Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

II
A PRIEST AND A PHILOSOPHER ARE
TWO DIFFERENT THINGS

THE priest whom the girls had noticed on top of the north tower, leaning out over the square and so intently watching the gypsy's dance, was indeed archdeacon Claude Frollo.

Readers will not have forgotten the mysterious cell that the archdeacon had reserved for himself in that tower. (I am not sure, be it said in passing, that it is not the same into which you can still look today through a little square window, open to the east at a man's height, on the platform from which the towers spring: a squalid chamber, at present bare, empty and dilapidated, the peeling plaster of the walls decorated here and there at the moment with a few sorry engravings of cathedral façades. I assume that this hole is jointly inhabited by bats and spiders, and is consequently the scene of a double war of extermination against flies.)

Every day, an hour before sunset, the archdeacon would climb the tower stairs and shut himself up in this cell, sometimes staying there all night. On that day, just as he arrived outside the low door of the cubby-hole and was inserting in the lock the intricate little key which he always carried with him in the wallet hanging by his side, the sound of tambourine and castanets reached his ear. That sound came from the Place du Parvis. The cell, as already mentioned, had only one window, giving on to the rear of the church. Claude Frollo hurriedly extracted the key, and a moment later was standing on top of the tower in the attitude of sombre meditation in which the young ladies had noticed him.

He stood there grave and motionless, absorbed by one look and one thought. The whole of Paris lay at his feet, with the countless spires of its buildings and its circle of gentle hills on the horizon, with its river winding under the bridges and its people flowing through the streets, with the

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