The living tripod greeted him as he passed by, lifting his hat to the height of Gringoire’s chin and holding it there like a barber’s basin while he shouted in his ear: “Senor caballero, para comprar un pedaso de pan!2

“It appears,” said Gringoire, “that this one talks also; but it’s a barbarous lingo, and he is luckier than I if he understands it.” Then striking his forehead with a sudden change of thought—“That reminds me—what the devil did they mean this morning with their Esmeralda?”

He started to quicken his pace, but for the third time something barred the way. This something, or rather some one, was blind, a little blind man with a bearded, Jewish face, who, lunging in the space round him with a stick, and towed along by a great dog, snuffled out to him in a strong, Hungarian accent: “Facitote caritatem!3

“Thank goodness!” exclaimed Pierre Gringoire, “at last here’s one who can speak a Christian language. I must indeed have a benevolent air for them to ask alms of me, considering the present exhausted condition of my purse. My friend,” and he turned to the blind man, “last week I sold my last shirt, or rather, as you are acquainted only with the language of Cicero, ’Vendidi hebdomade super transita meum ultimuman chemisam.”’

So saying, he turned his back on the blind man and pursued his way. But the blind man proceeded to quicken his pace at the same time, and behold the cripple and the stump also came hurrying forward with great clatter and rattle of crutches and supports, and all three tumbling over one another at poor Gringoire’s heels, favoured him with their several songs. “Caritatem!” whined the blind man. “La buona mancia!” piped the stump, and the cripple took up the strain with “Un pedaso de pan!

Gringoire stopped his ears. “Oh, tower of Babel!” he cried, and set off running. The blind man ran, the cripple ran, the stump ran.

And as he penetrated farther down the street, the maimed, the halt, and the blind began to swarm round him, while one-armed or one-eyed men, and lepers covered with sores, issued from the houses, some from little streets adjacent, some from the bowels of the earth, howling, bellowing, yelping, hobbling, and clattering along, all pressing forward towards the glow and wallowing in the mud like slugs after the rain.

Gringoire, still followed by his three persecutors, and not at all sure of what would come of all this, walked on bewildered in the midst of this swarm, upsetting the halt, striding over the stumps, his feet entangled in that ant-hill of cripples, like the English captain who was beset by a legion of crabs.

It occurred to him to attempt to retrace his steps, but it was too late. The herd had closed up behind him and his three beggars held him fast. He went on, therefore, compelled at once by that irresistible flood, by fear, and by a sensation of giddiness which made the whole thing seem like some horrible nightmare.

At last he reached the end of the street. It opened into an immense square in which a multitude of scattered lights were flickering through the misty gloom. Gringoire precipitated himself into it, hoping by the speed of his legs to escape the three maimed spectres who had fastened themselves on to him.

Onde vas hombre?4

cried the cripple, tossing aside his complicated supports and running after him with as good a pair of legs as ever measured a geometrical pace upon the pavements of Paris; while the stump, standing erect upon his feet, bonneted Gringoire with the heavy iron-rimmed platter which served him as a support, and the blind man stared him in the face with great flaming eyes.

“Where am I?” asked the terrified poet.

“In the Court of Miracles,” replied a fourth spectre who had joined them.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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