Book Ninth: Chapter III. Deaf
On the following morning, she perceived on awaking, that she had been asleep. This singular thing astonished her. She had been so long unaccustomed to sleep! A joyous ray of the rising sun entered through her window and touched her face. At the same time with the sun, she beheld at that window an object which frightened her, the unfortunate face of Quasimodo. She involuntarily closed her eyes again, but in vain; she fancied that she still saw through the rosy lids that gnome's mask, one-eyed and gap-toothed. Then, while she still kept her eyes closed, she heard a rough voice saying, very gently,--
"Be not afraid. I am your friend. I came to watch you sleep. It does not hurt you if I come to see you sleep, does it? What difference does it make to you if I am here when your eyes are closed! Now I am going. Stay, I have placed myself behind the wall. You can open your eyes again."
There was something more plaintive than these words, and that was the accent in which they were uttered. The gypsy, much touched, opened her eyes. He was, in fact, no longer at the window. She approached the opening, and beheld the poor hunchback crouching in an angle of the wall, in a sad and resigned attitude. She made an effort to surmount the repugnance with which he inspired her. "Come," she said to him gently. From the movement of the gypsy's lips, Quasimodo thought that she was driving him away; then he rose and retired limping, slowly, with drooping head, without even daring to raise to the young girl his gaze full of despair. "Do come," she cried, but he continued to retreat. Then she darted from her cell, ran to him, and grasped his arm. On feeling her touch him, Quasimodo trembled in every limb. He raised his suppliant eye, and seeing that she was leading him back to her quarters, his whole face beamed with joy and tenderness. She tried to make him enter the cell; but he persisted in remaining on the threshold. "No, no," said he; "the owl enters not the nest of the lark."
Then she crouched down gracefully on her couch, with her goat asleep at her feet. Both remained motionless for several moments, considering in silence, she so much grace, he so much ugliness. Every moment she discovered some fresh deformity in Quasimodo. Her glance travelled from his knock knees to his humped back, from his humped back to his only eye. She could not comprehend the existence of a being so awkwardly fashioned. Yet there was so much sadness and so much gentleness spread over all this, that she began to become reconciled to it.
He was the first to break the silence. "So you were telling me to return?"
She made an affirmative sign of the head, and said, "Yes."
He understood the motion of the head. "Alas!" he said, as though hesitating whether to finish, "I am--I am deaf."
"Poor man!" exclaimed the Bohemian, with an expression of kindly pity.
He began to smile sadly.
"You think that that was all that I lacked, do you not? Yes, I am deaf, that is the way I am made. 'Tis horrible, is it not? You are so beautiful!"
There lay in the accents of the wretched man so profound a consciousness of his misery, that she had not the strength to say a word. Besides, he would not have heard her. He went on,--
"Never have I seen my ugliness as at the present moment. When I compare myself to you, I feel a very great pity for myself, poor unhappy monster that I am! Tell me, I must look to you like a beast. You, you are a ray of sunshine, a drop of dew, the song of a bird! I am something frightful, neither man nor animal, I know not what, harder, more trampled under foot, and more unshapely than a pebble stone!"
Then he began to laugh, and that laugh was the most heartbreaking thing in the world. He continued,--
"Yes, I am deaf; but you shall talk to me by gestures, by signs. I have a master who talks with me in that way. And then, I shall very soon know your wish from the movement of your lips, from your look."
"Well!" she interposed with a smile, "tell me why you saved me."
He watched her attentively while she was speaking.
"I understand," he replied. "You ask me why I saved you. You have forgotten a wretch who tried to abduct you one night, a wretch to whom you rendered succor on the following day on their infamous pillory. A drop of water and a little pity,--that is more than I can repay with my life. You have forgotten that wretch; but he remembers it."
She listened to him with profound tenderness. A tear swam in the eye of the bellringer, but did not fall. He seemed to make it a sort of point of honor to retain it.
"Listen," he resumed, when he was no longer afraid that the tear would escape; "our towers here are very high, a man who should fall from them would be dead before touching the pavement; when it shall please you to have me fall, you will not have to utter even a word, a glance will suffice."
Then he rose. Unhappy as was the Bohemian, this eccentric being still aroused some compassion in her. She made him a sign to remain.
"No, no," said he; "I must not remain too long. I am not at my ease. It is out of pity that you do not turn away your eyes. I shall go to some place where I can see you without your seeing me: it will be better so."
He drew from his pocket a little metal whistle.
"Here," said he, "when you have need of me, when you wish me to come, when you will not feel too ranch horror at the sight of me, use this whistle. I can hear this sound."
He laid the whistle on the floor and fled.Next