Sequel of the Mishap

Gringoire, stunned by his fall, lay prone upon the pavement in front of the image of Our Lady at the corner of the street. By slow degrees his senses returned, but for some moments he lay in a kind of half-somnolent state—not without its charms—in which the airy figures of the gipsy and her goat mingled strangely with the weight of Quasimodo’s fist. This condition, however, was of short duration. A very lively sense of cold in that portion of his frame which was in contact with the ground woke him rudely from his dreams, and brought his mind back to the realities.

“Whence comes this coolness?” he hastily said to himself, and then he discovered that he was lying in the middle of the gutter.

“Devil take that hunchback Cyclops!” he growled as he attempted to rise. But he was still too giddy and too bruised from his fall. There was nothing for it but to lie where he was. He still had the free use of his hands, however, so he held his nose and resigned himself to his fate.

“The mud of Paris,” thought he drowsily—for he now felt pretty well convinced that he would have to put up with the kennel as a bed—“has a most potent stink. It must contain a large amount of volatile and nitric acids, which is also the opinion of Maître Nicolas Flamel and of the alchemists.”

The word alchemist suddenly recalled the Archdeacon Claude Frollo to his mind. He remembered the scene of violence of which he had just caught a glimpse—that the gipsy was struggling between two men, that Quasimodo had had a companion, and then the morose and haughty features of the Archdeacon passed vaguely through his memory. “That would be strange,” thought he, and immediately with this datum and from this basis began raising a fantastic edifice of hypothesis, that house of cards of the philosophers. Then, returning suddenly to the practical, “Why, I am freezing!” he cried.

His position was indeed becoming less and less tenable. Each molecule of water in the gutter carried away a molecule of heat from Gringoire’s loins, and the equilibrium between the temperature of the body and the temperature of the water was being established in a rapid and painful manner.

Presently he was assailed by an annoyance of quite another character.

A troop of children, of those little barefooted savages who in all times have run about the streets of Paris under the immemorial name of “gamins,” and who, when we too were young, would throw stones at us when we came out of school because our breeches were not in rags—a swarm of these young gutter- snipes came running towards the spot where Gringoire lay, laughing and shouting in a manner that showed little regard for the slumbers of their neighbours. After them they dragged some shapeless bundle, and the clatter of their wooden shoes alone was enough to wake the dead. Gringoire, who had not quite reached that pass, raised himself up on his elbow.

“Ohè! Hennequin Dandèche! Ohè! Jehan Pincebourde!” they bawled at the pitch of their voices, “old Eustache Moubon, the ironmonger at the corner, is just dead. We’ve got his straw mattress, and we’re going to make a bonfire of it. Come on!”

And with that they flung the mattress right on top of Gringoire, whom they had come up to without perceiving, while at the same time one of them took a handful of straw and lit it at the Blessed Virgin’s lamp.

“Mort-Christ!” gasped Gringoire, “am I going to be too hot now?”

The moment was critical. He was on the point of being caught between fire and water. He made a superhuman effort —such as a coiner would make to escape being boiled alive —staggered to his feet, heaved the mattress back upon the boys, and fled precipitately.

“Holy Virgin!” yelled the gamins, “it is the iron-monger’s ghost!”

And they too ran away.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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