The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3. Kisses For Blows
When Pierre Gringoire arrived on the Place de Grève, he was paralyzed. He had
directed his course across the Pont aux Meuniers, in order to avoid the rabble on
the Pont au Change, and the pennons of Jehan Fourbault; but the wheels of all
the bishop's mills had splashed him as he passed, and his doublet was
drenched; it seemed to him besides, that the failure of his piece had rendered
him still more sensible to cold than usual. Hence he made haste to draw near the
bonfire, which was burning magnificently in the middle of the Place. But a
considerable crowd formed a circle around it.
"Accursed Parisians!" he said to himself (for Gringoire, like a true dramatic poet,
was subject to monologues) "there they are obstructing my fire! Nevertheless, I
am greatly in need of a chimney corner; my shoes drink in the water, and all
those cursed mills wept upon me! That devil of a Bishop of Paris, with his mills!
I'd just like to know what use a bishop can make of a mill! Does he expect to
become a miller instead of a bishop? If only my malediction is needed for that, I
bestow it upon him! and his cathedral, and his mills! Just see if those boobies will
put themselves out! Move aside! I'd like to know what they are doing there! They
are warming themselves, much pleasure may it give them! They are watching a
hundred fagots burn; a fine spectacle!"
On looking more closely, he perceived that the circle was much larger than was
required simply for the purpose of getting warm at the king's fire, and that this
concourse of people had not been attracted solely by the beauty of the hundred
fagots which were burning.
In a vast space left free between the crowd and the fire, a young girl was
Whether this young girl was a human being, a fairy, or an angel, is what
Gringoire, sceptical philosopher and ironical poet that he was, could not decide at
the first moment, so fascinated was he by this dazzling vision.
She was not tall, though she seemed so, so boldly did her slender form dart
about. She was swarthy of complexion, but one divined that, by day, her skin
must possess that beautiful golden tone of the Andalusians and the Roman
women. Her little foot, too, was Andalusian, for it was both pinched and at ease
in its graceful shoe. She danced, she turned, she whirled rapidly about on an old
Persian rug, spread negligently under her feet; and each time that her radiant
face passed before you, as she whirled, her great black eyes darted a flash of
lightning at you.
All around her, all glances were riveted, all mouths open; and, in fact, when she
danced thus, to the humming of the Basque tambourine, which her two pure,
rounded arms raised above her head, slender, frail and vivacious as a wasp, with
her corsage of gold without a fold, her variegated gown puffing out, her bare
shoulders, her delicate limbs, which her petticoat revealed at times, her black
hair, her eyes of flame, she was a supernatural creature.
"In truth," said Gringoire to himself, "she is a salamander, she is a nymph, she is
a goddess, she is a bacchante of the Menelean Mount!"