CHAPTER 2. THE BEAUTIFUL CREATURE CLAD IN WHITE. (Dante.)
In the Parvis there were several groups of curious good
people, who were tranquilly seeking to divine who the madman
could be who was amusing himself in so strange a manner.
The priest heard them saying, for their voices reached
him, clear and shrill: "Why, he will break his neck!"
At last the archdeacon, foaming with rage and despair,
understood that all was in vain. Nevertheless, he collected
all the strength which remained to him for a final effort. He
stiffened himself upon the spout, pushed against the wall with
both his knees, clung to a crevice in the stones with his hands,
and succeeded in climbing back with one foot, perhaps; but
this effort made the leaden beak on which he rested bend
abruptly. His cassock burst open at the same time. Then,
feeling everything give way beneath him, with nothing but
his stiffened and failing hands to support him, the
unfortunate man closed his eyes and let go of the spout.
Quasimodo watched him fall.
A fall from such a height is seldom perpendicular. The
archdeacon, launched into space, fell at first head foremost,
with outspread hands; then he whirled over and over many
times; the wind blew him upon the roof of a house, where
the unfortunate man began to break up. Nevertheless, he was
not dead when he reached there. The bellringer saw him still
endeavor to cling to a gable with his nails; but the surface
sloped too much, and he had no more strength. He slid rapidly
along the roof like a loosened tile, and dashed upon the
pavement. There he no longer moved.
Then Quasimodo raised his eyes to the gypsy, whose body
he beheld hanging from the gibbet, quivering far away beneath
her white robe with the last shudderings of anguish, then he
dropped them on the archdeacon, stretched out at the base of
the tower, and no longer retaining the human form, and he
said, with a sob which heaved his deep chest,--
"Oh! all that I have ever loved!"