The Hunchback of Notre Dame
It chanced that upon a fine morning in this same month of March, I think it was on
Saturday the 29th, Saint Eustache's day, our young friend the student, Jehan
Frollo du Moulin, perceived, as he was dressing himself, that his breeches, which
contained his purse, gave out no metallic ring. "Poor purse," he said, drawing it
from his fob, "what! not the smallest parisis! how cruelly the dice, beer-pots, and
Venus have depleted thee! How empty, wrinkled, limp, thou art! Thou resemblest
the throat of a fury! I ask you, Messer Cicero, and Messer Seneca, copies of
whom, all dog's-eared, I behold scattered on the floor, what profits it me to know,
better than any governor of the mint, or any Jew on the Pont aux Changeurs, that
a golden crown stamped with a crown is worth thirty-five unzains of twenty-five
sous, and eight deniers parisis apiece, and that a crown stamped with a crescent
is worth thirty-six unzains of twenty-six sous, six deniers tournois apiece, if I have
not a single wretched black liard to risk on the double-six! Oh! Consul Cicero! this
is no calamity from which one extricates one's self with periphrases,
quemadmodum, and verum enim vero!"
He dressed himself sadly. An idea had occurred to him as he laced his boots, but
he rejected it at first; nevertheless, it returned, and he put on his waistcoat wrong
side out, an evident sign of violent internal combat. At last he dashed his cap
roughly on the floor, and exclaimed: "So much the worse! Let come of it what
may. I am going to my brother! I shall catch a sermon, but I shall catch a crown."
Then be hastily donned his long jacket with furred half- sleeves, picked up his
cap, and went out like a man driven to desperation.
He descended the Rue de la Harpe toward the City. As he passed the Rue de la
Huchette, the odor of those admirable spits, which were incessantly turning,
tickled his olfactory apparatus, and he bestowed a loving glance toward the
Cyclopean roast, which one day drew from the Franciscan friar, Calatagirone,
this pathetic exclamation: Veramente, queste rotisserie sono cosa stupenda!* But
Jehan had not the wherewithal to buy a breakfast, and he plunged, with a
profound sigh, under the gateway of the Petit-Châtelet, that enormous double
trefoil of massive towers which guarded the entrance to the City.
* Truly, these roastings are a stupendous thing!
He did not even take the trouble to cast a stone in passing, as was the usage, at
the miserable statue of that Périnet Leclerc who had delivered up the Paris of
Charles VI. to the English, a crime which his effigy, its face battered with stones
and soiled with mud, expiated for three centuries at the corner of the Rue de la
Harpe and the Rue de Buci, as in an eternal pillory.
The Petit-Pont traversed, the Rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève crossed, Jehan de
Molendino found himself in front of Notre- Dame. Then indecision seized upon
him once more, and he paced for several minutes round the statue of M. Legris,
repeating to himself with anguish: "The sermon is sure, the crown is doubtful."
He stopped a beadle who emerged from the cloister,--"Where is monsieur the
archdeacon of Josas?"