the decretalists near the image of Saint-Martin, at the meetings of the Faculty of Arts near the image of Saint-Hilary, at the confabulations of the physicians near the benitier of Notre-Dame, ad cupam Nostræ- Dominæ; all the viands, permitted and approved, which those four great kitchens, called the four Faculties, could prepare and set before the intelligence, he had devoured, and satiety had come upon him before his hunger was appeased. Then he had penetrated farther afield, had dug deeper, underneath all that finite, material, limited knowledge; he had risked his soul, and had seated himself at that mystic table of the Alchemists, the Astrologers, the Hermetics of which Averroës, Guillaume de Paris, and Nicolas Flamel occupy one end in the Middle Ages, and which reaches back in the East, under the rays of the seven- branched candlestick, to Solomon, Pythagoras, and Zoroaster.

So, at least, it was supposed, whether rightly or not.

It is certainly true that the Archdeacon frequently visited the cemetery of the Holy Innocents, where, to be sure, his mother and father lay buried with the other victims of the plague of 1466; but he seemed much less devoutly interested in the cross on their grave than in the strange figures covering the tombs of Nicolas Flamel and Claude Pernelle close by.

It is certainly true that he had often been seen stealing down the Rue des Lombards and slipping furtively into a little house which formed the corner of the Rue des Ecrivains and the Rue Marivault. This was the house which Nicolas Flamel had built, in which he died about 1417, and which, uninhabited ever since, was beginning to fall into decay, so much had the Hermetics and Alchemists from all the ends of the world worn away its walls by merely engraving their names upon them. Some of the neighbours even declared how, through a hole in the wall, they had seen the Archdeacon digging and turning over the earth in those two cellars, of which the door-jambs had been scrawled over with innumerable verses and hieroglyphics by Nicolas Flamel himself. It was supposed that Flamel had buried here the philosopher’s stone; and for two centuries the Alchemists, from Magistri to Père Pacifique, never ceased to burrow in that ground, till at last the house, so cruelly ransacked and undermined, crumbled into dust under their feet.

Again, it is true that the Archdeacon was seized with a remarkable passion for the symbolical portal of Notre-Dame, that page of incantation written in stone by Bishop Guillaume of Paris, who is without doubt among the damned for having attached so infernal a frontispiece to the sacred poem eternally chanted by the rest of the edifice. The Archdeacon Claude was also credited with having solved the mystery of the colossal Saint-Christopher, and of that tall, enigmatical statue which stood then at the entrance of the Parvis of the Cathedral, and derisively styled by the people Monsieur le Gris—old curmudgeon. But what nobody could fail to observe, were the interminable hours he would sometimes spend, seated on the parapet of the Parvis, lost in contemplation of the statues; now looking fixedly at the Foolish Virgins with their overturned lamps, now at the Wise Virgins with their lamps upright; at other times calculating the angle of vision of that raven perched on the left side of the central door and peering at a mysterious point inside the church, where most certainly the philosopher’s stone is hidden, if it is not in Nicolas Flamel’s cellar.

It was a singular destiny, we may remark in passing, for the Cathedral of Notre-Dame to be thus beloved in different degrees and with so much devotion by two creatures so utterly dissimilar as Claude Frollo and Quasimodo; loved by the one —rudimentary, instinctive, savage—for its beauty, its lofty stature, the harmonies that flowed from its magnificent ensemble; loved by the other—a being of cultured and perfervid imagination—for its significance, its mystical meaning, the symbolic language lurking under the sculptures of its façade, like the first manuscript under the second in a palimpsest—in a word, for the enigma it eternally propounded to the intelligence.

Furthermore, it is certain that in one of the towers which overlooks the Grève, close by the cage of the bells, the Archdeacon had fitted up for himself a little cell of great secrecy, into which no one ever entered—not even the Bishop, without his leave. This cell had been constructed long ago, almost at the summit of the tower among the crows’ nests, by Bishop Hugh of Besançon,5

who had played the necromancer

  By PanEris using Melati.

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