Book Tenth: Chapter VII. Chateaupers to the Rescue
The reader will, perhaps, recall the critical situation in which we left Quasimodo. The brave deaf man, assailed on all sides, had lost, if not all courage, at least all hope of saving, not himself (he was not thinking of himself), but the gypsy. He ran distractedly along the gallery. Notre-Dame was on the point of being taken by storm by the outcasts. All at once, a great galloping of horses filled the neighboring streets, and, with a long file of torches and a thick column of cavaliers, with free reins and lances in rest, these furious sounds debouched on the Place like a hurricane,--
"France! France! cut down the louts! Châteaupers to the rescue! Provostship! Provostship!"
The frightened vagabonds wheeled round.
Quasimodo who did not hear, saw the naked swords, the torches, the irons of the pikes, all that cavalry, at the head of which he recognized Captain Phoebus; he beheld the confusion of the outcasts, the terror of some, the disturbance among the bravest of them, and from this unexpected succor he recovered so much strength, that he hurled from the church the first assailants who were already climbing into the gallery.
It was, in fact, the king's troops who had arrived. The vagabonds behaved bravely. They defended themselves like desperate men. Caught on the flank, by the Rue Saint- Pierre-aux-Boeufs, and in the rear through the Rue du Parvis, driven to bay against Notre-Dame, which they still assailed and Quasimodo defended, at the same time besiegers and besieged, they were in the singular situation in which Comte Henri Harcourt, Taurinum obsessor idem et obsessus, as his epitaph says, found himself later on, at the famous siege of Turin, in 1640, between Prince Thomas of Savoy, whom he was besieging, and the Marquis de Leganez, who was blockading him.
The battle was frightful. There was a dog's tooth for wolf's flesh, as P. Mathieu says. The king's cavaliers, in whose midst Phoebus de Châteaupers bore himself valiantly, gave no quarter, and the slash of the sword disposed of those who escaped the thrust of the lance. The outcasts, badly armed foamed and bit with rage. Men, women, children, hurled themselves on the cruppers and the breasts of the horses, and hung there like cats, with teeth, finger nails and toe nails. Others struck the archers' in the face with their torches. Others thrust iron hooks into the necks of the cavaliers and dragged them down. They slashed in pieces those who fell.
One was noticed who had a large, glittering scythe, and who, for a long time, mowed the legs of the horses. He was frightful. He was singing a ditty, with a nasal intonation, he swung and drew back his scythe incessantly. At every blow he traced around him a great circle of severed limbs. He advanced thus into the very thickest of the cavalry, with the tranquil slowness, the lolling of the head and the regular breathing of a harvester attacking a field of wheat. It was Chopin Trouillefou. A shot from an arquebus laid him low.
In the meantime, windows had been opened again. The neighbors hearing the war cries of the king's troops, had mingled in the affray, and bullets rained upon the outcasts from every story. The Parvis was filled with a thick smoke, which the musketry streaked with flame. Through it one could confusedly distinguish the front of Notre-Dame, and the decrepit Hôtel-Dieu with some wan invalids gazing down from the heights of its roof all checkered with dormer windows.
At length the vagabonds gave way. Weariness, the lack of good weapons, the fright of this surprise, the musketry from the windows, the valiant attack of the king's troops, all overwhelmed them. They forced the line of assailants, and fled in every direction, leaving the Parvis encumbered with dead.
When Quasimodo, who had not ceased to fight for a moment, beheld this rout, he fell on his knees and raised his hands to heaven; then, intoxicated with joy, he ran, he ascended with the swiftness of a bird to that cell, the approaches to which he had so intrepidly defended. He had but one thought now; it was to kneel before her whom he had just saved for the second time.
When he entered the cell, he found it empty.Next