The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version

6. The Broken Jug
After having run for some time at the top of his speed, without knowing whither,
knocking his head against many a street corner, leaping many a gutter,
traversing many an alley, many a court, many a square, seeking flight and
passage through all the meanderings of the ancient passages of the Halles,
exploring in his panic terror what the fine Latin of the maps calls tota via,
cheminum et viaria, our poet suddenly halted for lack of breath in the first place,
and in the second, because he had been collared, after a fashion, by a dilemma
which had just occurred to his mind. "It strikes me, Master Pierre Gringoire," he
said to himself, placing his finger to his brow, "that you are running like a
madman. The little scamps are no less afraid of you than you are of them. It
strikes me, I say, that you heard the clatter of their wooden shoes fleeing
southward, while you were fleeing northward. Now, one of two things, either they
have taken flight, and the pallet, which they must have forgotten in their terror, is
precisely that hospitable bed in search of which you have been running ever
since morning, and which madame the Virgin miraculously sends you, in order to
recompense you for having made a morality in her honor, accompanied by
triumphs and mummeries; or the children have not taken flight, and in that case
they have put the brand to the pallet, and that is precisely the good fire which you
need to cheer, dry, and warm you. In either case, good fire or good bed, that
straw pallet is a gift from heaven. The blessed Virgin Marie who stands at the
corner of the Rue Mauconseil, could only have made Eustache Moubon die for
that express purpose; and it is folly on your part to flee thus zigzag, like a Picard
before a Frenchman, leaving behind you what you seek before you; and you are
a fool!"
Then he retraced his steps, and feeling his way and searching, with his nose to
the wind and his ears on the alert, he tried to find the blessed pallet again, but in
vain. There was nothing to be found but intersections of houses, closed courts,
and crossings of streets, in the midst of which he hesitated and doubted
incessantly, being more perplexed and entangled in this medley of streets than
he would have been even in the labyrinth of the Hôtel des Tournelles. At length
he lost patience, and exclaimed solemnly: "Cursed be cross roads! 'tis the devil
who has made them in the shape of his pitchfork!"
This exclamation afforded him a little solace, and a sort of reddish reflection
which he caught sight of at that moment, at the extremity of a long and narrow
lane, completed the elevation of his moral tone. "God be praised!" said he,
"There it is yonder! There is my pallet burning." And comparing himself to the
pilot who suffers shipwreck by night, "Salve," he added piously, "salve, maris
Did he address this fragment of litany to the Holy Virgin, or to the pallet? We are
utterly unable to say.
He had taken but a few steps in the long street, which sloped downwards, was
unpaved, and more and more muddy and steep, when he noticed a very singular
thing. It was not deserted; here and there along its extent crawled certain vague