The Crown Piece changed into A Withered Leaf

Gringoire and the whole Court of Miracles were in a state of mortal anxiety. For a whole long month nobody knew what had become of Esmeralda, which greatly distressed the Duke of Egypt and his friends the Vagabonds— nor what had become of her goat, which doubled the distress of Gringoire. One evening the Egyptian had disappeared, and from that moment had given no sign of life. All searching and inquiries had been fruitless. Some malicious beggars declared that they had met her on the evening in question in the neighbourhood of the Pont Saint-Michel in company with an officer, but this husband á la mode de Bohème was a most incredulous philosopher, and, besides, he knew better than any one to what extent his wife was still a maid. He had had an opportunity of judging how impregnable was the chastity resulting from the combined virtues of the amulet and the gipsy’s own feelings, and he had mathematically calculated the power of resistance of the last-mentioned factor. On that score, therefore, he was quite easy.

Consequently he was quite unable to account for this disappearance, which was a source of profound regret to him. He would have lost flesh over it had such a thing been possible. As it was, he had forgotten everything over this subject, even to his literary tastes, even to his great opus: Dc figuris regularibus et irregularibus, which he counted on getting printed as soon as he had any money. For he raved about printing ever since he had seen the Didascolon of Hugues de Saint-Victor printed with the famous types of Wendelin of Spires.

One day, as he was passing dejectedly before the Tournelle Criminelle, he observed a small crowd at one of the doors of the Palais de Justice.

“What is going on?” he asked of a young man who was coming out.

“I do not know, sir,” replied the young man. “They say a woman is being tried for the murder of a soldier. As there would seem to be some witchcraft in the business, the Bishop and the Holy Office have interfered in the case, and my brother, who is Archdeacon of Josas, spends his whole time there. As it happened, I wished to speak with him, but I could not get near him for the crowd— which annoys me very much, for I want money.”

“Alack, sir,” said Gringoire, “I would I had any to lend you, but though my breeches pockets are in holes, it is not from the weight of coin in them.”

He did not venture to tell the youth that he knew his brother the Archdeacon, whom he had never visited since the scene in the church— a neglect which smote his conscience.

The scholar went his way, and Gringoire proceeded to follow the crowd ascending the stairs to the court- room. To his mind, there was nothing equal to the spectacle of a trial for dissipating melancholy, the judges exhibiting, as a rule, such extremely diverting stupidity. The crowd with whom he mingled walked and elbowed one another in silence. After a protracted and uneventful pilgrimage through a long dark passage which wound through the Palais like the intestinal canal of the old edifice, he arrived at a low door opening into a court-room which his superior height enabled him to explore over the swaying heads of the multitude.

The hall was vast and shadowy, which made it appear still larger. The day was declining, the long pointed windows admitted only a few pale rays of light, which died out before they reached the vaulted ceiling, an enormous trellis-work of carved wood, the thousand figures of which seemed to stir confusedly in the gloom. Several candles were already lighted on the tables, and gleamed on the heads of the law clerks buried in bundles of documents. The lower end of the hall was occupied by the crowd; to right and left sat gowned lawyers at tables; at the other extremity upon a raised platform were a number of judges, the back rows plunged in darkness— motionless and sinister figures. The walls were closely powdered with fleurs-de-lis, a great figure of Christ might be vaguely distinguished above the heads of the judges, and everywhere pikes and halberds, their points tipped with fire by the glimmering rays of the candles.

“Sir,” said Gringoire to one of his neighbours, “who are all those persons yonder, ranged like prelates in council?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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