Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book VII > Chapter VII
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
Book VII
VII. The Spectre-Monk
THE FAR-FAMED cabaret of the Pomme d’Eve was situated in the University, at the corner of the Rue de la Rondelle and the Rue du Bâtonnier. It consisted of one spacious room on the ground floor, the central arch of its very low ceiling supported by a heavy wooden pillar painted yellow. There were tables all round, shining pewter pots hanging on the walls, a constant crowd of drinkers, and girls in abundance. A single window looked on to the street; there was a vine at the door, and over the door a creaking sheet of iron having a woman and an apple painted on it, rusted by the rain and swinging in the wind—this was the sign-board.   1
  Night was falling; the street was pitch-dark, and the cabaret, blazing with candles, flared from afar like a forge in the gloom, while through the broken window-panes came a continuous uproar of clinking glasses, feasting, oaths, and quarrels. Through the mist which the heat of the room diffused over the glass of the door a confused swarm of figures could be seen, and now and then came a roar of laughter. The people going to and fro upon their business hastened past this noisy casement with averted eyes. Only now and then some little ragamuffin would stand on tip-toe until he just reached the window-ledge, and shout into the cabaret the old jeering cry with which in those days they used to follow drunkards: “Aux Houls, saouls, saouls, saouls!”   2
  One man, however, was pacing imperturbably backward and forward in front of the noisy tavern, never taking his eye off it, nor going farther away from it than a sentry from his box. He was cloaked to the eyes, which cloak he had just purchased at a clothier’s shop near the Pomme d’Eve, perhaps to shield himself from the keen wind of a March night, perhaps also to conceal his dress. From time to time he stopped before the dim latticed casement, listening, peering in, stamping his feet.   3
  At length the door of the cabaret opened—this was evidently what he had been waiting for—and a pair of boon companions came out. The gleam of light that streamed out of the doorway glowed for a moment on their flushed and jovial faces. The man in the cloak went and put himself on the watch again under a porch on the opposite side of the street.   4
  “Corne et tonnerre!” said one of the two carousers. “It’s on the stroke of seven—the hour of my rendezvous.”   5
  “I tell you,” said his companion, speaking thickly, “I don’t live in the Rue des Mauvaises-Paroles—indignus qui inter mala verba habitat. My lodging is in the Rue Jean-Pain-Mollet—in vico Johannis-Pain-Mollet, and you’re more horny than a unicorn if you say the contrary. Everybody knows that he who once rides on a bear’s back never knows fear again; but you’ve a nose for smelling out a dainty piece like Saint-Jacques de l’Hôpital!”   6
  “Jehan, my friend, you’re drunk,” said the other.   7
  His friend replied with a lurch. “It pleases you to say so, Phœbus; but it is proved that Plato had the profile of a hound.”   8
  Doubtless the reader has already recognised our two worthy friends, the captain and the scholar. It seems that the man who was watching them in the dark had recognised them too, for he followed slowly all the zigzags which the scholar obliged the captain to make, who, being a more seasoned toper, had retained his self-possession. Listening intently to them, the man in the cloak overheard the whole of the following interesting conversation:   9
  “Corbacque! Try to walk straight, sir bachelor. You know that I must leave you anon. It is seven o’clock, and I have an appointment with a woman.”  10
  “Leave me then! I see stars and spears of fire. You’re like the Château of Dampmartin that burst with laughter.”  11
  “By the warts of my grandmother! Jehan, that’s talking nonsense with a vengeance! Look you, Jehan, have you no money left?”  12
  “Monsieur the Rector, it is without a mistake: the little slaughter-house—parva boucheria!”  13
  “Jehan! friend Jehan! you know I promised to meet that girl at the end of the Saint-Michel bridge; that I can take her nowhere but to La Falourdel’s, and that I must pay for the room. The old white-whiskered jade won’t give me credit. Jehan, I beseech you! Have we drunk the whole contents of the curé’s pouch?”  14
  “The consciousness of having employed the other hours well is a right and savoury condiment to our table.”  15
  “Liver and spleen! a truce to your gibberish! Tell me, little limb of the devil, have you any money left? Give it me, or, by Heaven, I’ll search you though you were as leprous as Job and as scabby as Cæsar!”  16
  “Sir, the Rue Galliache is a street which has the Rue de la Verrerie at one end and the Rue de la Tixanderie at the other.”  17
  “Yes, yes, my good friend Jehan—my poor boy—the Rue Galliache—yes, you’re right, quite right. But for the love of Heaven collect yourself! I want but one sou parisis, and seven o’clock is the hour.”  18
  “Silence all round and join in the chorus:
        “‘When the rats have every cat devoured,
The king shall of Arras be the lord;
When the sea, so deep and wide,
Shall be frozen over at midsummertide,
Then out upon the ice you’ll see
How the men of Arras their town shall flee.’”
  “Well, scholar of Antichrist, the foul fiend strangle thee!” cried Phœbus, roughly pushing the tipsy scholar, who reeled against the wall and slid gently down upon the pavement of Philippe Augustus. Out of that remnant of fraternal sympathy which never wholly deserts the heart of a bottle companion, Phœbus with his foot rolled Jehan to one of those pillows of the poor which Heaven provides at every street corner of Paris, and which the rich scornfully stigmatize with the name of rubbish-heap. The captain propped Jehan’s head upon an inclined plane of cabbage-stumps, and forth-with the scholar struck up a magnificent tenor snore. However, the captain still entertained some slight grudge against him. “So much the worse for thee if the dust-cart come and shovel thee up in passing,” said he to the poor, slumbering student; and he went on his way.  20
  The man with the cloak, who still dogged his footsteps, halted a moment as if struggling with some resolve; then, heaving a deep sigh, he went on after the soldier.  21
  Like them, we will leave Jehan sleeping under the friendly eye of heaven, and, with the reader’s permission, follow their steps.  22
  On turning into the Rue Saint-André-des-Arcs, Captain Phœbus perceived that some one was following him. Happening to glance behind him, he saw a sort of shade creeping after him along the wall. He stopped, it stopped; he went on, the shade also moved forward. However, it caused him but little uneasiness. “Ah, bah!” he said to himself, “I haven’t a sou on me.”  23
  In front of the College d’Autun he made a halt. It was here that he had shuffled through what he was pleased to call his studies, and from a naughty school-boy habit which still clung to him he never passed the College without offering to the statue of Cardinal Pierre Bertram, which stood to the right of the entrance, that kind of affront of which Priapus complains so bitterly in Horace’s satire: “Olim truncus eram ficulnus.”  24
  He therefore paused as usual at the effigy of the cardinal. The street was perfectly empty. As he was preparing to proceed on his way, he saw the shadow approaching him slowly; so slowly that he had the leisure to observe that it wore a cloak and a hat. Arrived at his side, it stopped and stood as motionless as the statue of the cardinal; but it fixed on Phœbus a pair of piercing eyes which gleamed with the strange light that the pupils of a cat give forth at night.  25
  The captain was no coward, and would have cared very little for a robber rapier in hand; but this walking statue, this petrified man, froze his blood. Queer stories were going about at that time of a spectre-monk who nightly roamed the streets of Paris, and these stories now returned confusedly to his mind. He stood for a moment bewildered and stupefied, and then broke the silence.  26
  “Sir,” said he, forcing a laugh, “if you are a thief, which I trust is the case, you look to me for all the world like a heron attacking a nutshell. My good fellow, I am a ruined youth of family. But try your luck here—in the chapel of this College you will find a piece of the true cross set in silver.”  27
  The hand of the shade came forth from under its cloak and fell upon Phœbus’s arm with the grip of an eagle’s talons, while at the same time it spoke. “Captain Phœbus de Châteaupers!” it said.  28
  “The devil!” exclaimed Phœbus; “you know my name?”  29
  “I know more than your name,” returned the cloaked man in sepulchral tones. “I know that you have a rendezvous to-night.”  30
  “Yes, I have,” answered Phœbus in amazement.  31
  “At seven o’clock.”  32
  “In a quarter of an hour.”  33
  “At La Falourdel’s.”  34
  “Precisely.”  35
  “The old procuress of the Pont Saint-Michel.”  36
  “Of Saint-Michael the Archangel, as says the paternoster.”  37
  “Impious one!” growled the spectre. “With a woman?”  38
  “Confiteor—I confess it.”  39
  “Whose name is——”  40
  “La Smeralda,” said Phœbus lightly; all his carelessness returned to him.  41
  At this name the spectre’s grip tightened, and he shook the captain’s arm furiously.  42
  “Captain Phœbus de Châteaupers, thou liest!”Any one beholding at that moment the flame of anger that rushed to the soldier’s face, his recoil—so violent that it relieved him from the other’s clutch, the haughty air with which he laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword, and, in face of that passionate resentment, the sullen immobility of the man in the cloak—any one beholding this would have been startled. It was like the combat between Don Juan and the statue.  43
  “Christ and Satan!” cried the captain, “that’s a word that seldom attacks the ear of a Châteaupers! Thou darest not repeat it!”  44
  “Thou liest!” said the shade coldly.  45
  The captain ground his teeth. Spectre-monk, phantom, superstitions—all were forgotten at this moment. He saw only a man and an insult.  46
  “Ha—very good!” he stammered, his voice choking with rage, and he drew his sword, still stammering—for passion makes a man tremble as well as fear. “Draw,” he cried, “here—on the spot—draw and defend yourself! There shall be blood upon these stones!”  47
  The other never stirred. Then, as he saw his adversary on guard and ready to run him through—“Captain Phœbus,” said he, and his voice shook with bitterness, “you are forgetting your assignation.”  48
  The angry fits of such men as Phœbus are like boiling milk of which a drop of cold water will stay the ebullition. These few words brought down the point of the sword which glittered in the captain’s hand.  49
  “Captain,” continued the man, “to-morrow—the day after—a month—ten years hence—you will find me ready to cut your throat; but now go to your rendezvous.”  50
  “Why, in truth,” said Phœbus, as if parleying with himself, “a sword and a girl are two charming things with which to have a rendezvous; but I see no reason why I should miss the one for the sake of the other, when I can have them both.” And with that he put up his sword.  51
  “Go to your rendezvous,” repeated the unknown.  52
  “Sir,” said Phœbus with some embarrassment, “thanks for your courtesy. You are right, there will be plenty of time to-morrow for us to mutually make slashes and button-holes in father Adam’s doublet. I am obliged to you for thus permitting me to pass another agreeable quarter of an hour. I was indeed in hopes of laying you in the gutter, and yet arriving in time for the lady, all the more that it is not amiss to make women wait for you a little on such occasions. But you seem to be a fellow of mettle, so it will be safer to put it off till to-morrow. So now I will be off to my rendezvous; it is for seven o’clock, you know.” Here Phœbus scratched his ear. “Ah, corne Dieu! I’d forgotten—I have not a sou to pay the hire of the garret, and the old hag will want to be paid in advance—she will not trust me.”  53
  “Here is the wherewithal to pay.”  54
  Phœbus felt the cold hand of the unknown slip a large coin into his. He could not refrain from accepting the money and grasping the hand.  55
  “God’s truth!” he exclaimed, “but you are a good fellow!”  56
  “One condition,” said the man; “prove to me that I was wrong, and that you spoke the truth. Hide me in some corner whence I may see whether this woman be really she whom you named.”  57
  “Oh,” answered Phœbus, “I have not the slightest objection. We shall use the ‘Sainte-Marthe room,’ and you can see into it as much as you like from a little den at one side of it.”  58
  “Come, then,” said the shade.  59
  “At your service,” said the captain. “For all I know, you may be Messer Diabolus in person. But let’s be good friends to-night; to-morrow I will pay you all my debts—both of the purse and the sword.”  60
  They went forward at a rapid pace, and in a few moments the sound of the river below told them that they were on the Pont Saint-Michel, at that time lined with houses.  61
  “I will get you in first,” said Phœbus to his companion, “and then go and fetch the lady, who was to wait for me near the Petit-Châtelet.”  62
  His companion made no reply. Since they had been walking side by side he had not uttered a word. Phœbus stopped in front of a low door and knocked loudly. A light shone through the crevices of the door.  63
  “Who’s there?” cried a quavering old voice.  64
  “Corps-Dieu! Tête-Dieu! Ventre-Dieu!” answered the captain.  65
  The door opened on the instant, revealing to the new-comers an old woman and an old lamp, both of them trembling. The old woman was bent double, clothed in rags, her palsied head, out of which peered two little blinking eyes, tied up in a kerchief, and wrinkles everywhere—her hands, her face, her neck; her lips were fallen in over her gums, and all round her mouth were tufts of white bristles, giving her the whiskered look of a cat.  66
  The interior of the hovel was no less dilapidated than herself—the plaster dropping from the walls, smoke-blackened beams, a dismantled chimney-piece, cobwebs in every corner; in the middle a tottering company of broken-legged tables and stools, in the cinders a dirty child, and at the back a stair-case, or rather a wooden ladder, leading to a trap-door in the ceiling.  67
  As he entered this den, Phœbus’s mysterious companion pulled his cloak up to his eyes. Meanwhile the captain, swearing like a Saracen, hastened to produce his crown piece.   68
  “The ‘Sainte-Marthe room,’” he said as he presented it.  69
  The old hag treated him like a lord and shut up the ècu in a drawer. It was the coin Phœbus had received form the man in the cloak. No sooner was her back turned, than the little tousle-headed ragamuffin playing in the cinders stole to the drawer, adroitly abstracted the coin, and replaced it by a withered leaf which he plucked from a fagot.  70
  The old woman signed to the two gentlemen, as she entitled them, to follow her, and ascended the ladder. Arrived on the upper floor she set down her lamp upon a chest, and Phœbus, as one knowing the ways of the house, opened a side door giving access to a small dark space.  71
  “In here, my dear fellow,” said he to his companion. The man in the cloak obeyed without a word. The door closed behind him; he heard Phœbus bolt it, and a moment afterward return down the ladder with the old woman. The light had disappeared.  72



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