Humpbacked, One-eyed, Lame

Down to the time of Louis XII, every town in France had its place of sanctuary, forming, in the deluge of penal laws and barbarous jurisdictions that inundated the cities, islands, as it were, which rose above the level of human justice. Any criminal landing upon one of them was safe. In every town there were almost as many of these places of refuge as there were of execution. It was the abuse of impunity side by side with the abuse of capital punishment— two evils seeking to correct one another. The royal palaces, the mansions of the princes, and, above all, the churches, had right of sanctuary. Sometimes a whole town that happened to require repeopling was turned temporarily into a place of refuge. Louis XI made all Paris a sanctuary in 1467.

Once set foot within the refuge, and the person of the criminal was sacred; but he had to beware of leaving it— one step outside the sanctuary, and he fell back into the waters. The wheel, the gibbet, the strappado, kept close guard round the place of refuge, watching incessantly for their prey, like sharks about a vessel. Thus, men under sentence of death had been known to grow gray in a cloister, on the stairs of a palace, in the grounds of an abbey, under the porch of a church— in so far, the sanctuary itself was but a prison under another name.

It sometimes happened that a solemn decree of parliament would violate the sanctuary, and reconsign the condemned into the hands of the executioner; but this was of rare occurrence. The parliaments stood in great awe of the bishops, and if it did come to a brush between the two robes, the gown generally had the worst of it against the cassock. Occasionally, however, as in the case of the assassination of Petit-Jean, the executioner of Paris, and in that of Emery Rousseau, the murderer of Jean Valleret, justice would overleap the barriers of the Church, and pass on to the execution of its sentence. But, except armed with a decree of parliament, woe betide him who forcibly violated a place of sanctuary! We know what befell Robert de Clermont, Marshal of France, and Jean de Chalons, Marshal of Champagne; and yet it was only about a certain Perrin Marc, a money-changer’s assistant and a vile assassin; but the two marshals had forced the doors of the Church of Saint-Méry— therein lay the enormity of the transgression.

According to tradition, these places of refuge were so surrounded by an atmosphere of reverence that it even affected animals. Thus Aymoin relates that a stag, hunted by King Dagobert, having taken refuge beside the tomb of Saint-Denis, the hounds stopped the chase and stood barking.

The churches usually had a cell set apart for these refugees. In 1407, Nicolas Flamel had one built in Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie which cost him four livres, six sous, sixteen deniers parisis.

In Notre-Dame it was a cell constructed over one of the side aisles, under the buttresses and facing towards the cloister, exactly on the spot where the wife of the present concierge of the towers has made herself a garden— which is to the hanging gardens of Babylon as a lettuce to a palm tree, as a portress to Semiramis.

There it was that, after his frantic and triumphant course round the towers and galleries, Quasimodo had deposited Esmeralda. So long as the course had lasted the girl had remained almost unconscious, having only a vague perception that she was rising in the air— that she was floating— flying— being borne upward away from the earth. Ever and anon she heard the wild laugh, the raucous voice of Quasimodo in her ear: she half opened her eyes and saw beneath her confusedly the thousand roofs of Paris, tile and slate like a red and blue mosaic— and above her head Quasimodo’s frightful and jubilant face. Then her eye-lids closed; she believed that all was finished. that she had been executed during her swoon, and that the hideous genio who had ruled her destiny had resumed possession of her soul and was bearing it away. She dared not look at him, but resigned herself utterly.

But when the bell-ringer, panting and dishevelled, had deposited her in the cell of refuge, when she felt his great hands gently untying the cords that cut her arms, she experienced that shock which startles out of their sleep the passengers of a vessel that strikes on a rock in the middle of a dark night. So were her thoughts awakened, and her senses returned to her one by one. She perceived that she was in Notre-Dame, she remembered that she had been snatched from the hands of the executioner, that

  By PanEris using Melati.

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