The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version

4. A Tear For A Drop Of Water
These words were, so to speak, the point of union of two scenes, which had, up
to that time, been developed in parallel lines at the same moment, each on its
particular theatre; one, that which the reader has just perused, in the Rat-Hole;
the other, which he is about to read, on the ladder of the pillory. The first had for
witnesses only the three women with whom the reader has just made
acquaintance; the second had for spectators all the public which we have seen
above, collecting on the Place de Grève, around the pillory and the gibbet.
That crowd which the four sergeants posted at nine o'clock in the morning at the
four corners of the pillory had inspired with the hope of some sort of an
execution, no doubt, not a hanging, but a whipping, a cropping of ears,
something, in short,--that crowd had increased so rapidly that the four policemen,
too closely besieged, had had occasion to "press" it, as the expression then ran,
more than once, by sound blows of their whips, and the haunches of their horses.
This populace, disciplined to waiting for public executions, did not manifest very
much impatience. It amused itself with watching the pillory, a very simple sort of
monument, composed of a cube of masonry about six feet high and hollow in the
interior. A very steep staircase, of unhewn stone, which was called by distinction
"the ladder," led to the upper platform, upon which was visible a horizontal wheel
of solid oak. The victim was bound upon this wheel, on his knees, with his hands
behind his back. A wooden shaft, which set in motion a capstan concealed in the
interior of the little edifice, imparted a rotatory motion to the wheel, which always
maintained its horizontal position, and in this manner presented the face of the
condemned man to all quarters of the square in succession. This was what was
called "turning" a criminal.
As the reader perceives, the pillory of the Grève was far from presenting all the
recreations of the pillory of the Halles. Nothing architectural, nothing
monumental. No roof to the iron cross, no octagonal lantern, no frail, slender
columns spreading out on the edge of the roof into capitals of acanthus leaves
and flowers, no waterspouts of chimeras and monsters, on carved woodwork, no
fine sculpture, deeply sunk in the stone.
They were forced to content themselves with those four stretches of rubble work,
backed with sandstone, and a wretched stone gibbet, meagre and bare, on one
The entertainment would have been but a poor one for lovers of Gothic
architecture. It is true that nothing was ever less curious on the score of
architecture than the worthy gapers of the Middle Ages, and that they cared very
little for the beauty of a pillory.
The victim finally arrived, bound to the tail of a cart, and when he had been
hoisted upon the platform, where he could be seen from all points of the Place,
bound with cords and straps upon the wheel of the pillory, a prodigious hoot,
mingled with laughter and acclamations, burst forth upon the Place. They had
recognized Quasimodo.