A Wedding-Night

A Few minutes afterward our poet found himself in a warm and cosy little chamber with a vaulted roof, seated in front of a table which seemed impatient to share some of the contents of a small larder hanging on the wall close by, having a good bed in prospect, and a tête-á-tête with a pretty girl. The adventure smacked decidedly of witchcraft. He began to take himself seriously for the hero of a fairy-tale, and looked about him from time to time to see whether the fiery chariot drawn by winged gryphons, which alone could have transported him so rapidly from Tartarus to Paradise, were still there. At intervals, too, he steadily eyed the holes in his doublet, in order to keep a firm hold on reality—not to let the earth slip away from him altogether. His reason, tossing on delusive waves, had only this frail spar to cling to.

The girl paid apparently not the slightest heed to him, but came and went, shifting one thing and another, talking to her goat, making her little pouting grimace now and then just as if he had not been there.

At last she came and seated herself near the table, so that Gringoire could contemplate her at his leisure.

You have been young, reader—maybe, indeed, you are fortunate enough to be so still. It is impossible but that more than once (and for my part I have spent whole days —the best employed of my life—in this pursuit) you have followed from bush to bush, beside some running brook, on a sunny day, some lovely dragon-fly, all iridescent, blue and green, darting hither and thither, kissing the tip of every spray. Can you forget the adoring curiosity with which your thoughts and your eyes were fixed upon this little darting, humming whirlwind of purple and azure wings, in the midst of which floated an intangible form, veiled, as it were, by the very rapidity of its motion? The aerial creature, dimly discerned through all this flutter of wings, seemed to you chimerical, illusory, intangible. But when at last the dragon-fly settled on the end of a reed, and you could examine, with bated breath, the gauzy wings, the long enamel robe, the two crystal globes of eyes, what amazement seized you, and what fear lest the exquisite creature should again vanish into shadow, the vision into air. Recall these impressions, and you will readily understand Gringoire’s feelings as he contemplated, in her visible and palpable form, that Esmeralda, of whom, up till then, he had only caught a glimpse through a whirl of dance and song and fluttering skirts.

Sinking deeper and deeper into his reverie: “So this,” he said to himself, as he followed her vaguely with his eyes, “this is what they meant by Esmeralda—a divine creature —a dancer of the streets. So high, and yet so low. It was she who dealt the death-blow to my Mystery this morning— she it is who saves my life to-night. My evil genius—my good angel! And a pretty woman, on my soul!—who must have loved me to distraction to have taken me like this. Which reminds me,” said he, suddenly rising from his seat, impelled by that sense of the practical which formed the basis of his character and his philosophy—“I’m not very clear how it came about, but the fact remains that I am her husband.”

With this idea in his mind and in his eyes, he approached the girl with so enterprising and gallant an air that she drew back.

“What do you want with me?” said she.

“Can you ask, adorable Esmeralda?” responded Gringoire in such impassioned accents that he was astonished at himself.

The gipsy stared at him wide-eyed. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“What?” rejoined Gringoire, growing warmer and warmer, and reflecting that after all it was only a virtue of the Court of Miracles he had to deal with, “am I not thine, sweetheart; art thou not mine?” and without more ado he clasped his arms about her.

The gipsy slipped through his hands like an eel; with one bound she was at the farther end of the little chamber, stooped, and rose with a little dagger in her hand before Gringoire had even time to see where she drew it from. There she stood, angry and erect, breathing fast with parted lips and fluttering nostrils, her cheeks red as peonies, her eyes darting lightning, while at the same moment the little white goat

  By PanEris using Melati.

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