THE KEY TO THE RED DOOR
MEANWHILE the archdeacon had learned from general rumour how the gypsy had been miraculously rescued. When he learned that, he did not know what to feel. He had come to terms with la Esmeralda's death. In that way he had set his mind at rest, he had plumbed the depths of all possible grief. The human heart ( Dom Claude had meditated on such matters) can contain only a certain amount of despair. Once the sponge is saturated, the sea can pass over it without adding one drop more.
Now, with la Esmeralda dead, the sponge was saturated. For Dom Claude the last word had been spoken on this earth. But knowing her to be alive, and Phoebus too, meant the tortures beginning again, the shocks, the alternatives, life itself. And Claude was tired of it all. When he learned the news, he shut himself up in his cell in the cloister. He did not appear at chapter conferences, nor at services. He closed his door to everyone, even the bishop. He stayed walled up like this for several weeks. People thought he was ill. Indeed he was.
What did he do shut up like that? With what thoughts did the unfortunate man wrestle? Was he putting up a last struggle against his dreadful passion? Was he contriving a final plan, of death for her and damnation for himself?
His Jehan, his beloved brother, his spoilt child, came to his door more than once, knocked, swore, said a dozen times who he was. Claude did not open.
He spent whole days with his face pressed against his window panes. From that window, located in the cloister, he could see la Esmeralda's cell; he often saw her, herself, with her goat, sometimes with Quasimodo. He observed how attentive the ugly, deaf creature was, how obedient, how delicate and submissive his behaviour to the gypsy. He recalled, for he had a good memory, and memory is the