And lastly, a third audience—much the noisiest, most jovial, and numerous of the lot—crowded the benches and tables, listening to the haranguing and swearing of a flutelike voice which proceeded from a figure dressed in a complete suit of heavy armour from casque to spurs. The individual thus trussed up in full panoply was so buried under his warlike accoutrements that nothing of his person was visible but an impudent tip-tilted nose, a lock of golden hair, a rosy mouth, and a pair of bold blue eyes. His belt bristled with daggers and poniards, a large sword hung at one side, a rusty cross-bow at the other, a vast jug of wine stood before him, and in his right arm he held a strapping wench with uncovered bosom. Every mouth in his neighbourhood was laughing, drinking, swearing.

Add to these twenty minor groups; the serving men and women running to and fro with wine and beer- cans on their heads, the players absorbed in the various games of hazard—billes (a primitive form of billiards), dice, cards, backgammon, the intensely exciting “tringlet”(a form of spilikins), quarrels in one corner, kisses in another—and some idea may be formed of the scene, over which flickered the light of the great blazing fire, setting a thousand grotesque and enormous shadows dancing on the tavern walls.

As to the noise—the place might have been the inside of a bell in full peal, while any intervals that might occur in the hubbub were filled by the spluttering of the dripping-pan in front of the fire.

In the midst of all this uproar, on a bench inside the fireplace, a philosopher sat and meditated, with his feet in the ashes and his eyes fixed on the blaze. It was Pierre Gringoire.

“Now, then, look alive, arm yourselves—we march in an hour!”said Clopin Trouillefou to his rascals.

A girl sang a snatch of song:

“Father and mother dear, good-night;
The last to go put out the light.”

Two card-players were disputing. “Knave!”cried the reddest-faced of the two, shaking his fist at the other, “I’ll so mark thee thou mightest take the place of knave of clubs in our lord the King’s own pack of cards!”

“Ouf!”roared one, whose nasal drawl betrayed him as a Norman; “we are packed together here like the saints of Caillouville!”

“Children,”said the Duke of Egypt to his audience in a falsetto voice, “the witches of France go to the Sabbaths without ointment, or broomsticks, or any other mount, by a few magic words only. The witches of Italy have always a goat in readiness at the door. All are bound to go up the chimney.”

The voice of the young scamp armed cap-á-pie dominated the hubbub.

“Noël! Noël!”he cried. “My first day in armour! A Vagabond! I’m a Vagabond, body of Christ! pour me some wine! My friends, my name is Jehan Frollo of the Mill, and I’m a gentleman. It’s my opinion that if the Almighty were a man-at-arms he’d turn robber. Brothers, we are bound on a great expedition. We are doughty men. Lay siege to the church, break in the doors, bring out the maid, save her from the judges, save her from the priests, dismantle the cloister, burn the bishop in his house—we’ll do all this in less time than it takes a burgomaster to eat a mouthful of soup. Our cause is a righteous one—we loot Notre-Dame, and there you are! We’ll hang Quasimodo. Are you acquainted with Quasimodo, fair ladies? Have you seen him snorting on the back of the big bell on a day of high festival? Corne du Père! ’tis a grand sight—you’d say it was a devil astride a gaping maw. Hark ye, my friends; I am a truand to the bottom of my heart, I am Argotier to the soul, I’m a born Cagou. I was very rich, but I’ve spent all I had. My mother wanted to make me an officer, my father a subdeacon, my aunt a criminal councillor, my grandmother a protonotary, but I made myself a Vagabond. I told my father so, and he spat his curse in my face; my mother, the good old lady, fell to weeping and spluttering like the log in that fire-place. So hey for a merry life! I’m a whole madhouse in myself. Landlady, my duck, some more wine—I’ve got some money left yet, but no more of that Suresnes, it rasps my throat. Why, corbœuf, it’s like gargling with a basket!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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