig for your Vieille-Science, Jehan! the wine is better at the Pomme d’Eve; besides, there’s a vine at the door that cheers me while I drink.”  34
  “Very well, then—here goes for Eve and her apple,” said the scholar, taking Phœbus by the arm. “By-the-bye, my dear captain, you spoke just now of the Rue Coupe-Gueule. 2 That is very grossly said; we are not so barbarous now—we call it Rue Coupe-Gorge.” 3  35
  The two friends turned their steps towards the Pomme d’Eve. Needless to say they first gathered up the money, and the Archdeacon followed them.  36
  Followed them with a haggard and gloomy countenance. Was this the Phœbus whose accursed name, since his interview with Gringoire, had mingled with his every thought? He did not know, but at any rate it was a Phœbus, and this magic name was a sufficient magnet to draw the Archdeacon after the two thoughtless companions with stealthy step listening to all they said, anxiously attentive to their slightest gesture. For the rest, there was no difficulty in hearing all they had to say, so loudly did they talk, so little did they hesitate to let the passer-by share their confidences. Their talk was of duels, women, wine, folly of all sorts.  37
  As they turned a corner, the sound of a tambourine came to them from a neighbouring side street. Dom Claude heard the officer say to the scholar:  38
  “Thunder! let’s quicken our pace!”  39
  “Why, Phœbus?”  40
  “I’m afraid the gipsy will see me.”  41
  “What gipsy?”  42
  “The girl with the goat.”  43
  “Esmeralda?”  44
  “That’s it, Jehan. I always forget her deuce of a name. Let us hurry past or she will recognise me, and I don’t want the girl to accost me in the street.”  45
  “Do you know her then, Phœbus?”  46
  At first, the Archdeacon saw Phœ lean over with a grin and whisper something in Jehan’s ear. Phœbus then burst out laughing, and threw up his head with a triumphant air.  47
  “In very truth?” said Jehan.  48
  “Upon my soul!”  49
  “To-night?”  50
  “To-night.”  51
  “Are you sure she’ll come?”  52
  “But you must be mad, Jehan. Is there ever any doubt about these things?”  53
  “Captain Phœbus, you are a lucky warrior!”  54
  The Archdeacon overheard all this conversation. His teeth chattered. A visible shudder ran through his whole frame. He stopped a moment to lean against a post like a drunken man; then he followed the track of the two boon companions.  55
  When he came up with them again they had changed the subject. They were singing at the top of their voices the refrain of an old song:
        “The lads, the dice who merrily throw,
Merrily to the gallows go.”

Note 1.  By preserving it under a special form the soul is saved. [back]
Note 2.  Cut-weasand. [back]
Note 3.  Cut-throat. [back]



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