The Hunchback of Notre Dame
7. A Bridal Night
A few moments later our poet found himself in a tiny arched chamber, very cosy,
very warm, seated at a table which appeared to ask nothing better than to make
some loans from a larder hanging near by, having a good bed in prospect, and
alone with a pretty girl. The adventure smacked of enchantment. He began
seriously to take himself for a personage in a fairy tale; he cast his eyes about
him from time to time to time, as though to see if the chariot of fire, harnessed to
two-winged chimeras, which alone could have so rapidly transported him from
Tartarus to Paradise, were still there. At times, also, he fixed his eyes obstinately
upon the holes in his doublet, in order to cling to reality, and not lose the ground
from under his feet completely. His reason, tossed about in imaginary space,
now hung only by this thread.
The young girl did not appear to pay any attention to him; she went and came,
displaced a stool, talked to her goat, and indulged in a pout now and then. At last
she came and seated herself near the table, and Gringoire was able to scrutinize
her at his ease.
You have been a child, reader, and you would, perhaps, be very happy to be one
still. It is quite certain that you have not, more than once (and for my part, I have
passed whole days, the best employed of my life, at it) followed from thicket to
thicket, by the side of running water, on a sunny day, a beautiful green or blue
dragon-fly, breaking its flight in abrupt angles, and kissing the tips of all the
branches. You recollect with what amorous curiosity your thought and your gaze
were riveted upon this little whirlwind, hissing and humming with wings of purple
and azure, in the midst of which floated an imperceptible body, veiled by the very
rapidity of its movement. The aerial being which was dimly outlined amid this
quivering of wings, appeared to you chimerical, imaginary, impossible to touch,
impossible to see. But when, at length, the dragon-fly alighted on the tip of a
reed, and, holding your breath the while, you were able to examine the long,
gauze wings, the long enamel robe, the two globes of crystal, what astonishment
you felt, and what fear lest you should again behold the form disappear into a
shade, and the creature into a chimera! Recall these impressions, and you will
readily appreciate what Gringoire felt on contemplating, beneath her visible and
palpable form, that Esmeralda of whom, up to that time, he had only caught a
glimpse, amidst a whirlwind of dance, song, and tumult.
Sinking deeper and deeper into his revery: "So this," he said to himself, following
her vaguely with his eyes, "is la Esmeralda! a celestial creature! a street dancer!
so much, and so little! 'Twas she who dealt the death-blow to my mystery this
morning, 'tis she who saves my life this evening! My evil genius! My good angel!
A pretty woman, on my word! and who must needs love me madly to have taken
me in that fashion. By the way," said he, rising suddenly, with that sentiment of
the true which formed the foundation of his character and his philosophy, "I don't
know very well how it happens, but I am her husband!"
With this idea in his head and in his eyes, he stepped up to the young girl in a
manner so military and so gallant that she drew back.