CHAPTER 5. QUASIMODO.
In the twinkling of an eye, all was ready to execute Coppenole's
idea. Bourgeois, scholars and law clerks all set to
work. The little chapel situated opposite the marble table
was selected for the scene of the grinning match. A pane
broken in the pretty rose window above the door, left free a
circle of stone through which it was agreed that the competitors
should thrust their heads. In order to reach it, it was
only necessary to mount upon a couple of hogsheads, which
had been produced from I know not where, and perched one
upon the other, after a fashion. It was settled that each
candidate, man or woman (for it was possible to choose a female
pope), should, for the sake of leaving the impression of his
grimace fresh and complete, cover his face and remain concealed
in the chapel until the moment of his appearance. In less than
an instant, the chapel was crowded with competitors, upon whom
the door was then closed.
Coppenole, from his post, ordered all, directed all, arranged
all. During the uproar, the cardinal, no less abashed than
Gringoire, had retired with all his suite, under the pretext of
business and vespers, without the crowd which his arrival had
so deeply stirred being in the least moved by his departure.
Guillaume Rym was the only one who noticed his eminence's
discomfiture. The attention of the populace, like the sun,
pursued its revolution; having set out from one end of the
hall, and halted for a space in the middle, it had now reached
the other end. The marble table, the brocaded gallery had each
had their day; it was now the turn of the chapel of Louis XI.
Henceforth, the field was open to all folly. There was no one
there now, but the Flemings and the rabble.
The grimaces began. The first face which appeared at the
aperture, with eyelids turned up to the reds, a mouth open
like a maw, and a brow wrinkled like our hussar boots of the
Empire, evoked such an inextinguishable peal of laughter
that Homer would have taken all these louts for gods.
Nevertheless, the grand hall was anything but Olympus, and
Gringoire's poor Jupiter knew it better than any one else. A
second and third grimace followed, then another and another;
and the laughter and transports of delight went on increasing.
There was in this spectacle, a peculiar power of intoxication
and fascination, of which it would be difficult to convey to the
reader of our day and our salons any idea.