Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Book VI

By Victor Hugo

Book VI

Chapter 1: An Impartial Look at the Ancient Administration of Justice

  • We start the chapter with a look at Robert d'Estouteville, the Provost of Paris. Usually he's a pretty happy guy who leads a good life, but today he just so happens to be in a bad mood.
  • At the Grand Châtelet where he hears cases, the trials of the day have already begun under Master Florian Barbedienne, the auditor.
  • Now, there is one tiny problem with Master Florian: it turns out he's deaf. This is a problem when your job is to hear cases, but he does his darndest to fake it.
  • Well, how about that? In the court's audience today is Jehan, who likes to provide running commentary on the proceedings; and up at the bar is our very own Quasimodo.
  • Master Florian tries to question Quasimodo, but Quasimodo is deaf, so he doesn't answer. Since Master Florian is also deaf, he keeps going like it's business as usual.
  • The court finds this hilarious, and on noticing their laughter, Master Florian assumes that Quasimodo has said something offensive and gets all indignant and angry.
  • At this point, the Provost enters the court and, on seeing the mayhem, assumes that it's Quasimodo's fault. He asks Quasimodo what his crime was, and Quasimodo assumes that he is asking his name. The wrong-side-of-the-bed Provost doles out a harsh sentence: Quasimodo is to be flogged and then turned for an hour at the pillory. He even gets the sentence extended when Jehan in the audience swears, and the Provost assumes it's Quasimodo doing the swearing.
  • The clerk, who has been witnessing all this, leans into the auditor's ear and whispers that Quasimodo is deaf. But the auditor, who has no idea what the clerk just said, pretends that it was something unflattering on Quasimodo's part and adds another hour to his sentence.
  • So much for justice.

Chapter 2: The Rat Hole

  • Now we jump to the Place de Grève, and particularly to the building known as the Tour-Roland, where there is a small room with no door and one window.
  • A certain Madame Roland holed herself up in this room for twenty years to pray for the soul of her dead father. The people of Paris found this to be very pious.
  • Since Madame Roland's death, the place was given to grieving women who felt that the best use of their time was to waste away in the cold and dark.
  • Rooms like these apparently weren't uncommon during the Middle Ages. This one in particular has been dubbed by the people of Paris the "Rat Hole."

Chapter 3: The Story of a Cake

  • Now we're going to eavesdrop on three women on their way to the Rat Hole. Two of the women are well-to-do Parisians, based on how they are fashionably dressed. The third's clothes are a bit last season, so she's probably from the country. This last woman also has with her a little boy, who is carrying a cake that he now and again looks at longingly.
  • The three women are hurrying to the Place de Grève so that they can watch Quasimodo be put in the pillory—that's pretty much the Middles Ages equivalent of TV. We find out that the country woman is named Mahiette and that she is from Reims.
  • The two Parisian women, Oudarde Musnier and Gervaise, make some passive-aggressive comments about people Reims as if they're New Yorkers talking about people from Ohio, but then get into a heated argument about where the Flemish ambassadors had dinner.
  • Mahiette notices a crowd gathered at the foot of the bridge. Gervaise says that it's probably Esmeralda dancing.
  • Mahiette hurries them all away because she is worried that gypsies steal children.
  • Oudarde notes that the Sack Woman, which is what they call the woman in the Rat Hole, is also obsessed with the idea that all gypsies are child-stealers.
  • The two women ask Mahiette why she is so scared of gypsies, so Mahiette tells them the story of Paquette la Chantefleurie.
  • Paquette was a young woman in Reims whose father, a minstrel, died while she was an infant. Her mother didn't teach Paquette how to do much other than sew, so they didn't have much money.
  • Paquette was definitely the hottest girl in town, and when she was fourteen, she started to take lovers. Her first lovers were all wealthy, vicomtes and lords and whatnot, but as time went on, she took on men of lower and lower status.
  • At this point in her life, Paquette was alone and miserable in the world and wanted nothing more than a child. She finally had a baby girl and smothered her with love. She embroidered some pink slippers for the baby, who apparently had amazing baby-feet. Feet aside, she was also a beautiful baby in general.
  • So, one day a band of gypsies camped out on the outskirts of Reims, and even though everyone was all "Don't go near them!", they all secretly did, because they liked having their fortunes told.
  • Paquette took her baby daughter to the gypsies so that they could tell her all about the great life that she would lead.
  • The next day, Paquette slipped out for a little bit to talk to a neighbor, and when she returned, her daughter was gone. Nothing remained of her but a pink slipper.
  • Paquette rushed all over town looking for her child, and when she finally returned home, the neighbors said that they heard cries coming from her house.
  • Thinking that her baby had been returned, Paquette ran upstairs only to find a deformed, one-eyed, limping child crawling around her floor. This put her over the edge.
  • The gypsies, meanwhile, had left, leaving only the remains of a large fire and some ribbons that had belonged to Paquette's child. People assume that the gypsies ate the baby, because apparently gypsies are like dingos.
  • After this discovery, Paquette simply disappeared. It is said that she either left Reims for Paris or drowned herself.
  • Gervaise asks what became of the monster left in the baby's place. Turns out the Archbishop sent him to Notre-Dame to be left as a foundling. What a coincidence.
  • At this point, the three women are at the Tour-Roland, and Eustache, the little boy, asks his mother if he can eat the cake. The point of the entire errand was actually to give the cake to the Sack Woman, but they had kind of forgotten all about that.
  • The three women go to peek into the window of the cell. They see a woman with long grey hair sitting in a corner and wearing only a sack against the cold. She doesn't seem to be aware of anything around her.
  • Mahiette recognizes her as Paquette la Chantefleurie when she sees her clutching a little pink slipper.
  • The three woman call to her, but she doesn't seem to hear them until Eustache says something. At the sound of a child's voice the woman wakes up.
  • The women try to give her the cake and some wine, but the Sack Woman only wants bread and water. She tells them to take the child away so that the gypsies will not steal him and then falls to the floor like she is dead.
  • The three women call to her, and then Mahiette gets the brilliant idea to call her by Paquette la Chantefleurie. At this, the woman jumps to her feet and runs to the window, bellowing curses and declaring that the gypsy has called her.

Chapter 4: A Tear for a Drop of Water

  • Meanwhile, a crowd has gathered around the pillory at the Place de Grève. The pillory is a wheel on which a person is tied, and then the wheel rotates to display them to the crowd. It's public shaming to the max.
  • Quasimodo is brought to the pillory. The tables have been totally turned for him because the same crowd that proclaimed him their pope the day before is now jeering at him.
  • Quasimodo is stripped and tied to the pillory. Through it all, he acts as though he is oblivious to what's going on.
  • The royal torturer, aptly named Pierrat Torterue, sets down an hourglass and produces a leather whip tipped with metal bits. Yikes.
  • As the pillory starts to rotate, Master Pierrat whips Quasimodo's back whenever it is exposed to him.
  • Quasimodo seems to finally react to what is happening to him, but then he quickly seems to just give up. After the hourglass runs out, the whipping stops, but he still has another hour in the pillory to go.
  • The crowd is pretty pitiless about hurling insults and stones at poor Quasimodo. But then he sees Claude Frollo coming towards him, and it's like a moment of hope. But when Frollo recognizes Quasimodo, he just wheels around and leaves. Ouch.
  • This is too much for Quasimodo, who struggles in his bonds and asks for water. The crowd finds this plea hilarious.
  • But then who should step out from the throng? That's right: Esmeralda. She goes up to the pillory and gives him a gourd of water to drink from.
  • This act seems to move the crowd. They suddenly decide that they are on Esmeralda's side and cheer, but this also elicits loud curses from the Sack Woman.

Chapter 5: The End of the Story of the Cake

  • The crowd grumbles at how the Sack Woman's cries totally ruined the moment, and they disperse now that the show is over.
  • Meanwhile, Mahiette suddenly realizes that the cake is gone. Eustache ended up eating it while everyone was distracted.