Chapter II: Pierre Gringoire
Nevertheless, as be harangued them, the satisfaction and admiration unanimously excited by his costume were dissipated by his words; and when he reached that untoward conclusion: “As soon as his illustrious eminence, the cardinal, arrives, we will begin,” his voice was drowned in a thunder of hooting.
“Begin instantly! The mystery! the mystery immediately!” shrieked the people. And above all the voices, that of Johannes de Molendino was audible, piercing the uproar like the fife’s derisive serenade: “Commence instantly!” yelped the scholar.
“Down with Jupiter and the Cardinal de Bourbon!” vociferated Robin Poussepain and the other clerks perched in the window.
“The morality this very instant!” repeated the crowd; “this very instant! the sack and the rope for the comedians, and the cardinal!”
Poor Jupiter, haggard, frightened, pale beneath his rouge, dropped his thunderbolt, took his cap in his hand; then he bowed and trembled and stammered: “His eminence—the ambassadors—Madame Marguerite of Flanders—.” He did not know what to say. In truth, he was afraid of being hung.
Hung by the populace for waiting, hung by the cardinal for not having waited, he saw between the two dilemmas only an abyss; that is to say, a gallows.
Luckily, some one came to rescue him from his embarrassment, and assume the responsibility.
An individual who was standing beyond the railing, in the free space around the marble table, and whom no one had yet caught sight of, since his long, thin body was completely sheltered from every visual ray by the diameter of the pillar against which he was leaning; this individual, we say, tall, gaunt, pallid, blond, still young, although already wrinkled about the brow and cheeks, with brilliant eyes and a smiling mouth, clad in garments of black serge, worn and shining with age, approached the marble table, and made a sign to the poor sufferer. But the other was so confused that he did not see him. The new comer advanced another step.
“Jupiter,” said he, “my dear Jupiter!”
The other did not hear.
At last, the tall blond, driven out of patience, shrieked almost in his face,—
“Who calls me?” said Jupiter, as though awakened with a start.
“I,” replied the person clad in black.
“Ah!” said Jupiter.
“Begin at once,” went on the other. “Satisfy the populace; I undertake to appease the bailiff, who will appease monsieur the cardinal.”
Jupiter breathed once more.
“Messeigneurs the bourgeois,” he cried, at the top of his lungs to the crowd, which continued to hoot him, “we are going to begin at once.”
“Evoe Jupiter! Plaudite cives! All hail, Jupiter! Applaud, citizens!” shouted the scholars.
“Noel! Noel! good, good,” shouted the people.
The hand clapping was deafening, and Jupiter had already withdrawn under his tapestry, while the hall still trembled with acclamations.
In the meanwhile, the personage who had so magically turned the tempest into dead calm, as our old and dear Corneille puts it, had modestly retreated to the half-shadow of his pillar, and would, no doubt, have remained invisible there, motionless, and mute as before, had he not been plucked by the sleeve by two young women, who, standing in the front row of the spectators, had noticed his colloquy with Michel Giborne-Jupiter.
“Master,” said one of them, making him a sign to approach. “Hold your tongue, my dear Liénarde,” said her neighbor, pretty, fresh, and very brave, in consequence of being dressed up in her best attire. “He is not a clerk, he is a layman; you must not say master to him, but messire.”