The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version

5. Quasimodo
In the twinkling of an eye, all was ready to execute Coppenole's idea. Bourgeois,
scholars and law clerks all set to work. The little chapel situated opposite the
marble table was selected for the scene of the grinning match. A pane broken in
the pretty rose window above the door, left free a circle of stone through which it
was agreed that the competitors should thrust their heads. In order to reach it, it
was only necessary to mount upon a couple of hogsheads, which had been
produced from I know not where, and perched one upon the other, after a
fashion. It was settled that each candidate, man or woman (for it was possible to
choose a female pope), should, for the sake of leaving the impression of his
grimace fresh and complete, cover his face and remain concealed in the chapel
until the moment of his appearance. In less than an instant, the chapel was
crowded with competitors, upon whom the door was then closed.
Coppenole, from his post, ordered all, directed all, arranged all. During the
uproar, the cardinal, no less abashed than Gringoire, had retired with all his suite,
under the pretext of business and vespers, without the crowd which his arrival
had so deeply stirred being in the least moved by his departure. Guillaume Rym
was the only one who noticed his eminence's discomfiture. The attention of the
populace, like the sun, pursued its revolution; having set out from one end of the
hall, and halted for a space in the middle, it had now reached the other end. The
marble table, the brocaded gallery had each had their day; it was now the turn of
the chapel of Louis XI. Henceforth, the field was open to all folly. There was no
one there now, but the Flemings and the rabble.
The grimaces began. The first face which appeared at the aperture, with eyelids
turned up to the reds, a mouth open like a maw, and a brow wrinkled like our
hussar boots of the Empire, evoked such an inextinguishable peal of laughter
that Homer would have taken all these louts for gods. Nevertheless, the grand
hall was anything but Olympus, and Gringoire's poor Jupiter knew it better than
any one else. A second and third grimace followed, then another and another;
and the laughter and transports of delight went on increasing. There was in this
spectacle, a peculiar power of intoxication and fascination, of which it would be
difficult to convey to the reader of our day and our salons any idea.
Let the reader picture to himself a series of visages presenting successively all
geometrical forms, from the triangle to the trapezium, from the cone to the
polyhedron; all human expressions, from wrath to lewdness; all ages, from the
wrinkles of the new-born babe to the wrinkles of the aged and dying; all religious
phantasmagories, from Faun to Beelzebub; all animal profiles, from the maw to
the beak, from the jowl to the muzzle. Let the reader imagine all these grotesque
figures of the Pont Neuf, those nightmares petrified beneath the hand of Germain
Pilon, assuming life and breath, and coming in turn to stare you in the face with
burning eyes; all the masks of the Carnival of Venice passing in succession
before your glass,--in a word, a human kaleidoscope.
The orgy grew more and more Flemish. Teniers could have given but a very
imperfect idea of it. Let the reader picture to himself in bacchanal form, Salvator