The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: Novel Summary: Book VI Chapter 3

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On the morning that Quasimodo was to be pilloried at the Place de Greve, three women were walking rapidly to the square to see the punishment. Two of the women were from Paris and belonged to the rich middle-class of trade families. The third was also wealthy but from the countryside and pulled behind her son who was carrying a large, thin wafer cake which he eyed carefully but did not eat. As they walked the women compared the worthiness of the Parisian pillory and the one in Reims (where the country lady was from) and the quality of the Flemish ambassadors. The two Parisian women fall into an argument as to where the Flemish had supped the night before, each with her own sources of information. Suddenly they see a gathering of people and they surmise that little Esmeralda is putting on a show. They hasten to see the performance and the countrywoman holds her son Eustache, tighter for fear that the gypsy will steal him. The city women observe that the Sachette, which is the term for the woman interred in the Tour-Roland cell holds the same belief concerning gypsies. The countrywoman tells the city women a story from her town concerning Paquette-la-Chanterfleurie who was a pretty girl of eighteen whose family fell on hard times. She gave herself to various officials and in 1466 gave birth to a little girl. Though she was very poor she loved the child with all her heart and took many lovers in order to provide the child, whom she named Agnes, with fine clothes including an exquisite pair of rose colored shoes. One day a band of gypsies came to town to tell fortunes. The mother grew curious and took her daughter to see the gypsies and the gypsy women made a great fuss over her and prophesied that she would be a queen of virtue. The next day she left the child sleeping in her room and went to tell her neighbors of the wonderful prophecy. When she returned, however, the child was gone and only a single shoe remained. She went through the street crying for her child and spent the day hysterically searching to no avail. That afternoon her neighbors saw two gypsy women enter her room with a bundle. When the mother returned she found a horribly misshapen child squalling on the floor. The neighbors removed the monster child and the mother collapsed upon the remaining shoe as if she were dead. Suddenly she jumped up and ran into the street crying "To the gypsy's camp" but the gypsies were gone. The next day the searchers found the remains of a large fire, some ribbons that had belonged to Paquette's child, some drops of blood and some goat's dung. The townspeople deduced that the gypsies had eaten her child and the next day the mother's hair turned gray and the day after that she disappeared. The monster child was exorcised by the Archbishop and sent to Notre Dame for adoption.
The three women arrive at the Place de Greve to view the day's punishment. Eustache begs permission to eat the cake, which reminds the women that they should have stopped at the Trou-aux-Rats to offer the cake to the recluse. They go there and one of the city women looks through the window-hole and sees the Sachette in deep prayer, her eyes fixed upon a point in the wall. The countrywoman looks and is shocked to realize that she recognizes the Sachette. She explains to her city friends that the woman is none other than Paquette and calls their attention to the small rose colored shoe upon which the unhappy recluse projects her prayers. The women all shed tears at the realization and all three kneel to pray. The women call to the recluse but she does not hear them. Only when Eustache demands to see the recluse as well does she stir and the sound of the child makes her very unhappy. "O my God," she cries, "at least don't show me those of others." The recluse refuses all offers of hospitality and asks for only black bread and water. The recluse admonishes them to remove the child because the gypsy girl is coming and she curses the gypsy girl with all her might.

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