CHAPTER 1. GOOD SOULS.
Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes
place, one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature
had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre-
Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the vestibule on
the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher,
which the figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier,
carved in stone, had been gazing at on his knees since 1413,
when they took it into their heads to overthrow the saint and
the faithful follower. Upon this bed of wood it was customary
to expose foundlings for public charity. Whoever cared
to take them did so. In front of the wooden bed was a copper
basin for alms.
The sort of living being which lay upon that plank on the
morning of Quasimodo, in the year of the Lord, 1467, appeared
to excite to a high degree, the curiosity of the numerous
group which had congregated about the wooden bed. The
group was formed for the most part of the fair sex. Hardly
any one was there except old women.
In the first row, and among those who were most bent over
the bed, four were noticeable, who, from their gray cagoule,
a sort of cassock, were recognizable as attached to some devout
sisterhood. I do not see why history has not transmitted to
posterity the names of these four discreet and venerable
damsels. They were Agnes la Herme, Jehanne de la Tarme,
Henriette la Gaultière, Gauchère la Violette, all four widows,
all four dames of the Chapel Etienne Haudry, who had quitted
their house with the permission of their mistress, and in
conformity with the statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, in order to
come and hear the sermon.
However, if these good Haudriettes were, for the moment,
complying with the statutes of Pierre d'Ailly, they certainly
violated with joy those of Michel de Brache, and the Cardinal
of Pisa, which so inhumanly enjoined silence upon them.
"What is this, sister?" said Agnes to Gauchère, gazing at
the little creature exposed, which was screaming and writhing
on the wooden bed, terrified by so many glances.
"What is to become of us," said Jehanne, "if that is the
way children are made now?"