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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Book IV
1. Good Souls
Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes place, one fine
morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after
mass, in the church of Notre- Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the
vestibule on the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher, which the
figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier, carved in stone, had been
gazing at on his knees since 1413, when they took it into their heads to
overthrow the saint and the faithful follower. Upon this bed of wood it was
customary to expose foundlings for public charity. Whoever cared to take them
did so. In front of the wooden bed was a copper basin for alms.
The sort of living being which lay upon that plank on the morning of Quasimodo,
in the year of the Lord, 1467, appeared to excite to a high degree, the curiosity of
the numerous group which had congregated about the wooden bed. The group
was formed for the most part of the fair sex. Hardly any one was there except old
women.
In the first row, and among those who were most bent over the bed, four were
noticeable, who, from their gray cagoule, a sort of cassock, were recognizable as
attached to some devout sisterhood. I do not see why history has not transmitted
to posterity the names of these four discreet and venerable damsels. They were
Agnes la Herme, Jehanne de la Tarme, Henriette la Gaultière, Gauchère la
Violette, all four widows, all four dames of the Chapel Etienne Haudry, who had
quitted their house with the permission of their mistress, and in conformity with
the statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, in order to come and hear the sermon.
However, if these good Haudriettes were, for the moment, complying with the
statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, they certainly violated with joy those of Michel de
Brache, and the Cardinal of Pisa, which so inhumanly enjoined silence upon
them.
"What is this, sister?" said Agnes to Gauchère, gazing at the little creature
exposed, which was screaming and writhing on the wooden bed, terrified by so
many glances.
"What is to become of us," said Jehanne, "if that is the way children are made
now?"
"I'm not learned in the matter of children," resumed Agnes, "but it must be a sin to
look at this one."
"'Tis not a child, Agnes."
"'Tis an abortion of a monkey," remarked Gauchère.
"'Tis a miracle," interposed Henriette la Gaultière.
"Then," remarked Agnes, "it is the third since the Sunday of the Loetare: for, in
less than a week, we had the miracle of the mocker of pilgrims divinely punished
by Notre-Dame d'Aubervilliers, and that was the second miracle within a month."
"This pretended foundling is a real monster of abomination," resumed Jehanne.
 
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