The Little Shoe

At the moment the truands attacked the Cathedral, Esmeralda was asleep.

But soon the ever-increasing uproar round the church, and the bleating of her goat—awakened before herself—broke these slumbers. She sat up, listened, looked around; then, frightened at the glare and the noise, hurried out of her cell to see what was the matter. The aspect of the Place, the strange visions moving in it, the disorder of this nocturnal assault, the hideous crowd dimly visible through the darkness, hopping about like a cloud of frogs, the hoarse croaking of the multitude, the scattered red torches flitting to and fro in the storm like will-o’-the-wisps flitting over the misty face of a swamp—all seemed to her like some mysterious battle between the phantoms of the witches’ Sabbath and the stone monsters of the Cathedral. Imbued from her childhood with the superstitions of the gipsy tribe, her first idea was that she had happened unawares on the Satanic rites of the weird beings proper to the night. Whereupon she hastened back to cower in her cell, asking of her humble couch some less horrible nightmare.

But, by degrees, the first fumes of her terror cleared away from her brain, and by the constantly increasing noise, and other signs of reality, she discovered that she was beset, not by spectres, but by human beings. At this her fear changed; not in degree, but in kind. The thought of the possibility of a popular rising to drag her from her place of refuge flashed into her mind. The prospect of once more losing life, hope, Phœbus, who still was ever-present in her dreams of the future, her utter helplessness, all flight barred, her abandonment, her friendless state—these and a thousand other cruel thoughts overwhelmed her. She fell upon her knees, her head upon her couch, her hands clasped upon her head, overcome by anxiety and terror; and gipsy, idolatress, and pagan as she was, began with sobs and tremblings to ask mercy of the God of the Christians, and pray to Our Lady, her hostess. For, even though one believe in nothing, there come moments in life in which one instinctively turns to the religion of the temple nearest at hand.

She remained thus prostrated for a considerable time, trembling, in truth, more than she prayed, frozen with terror at the breath of that furious multitude coming ever nearer; ignorant of the nature of the storm, of what was in progress, what they were doing, what they wanted; but having the presentiment of some dreadful issue.

In the midst of this agonizing uncertainty, she heard footsteps near her. She raised her head. Two men, one of whom was carrying a lantern, entered her cell. She uttered a feeble cry.

“Fear nothing,”said a voice which sounded familiar to her, “it is I.”

“Who?”she asked.

“Pierre Gringoire.”

The name reassured her. She raised her eyes and saw it was indeed the poet. But at his side stood a dark figure shrouded from head to foot which struck her dumb with fear.

“Ah,”said Gringoire in reproachful tones, “Djali recognised me before you did.”

In truth, the little goat had not waited for Gringoire to name himself. He had scarcely crossed the threshold before she began rubbing herself fondly against his knee, covering the poet with caresses and with white hairs, for she was casting her coat, Gringoire returning her endearments.

“Who is that with you?”asked the Egyptian in a low voice.

“Make yourself easy,”answered Gringoire, “it is a friend of mine.”

Then, setting down his lantern, the philosopher seated himself on the floor, clasping Djali enthusiastically in his arms. “Oh, ’tis an engaging beast! More remarkable, no doubt, for its beauty and cleanliness than

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.