The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3. The Bells
After the morning in the pillory, the neighbors of Notre- Dame thought they
noticed that Quasimodo's ardor for ringing had grown cool. Formerly, there had
been peals for every occasion, long morning serenades, which lasted from prime
to compline; peals from the belfry for a high mass, rich scales drawn over the
smaller bells for a wedding, for a christening, and mingling in the air like a rich
embroidery of all sorts of charming sounds. The old church, all vibrating and
sonorous, was in a perpetual joy of bells. One was constantly conscious of the
presence of a spirit of noise and caprice, who sang through all those mouths of
brass. Now that spirit seemed to have departed; the cathedral seemed gloomy,
and gladly remained silent; festivals and funerals had the simple peal, dry and
bare, demanded by the ritual, nothing more. Of the double noise which
constitutes a church, the organ within, the bell without, the organ alone remained.
One would have said that there was no longer a musician in the belfry.
Quasimodo was always there, nevertheless; what, then, had happened to him?
Was it that the shame and despair of the pillory still lingered in the bottom of his
heart, that the lashes of his tormentor's whip reverberated unendingly in his soul,
and that the sadness of such treatment had wholly extinguished in him even his
passion for the bells? or was it that Marie had a rival in the heart of the bellringer
of Notre-Dame, and that the great bell and her fourteen sisters were neglected
for something more amiable and more beautiful?
It chanced that, in the year of grace 1482, Annunciation Day fell on Tuesday, the
twenty-fifth of March. That day the air was so pure and light that Quasimodo felt
some returning affection for his bells. He therefore ascended the northern tower
while the beadle below was opening wide the doors of the church, which were
then enormous panels of stout wood, covered with leather, bordered with nails of
gilded iron, and framed in carvings "very artistically elaborated."
On arriving in the lofty bell chamber, Quasimodo gazed for some time at the six
bells and shook his head sadly, as though groaning over some foreign element
which had interposed itself in his heart between them and him. But when he had
set them to swinging, when he felt that cluster of bells moving under his hand,
when he saw, for he did not hear it, the palpitating octave ascend and descend
that sonorous scale, like a bird hopping from branch to branch; when the demon
Music, that demon who shakes a sparkling bundle of strette, trills and arpeggios,
had taken possession of the poor deaf man, he became happy once more, he
forgot everything, and his heart expanding, made his face beam.
He went and came, he beat his hands together, he ran from rope to rope, he
animated the six singers with voice and gesture, like the leader of an orchestra
who is urging on intelligent musicians.
"Go on," said he, "go on, go on, Gabrielle, pour out all thy noise into the Place,
'tis a festival to-day. No laziness, Thibauld; thou art relaxing; go on, go on, then,
art thou rusted, thou sluggard? That is well! quick! quick! let not thy clapper be
seen! Make them all deaf like me. That's it, Thibauld, bravely done! Guillaume!
Guillaume! thou art the largest, and Pasquier is the smallest, and Pasquier does