“What has become of the gipsy?” said he, as he mingled with the crowd which the sound of the tambourine had drawn together.

“I know not,” answered a bystander; “she has just disappeared. They called to her from the house opposite, and so I think she must have gone to dance some fandango there.”

Instead of the Egyptian, on the same carpet, of which the arabesques but a moment before seemed to vanish beneath the fantastic weavings of her dances, the Archdeacon now beheld only the red and yellow man; who, in order to earn an honest penny in his turn, was parading round the circle, his arms akimbo, his head thrown back, very red in the face, and balancing a chair between his teeth. On this chair he had fastened a cat which a woman in the crowd had lent him, and which was swearing with fright.

“Notre-Dame!” cried the Archdeacon, as the mounte-bank, the perspiration pouring off his face, passed before him with his pyramid of cat and chair—“What does Maître Pierre Gringoire here?”

The stern voice of the Archdeacon so startled the poor devil that he lost his balance, and with it his whole erection, and the chair and the cat came toppling over right on to the heads of the spectators and in the midst of a deafening uproar.

It is probable that Pierre Gringoire (for it was indeed he) would have had a fine account to settle with the owner of the cat, not to speak of all the bruised and scratched faces round him, had he not hastily availed himself of the tumult and taken refuge in the Cathedral, whither Claude Frollo beckoned him to follow.

The Cathedral was already dark and deserted, the transepts were full of deepest shadow, and the lamps of the chapels were beginning to twinkle like stars under the black vault of the roof. The great central rose-window alone, whose thousand tints were flooded by a horizontal stream of evening sunshine, gleamed in the shadow like a star of diamonds and cast its dazzling image on the opposite side of the nave.

When they had proceeded a few steps, Dom Claude leaned against a pillar and regarded Gringoire steadfastly. This look was not the one Gringoire had feared to encounter in his shame at being surprised by so grave and learned a personage in his merry-andrew costume. There was in the priest’s gaze no touch of disdain or mockery; it was serious, calm, and searching. The Archdeacon was the first to break silence.

“Now, Maître Pierre, you have many things to explain to me. And first, how comes it that I have seen nothing of you for the last two months, and then find you in the public street in noble guise i’ sooth!—part red, part yellow, like a Caudebec apple!”

“Messire,” answered Gringoire plaintively, “it is in very truth a preposterous outfit, and you behold me about as comfortable as a cat with a pumpkin on its head. It is, I acknowledge, an ill deed on my part to expose the gentlemen of the watch to the risk of belabouring, under this motley coat, the back of a Pythagorean philosopher. But what would you, my reverend master? The fault lies with my old doublet, which basely deserted me at the beginning of winter under the protest that it was falling in rags, and that it was under the necessity of reposing itself in the ragman’s pack. Que faire? Civilization has not yet reached that point that one may go quite naked, as old Diogenes would have wished. Add to this that the wind blew very cold, and the month of January is not the season to successfully initiate mankind into this new mode. This coat offered itself, I accepted it, and abandoned my old black tunic, which, for a hermetic such as I am, was far from being hermetically closed. Behold me then, in my buffoon’s habit, like Saint-Genestus. What would you have?—it is an eclipse. Apollo, as you know, tended the flocks of Admetes.”

“A fine trade this you have adopted!” remarked the Archdeacon.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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