Fiction > Harvard Classics > Victor Hugo > Notre Dame de Paris > Book VIII > Chapter I
Victor Marie Hugo (1802–1885).  Notre Dame de Paris.
The Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction.  1917.
I. The Crown Piece Changed into a Withered Leaf
GRINGOIRE and the whole Court of Miracles were in a state of mortal anxiety. For a whole long month nobody knew what had become of Esmeralda, which greatly distressed the Duke of Egypt and his friends the Vagabonds—nor what had become of her goat, which doubled the distress of Gringoire. One evening the Egyptian had disappeared, and from that moment had given no sign of life. All searching and inquiries had been fruitless. Some malicious beggars declared that they had met her on the evening in question in the neighbourhood of the Pont Saint-Michel in company with an officer, but this husband à la mode de Bohème was a most incredulous philosopher, and, besides, he knew better than any one to what extent his wife was still a maid. He had had an opportunity of judging how impregnable was the chastity resulting from the combined virtues of the amulet and the gipsy’s own feelings, and he had mathematically calculated the power of resistance of the last-mentioned factor. On that score, therefore he was quite easy.   1
  Consequently he was quite unable to account for this disappearance, which was a source of profound regret to him. He would have lost flesh over it had such a thing been possible. As it was, he had forgotten everything over this subject, even to his literary tastes, even to his great opus: Defiguris regularibus et irregularibus, which he counted on getting printed as soon as he had any money. For he raved about printing ever since he had any the Didascolon of Hugues de Saint-Victor printed with the famous types of Wendelin of Spires.   2
  One day, as he was passing dejectedly before the Tournelle Criminelle, he observed a small crowd at one of the doors of the Palais de Justice.   3
  “What is going on?” he asked of a young man who was coming out.   4
  “I do not know, sir,” replied the young man. “They say a woman is being tried for the murder of a soldier. As there would seem to be some witchcraft in the business, the Bishop and the Holy Office have interfered in the case, and my brother, who is Archdeacon of Josas, spends his whole time there. As it happened, I wished to speak with him, but I could not get near him for the crowd—which annoys me very much, for I want money.”   5
  “Alack, sir,” said Gringoire, “I would I had any to lend you, but though my breeches pockets are in holes, it is not from the weight of coin in them.”   6
  He did not venture to tell the youth that he knew his brother the Archdeacon, whom he had never visited since the scene in the church—a neglect which some his conscience.   7
  The scholar went his way, and Gringoire proceeded to follow the crowd ascending the stairs to the court-room. To his mind, there was nothing equal to the spectacle of a trial for dissipating melancholy, the judges exhibiting, as a rule, such extremely diverting stupidity. The crowd with whom he mingled walked and elbowed one another in silence. After a protracted and uneventful pilgrimage through a long dark passage which would through a Palais like the intestinal canal of the old edifice, he arrived at a low door opening into a court-room which his superior height enabled him to explore over the swaying heads of the multitude.   8
  The hall was vast and shadowy, which made it appear still larger. The day was declining, the long pointed windows admitted only a few pale rays of light, which died out before they reached the vaulted ceiling, and enormous trellis-work of carved wood, the thousand figures of which seemed to stir confusedly in the gloom. Several candles were already lighted on the tables, and gleamed on the heads of the law clerks buried in bundles of documents. The lower end of the hall was occupied by the crowd; to right and left sat gowned lawyers at tables; at the other extremity upon a raised platform were a number of judges, the back rows plunged in darkness—motionless and sinister figures. The walls were closely powdered with fleurs-de-lis, a great figure of Christ might be vaguely distinguished above the heads of the judges, and everywhere pikes and halberds, their points tipped with fire by the glimmering rays of the candles.   9
  “Sir,” said Gringoire to one of his neighbors, “who are all those persons yonder, ranged like prelates in council?”  10
  “Sir,” answered the man, “those on the right are the Councillors of the High Court, and those on the left the Examining Councillors—the maitres in black gowns, the messires in red ones.”  11
  “And above them, there,” continued Gringoire, “who is the big, red-faced one sweating so profusely?”  12
  “That is Monsieur the President.”  13
  “And those sheepsheads behind him?” Gringoire went on—we know that he had no great love for the magistrature, owing, may-be, to the grudge he bore against the Palais de Justice ever since his dramatic misadventure.  14
  “Those are the lawyers of the Court of Appeal of the Royal Palace.”  15
  “And that wild boar in front of them?”  16
  “Is the Clerk of the Court of Parliaments.”  17
  “And that crocodile to the right of him?”  18
  “Maitre Philippe Lheulier, King’s advocate extraordinary.”  19
  “And to the left, that big black cat?”  20
  “Maître Jacques Charmolue, procurator in the Ecclesiastical Court, with the members of the Holy Office.”  21
  “And may I ask, sir,” said Gringoire, “what all these worthies are about?”  22
  “They are trying some one.”  23
  “Trying whom? I see no prisoner.”  24
  “It is a woman, sir. You cannot see her. She has her back turned to us, and is hidden by the crowd. Look, she is over there where you see that group of partisans.”  25
  “Who is the woman?” asked Gringoire; “do you know her name?”  26
  “No, sir, I have but just arrived. I conclude, however, from the presence of the Office that there is some question of witchcraft in the matter.”  27
  “Ah, ha!” said our philosopher, “so we shall have the pleasure of seeing these black gowns devouring human flesh! Well, it is a spectacle as good as any other.”  28
  “Do you not think, sir, that Maître Jacques Charmolue has a very kindly air?” observed his neighbour.  29
  “Hum!” responded Gringoire. “I am somewhat distrustful of kindness that has such thin nostrils and sharp lips.”  30
  Here the bystanders imposed silence on the two talkers. An important deposition was being heard.  31
  “My lords,” an old woman was saying, whose face and shape generally was so muffled in her garments that she looked like an animated heap of rags; “my lords, the thing is as true as that I am La Falourdel, for forty years a householder on the Pont Saint-Michel, and paying regularly all rents and dues and ground taxes—the door opposite to the house of Tassin-Caillart, the dyer, which is on the side looking up the river. A poor old woman now, a pretty girl once-a-days, my lords! Only a few days before, they said to me: ‘La Falourdel, do not spin too much of an evening, the devil is fond of combing old women’s distaffs with his horns. ’Tis certain that the spectre-monk who haunted the Temple last year is going about the city just now; take care, La Falourdel, that he does not knock at your door.’ I ask who’s there. Some one swears. I open the door. Two men come in—a man in black with a handsome officer. You could see nothing of the black with a handsome officer. You could see nothing of the black man but his eyes—two live coals—all the rest hat and cloak. So they say to me: ‘The Sainte-Marthe room’—that is my upper room, my lords, my best one, and they give me a crown. I shut the crown in a drawer, and says I: ‘That will do to buy tripe to-morrow at the slaughterhouse of La Gloriette.’ We go upstairs. Arrived at the upper room, as I turn my back a moment, the man in black disappears. This astonishes me somewhat. The officer, who was handsome and grand as a lord, comes down again with me. He leaves the house, but in about the time to spin a quarter of a skein he returns with a beautiful young girl—a poppet who would have shone like a star had her locks been properly braided. Following her came a goat—a great goat—whether black or white I can’t remember. This set me to thinking. The girl—that does not concern me—but the goat! I don’t like those animals with their beards and horns—it’s too like a man.  32
  “Besides, that smells of witchcraft. However, I say nothing. I had the crown piece. That is only fair, is it not, my lord judge? So I show the captain and the girl into the upper room and leave them alone—that is to say, with the goat. I go down and get to my spinning again. I must tell you that my house has a ground floor and an upper storey; the back looks out on to the river, as do all the houses on the bridge, and the groundfloor window and the window of the upper floor open on to the water. Well, as I was saying, I sat down again to my spinning. I don’t know why, but I began thinking about the spectre-monk whom the goat had brought to my mind, and that the pretty girl was dressed very outlandish, when all at once I hear a cry overhead and something fall on the floor, and then the window opening. I run to mine, which is just underneath, and see a black mass drop into the water—a phantom dressed like a priest. It was moonlight, so I saw it quite plainly. It swam away towards the city. Then, all of a tremble, I called the watch. The gentlemen of the guard came in, and at first, not knowing what was the matter, they made merry over it and began to beat me. I explained to them. We go upstairs, and what do we find? My unfortunate room swimming in blood, the captain stretched his whole length on the floor with a dagger in his neck, the girl making as if she were dead, and the goat in a fury. ‘A pretty business,’ say I. ‘’Twill be a fortnight’s work to clean up these boards. It must be scraped—a terrible job!’ They carried away the officer, poor young man, and the girl—half-naked. But stay—the worst is to come. The next morning, when I went to take the crown to buy my tripe, I found a withered leaf in its place!”  33
  The old beldame ceased. A murmur of horror went round the place. “That phantom, that goat—all this savours of magic,” said one of Gringoire’s neighbours. “And that withered leaf,” added another. “There can be no doubt,” went on a third, “that it’s some witch who has commerce with the spectre-monk to plunder officers.” Gringoire himself was not far from thinking this connection both probable and alarming.  34
  “Woman Falourdel,” said the President with majesty, “have you nothing further to declare to the court?”  35
  “No, my lord,” answered the woman, “unless that in the report my house has been named a tumble-down and stinking hovel, which is insulting language. The houses on the bridge are not very handsome, because they swarm with people; but, nevertheless, the butchers live there, and they are wealthy men with handsome and careful wives.”  36
  The magistrate who reminded Gringoire of a crocodile now rose.  37
  “Peace!” said he. “I would beg you gentlemen not to lose sight of the fact that a dagger was found on the accused. Woman Falourdel, have you brought with you the withered leaf into which the crown was transformed that the demon gave you?”  38
  “Yes, my lord. I found it again. Here it is.”  39
  An usher handed the dead leaf to the crocodile, who, with a doleful shake of the head, passed it to the President, who sent it on to the procurator of the Ecclesiastical Court, so that it finally made the round of the hall.  40
  “’Tis a beech leaf,” said Maître Jacques Charmolue, “an additional proof of magic!”  41
  A councillor then took up the word. “Witness, you say two men went up together in your house: the man in black whom you first saw disappear and then swimming in the Seine in priest’s habit, and the officer. Which of the two gave you the crown?”  42
  The hag reflected for a moment, then answered, “It was the officer.”  43
  A murmur ran through the crowd.  44
  “Ah,” thought Gringoire, “that somewhat shakes my conviction.”  45
  But Maître Philippe Lheulier again interposed. “I would remind you, gentlemen, that in the deposition taken down at his bedside the murdered officer, while stating that a vague suspicion had crossed his mind at the instant when the black man accosted him, that it might be the spectre-monk, added, that the phantom had eagerly urged him to go and meet the accused, and on his (the captain’s) observing that he was without money, had given him the crown which the said officer paid to La Falourdel. Thus the crown is a coin of hell.”  46
  This conclusive observation appeared to dissipate all doubts entertained by Gringoire or any other sceptics among the listeners.  47
  “Gentlemen, you have the documents in hand,” added the advocate as he seated himself, “you can consult the deposition of Phœbus de Châteaupers.”  48
  At this name the accused started up. Her head was now above the crowd. Gringoire, aghast, recognised Esmeralda.  49
  She was deadly pale; her hair, once so charmingly braided and spangled with sequins, fell about her in disorder; her lips were blue, her sunken eyes horrifying. Alas!  50
  “Phœbus!” she cried distraught, “where is he? Oh, my lords, before you kill me, in mercy tell me if he yet lives!”  51
  “Silence, woman!” answered the President; “that is not our concern.”  52
  “Oh, in pity, tell me if he lives!” she cried again, clasping her beautiful wasted hands; and her chains clanked as she moved.  53
  “Well, then,” said the King’s advocate dryly, “he is at the point of death. Does that satisfy you?”  54
  The wretched girl fell back in her seat, speechless, tearless, white as a waxen image.  55
  The President leaned down to a man at his feet who wore a gilded cap and a black gown, a chain round his neck, and a wand in his hand.  56
  “Usher, bring in the second accused.”  57
  All eyes were turned towards a little door which opened, and to Gringoire’s great trepidation gave entrance to a pretty little goat with gilded horns and hoofs. The graceful creature stood a moment on the threshold stretching her neck exactly as if, poised on the summit of a rock, she had a vast expanse before her eyes. Suddenly she caught sight of the gipsy girl, and leaping over the table and the head of the clerk in two bounds, she was at her mistress’s knee. She then crouched at Esmeralda’s feet, begging for a word or a caress; but the prisoner remained motionless, even little Djali could not win a glance from her.  58
  “Why—’tis my ugly brute,” said old Falourdel, “and now I recognise them both perfectly!”  59
  “An it please you, gentlemen, we will proceed to the interrogation of the goat.”  60
  This, in effect, was the second criminal. Nothing was more common in those days than a charge of witchcraft against an animal. For instance, in the Provostry account for 1466 there is a curious specification of the expenses of the action against Gillet Soulart and his sow, “executed for their demerits” at Corbeil. Everything is detailed—the cost of the pit to put the sow into; the five hundred bundles of wood from the wharf of Morsant; the three pints of wine and the bread, the victims’ last meal, fraternally shared by the executioner; and even the eleven days’ custody and keep of the sow at eight deniers parisis per day. At times they went beyond animals. The capitularies of Charlemagne and Louis le Débonnaire impose severe penalties on fiery phantoms who had the assurance to appear in the air.  61
  Meanwhile the procurator of the Ecclesiastical Court exclaimed, “If the demon that possesses this goat, and which has resisted every exorcism, persist in his sorceries, if he terrify the court thereby, we forewarn him that we shall be constrained to proceed against him with the gibbet or the stake.”  62
  Gringoire broke out in a cold sweat.  63
  Charmolue then took from the table the gipsy’s tambourine, and presenting it in a certain manner to the goat, he asked: “What is the time of day?”  64
  The goat regarded him with a sagacious eye, lifted her gilded hoof, and struck seven strokes. It was in truth seven o’clock. A thrill of horror ran through the crowd.  65
  Gringoire could contain himself no longer. “She will be her own ruin!” he exclaimed aloud. “You can see for yourself she has no knowledge of what she is doing.”  66
  “Silence down there!” cried the usher sharply.  67
  Jacques Charmolue, by means of the same manœuvrings with the tambourine, made the goat perform several other tricks in connection with the date of the day, the month of the year, etc., which the reader has already witnessed. And by an optical illusion peculiar to judicial proceedings, these same spectators, who doubtless had often applauded Djali’s innocent performances in the public streets, were terrified by them under the roof of the Palais de Justice. The goat was indisputably the devil.  68
  It was much worse, however, when the procurator, having emptied on the floor a certain little leather bag full of movable letters hanging from Djali’s neck, the goat was seen to separate from the scattered alphabet the letters of the fatal name “Phœbus.” The magic of which the captain had been a victim seemed incontrovertibly proven; and, in the eyes of all, the gipsy girl, the charming dancer who had so often dazzled the passer-by with her exquisite grace, was nothing more nor less than a horrible witch.  69
  As for her, she gave no sign of life. Neither Djali’s pretty tricks nor the menaces of the lawyers, nor the stifled imprecations of the spectators—nothing reached her apprehension any more.  70
  At last, in order to rouse her, a sergeant had to shake her pitilessly by the arm, and the President solemnly raised his voice:  71
  “Girl, you are of the race of Bohemians, and given to sorcery. In company with your accomplice, the bewitched goat, also implicated in this charge, you did, on the night of the twenty-ninth of March last, in concert with the powers of darkness, and by the aid of charms and shells, wound and poniard a captain of the King’s archers, Phœbus de Châteaupers by name. Do you persist in your denial?”  72
  “Horrors!” cried the girl, covering her face with her hands. “My Phœbus! Oh, this is hell!”  73
  “Do you persist in your denial?” repeated the President coldly.  74
  “Of course I deny it!” she answered in terrible tones; and she rose to her feet and her eyes flashed.  75
  “Then how do you explain the facts laid to your charge?” continued the President sternly.  76
  “I have already said,” she answered brokenly, “I do not know. It is a priest, a priest who is unknown to me; a devilish priest who persecutes me——”  77
  “There you have it,” interrupted the judge; “the spectremonk.”  78
  “Oh, my lords, have pity! I am but a poor girl——”  79
  “Of Egypt,” said the judge.  80
  Maître Jacques Charmolue here interposed in his mildest tones: “In view of the painful obstinacy of the accused, I demand that she be put to the question.”  81
  “Accorded,” said the President.  82
  A shudder ran through the frame of the hapless girl. She rose, however, at the order of the partisan-bearers, and walked with a tolerably firm step, preceded by Charmolue and the priests of the Office and between two lines of halberds, towards a masked door, which suddenly opened and shut again upon her, seeming to the dejected Gringoire like a horrible maw swallowing her up.  83
  After she had disappeared a plaintive bleat was heard. It was the little goat.  84
  The sitting was suspended. A councillor having observed that the gentlemen were fatigued, and that it would be a long time to wait till the torture was over, the President replied that a magistrate should be able to sacrifice himself to his duty.  85
  “The troublesome and vexatious jade,” said an old judge, “to force us to apply the question when we have not yet supped!”  86



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