The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: Novel Summary: Book XI Chapter 1

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Esmeralda had awoken when the Truands attacked. She looked from her cell and saw the horrible sight of many beings attacking the church and imagined that it is the citizens come to carry her to the gallows. She was praying when two figures entered her cell. Pierre Gringoire announced himself and Djali immediately began giving him affection. The other figure stayed aloof and held a latern while Gringoire explained to the girl that he and his master were there to lead her to freedom. Esmeralda is afraid of the hooded stranger but trusts the poet so she agrees to follow. They descend to the rear of the church and the stranger pulls aside some latticework on the river to reveal a small boat. They board the boat and Esmeralda, still afraid of the stranger, sits close to the poet who holds Djali upon his lap. Gringoire runs his mouth while the stranger rows. When Grigoire relates the story of the young man thrown to his death on the precipice the stranger sighs in a voice terrifyingly familiar to Esmeralda. As they approach the opposite shore Grigoire considers that he cannot save both the girl and the goat. He assures himself that his master will take care of the girl so when the craft touches shore he flees with the goat. The man in black seizes Esmeralda who is too terrified to resist and pulls her to the Greve where she is to be hung. They hear the sound of pursuit. The priest reveals himself and tells Esmeralda that she must choose between him and the gibbet and the girl embraces the scaffold and tells him that it is less horrible to her than him. Frollo exclaims that he loves her still and he begins to weep. He tells himself that she is the cause of his wickedness and, moreover, because of her he has allowed his brother to be killed. He throws himself at her feet and begs for a word of kindness and she accuses him of being an assassin. She declares her love for Phoebus and Frollo drags her to the Sachette's cell. He calls to the old woman and her white bony hand darts from the cell to grasp Esmeralda's arm. The priest tells the Sachette to hold fast while he fetches the soldiers. To no avail, Esmeralda struggles to free herself. The half-crazed recluse explains that she hates Esemeralda because her own daughter was taken and eaten by the gypsies fifteen years before. Esmeralda hears horses approaching the square and begs the old woman for mercy. The recluse demands her child and shows Esmeralda the only relic of her little girl - the small, embroidered shoe. Esmeralda is shocked. She pulls from her amulet the mate to the little shoe and they cry out "Daughter" and "Mother!" The recluse pulls her to the bars of the cell and kisses her daughter and sobs convulsively. Suddenly she throws back her gray hair and pulls with all her might at the bars to no avail. She picks up the paving stone she uses for a pillow and hurls it against the grate breaking two of the bars. She pulls Esmeralda into the cell and paces the floor, exclaiming how pretty she is and making promises of the life they will lead on some land she inherited. They are interrupted by the arrival of soldiers. The recluse in her joy had forgotten that her daughter was condemned to die. She commands Esmeralda to hide in the corner of the cell. She tells the soldiers that the girl fled and the soldiers are satisfied with her explanation. One of the soldiers, however, asks why the bars of her cell are broken and her story begins to fall apart. She claims that a runaway cart broke her cell but this does not explain why the bars are bent outward. The watchman assures the commander that the recluse hates gypsies and it is doubtful she would be protecting one. The commander is about to leave with his men when another soldier asks permission to depart. The soldier is Phoebus and when Esmeralda hears his voice she rushes forward calling for him. Her mother screams and tries to restrain her but even though Phoebus has ridden off the commander has not and he sees Esmeralda in the cell. One of the soldiers asks the recluse for the girl but the recluse, hysterical and baring her claws, screams that there is nobody else in the cell. The soldiers get a pickaxe and begin to force entrance into the cell. As the walls of the cell begin to crumble, the recluse screams and pleads for mercy but the soldiers continue. When the soldiers enter she falls to her knees and with tears rolling down her cheeks tells them the whole sad story of her daughter and herself. When she is finished the commander has tears in his eyes as well but he orders that the King's wishes be carried out. The recluse collapses on her daughter and when the soldiers touch them they faint. The sun is well up and the townspeople gather to see what all the activity is about. In the distance two figures can be seen standing atop the tower of Notre Dame. The executioner, with tears in his eyes, gathers up Esmeralda and prepares her for the gibbet. The recluse awakes and rushes forward to bite the executioner's hand before she falls back to the ground dead.

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