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As Pierre Gringoire nears the Place de Grève, he realizes that he feels extremely cold. He also notices a large crowd of people who have assembled around a fire. As they warm themselves by the fire, they watch the dance of an elegant and beautiful young gypsy. They also watch as she makes her trained goat, named Djali, perform tricks for the crowd. The performer is La Esmeralda, the same gypsy that earlier entered the Great Hall and interrupted the play.
As Gringoire surveys the scene, he spies a bald man, who is standing alone at a distance from the crowd, as he watches the performance. When the gypsy stops dancing, the onlookers applaud with great enthusiasm. The strange, bald man accuses La Esmeralda of witchcraft. Trying to ignore his comments, she begins to collect money for her performance. As she works the crowd, an old woman, who is locked up in Rolande’s Tower, screams at her to go away and calls her a "gypsy wench." Since Gringoire has no money to contribute, he takes advantage of the strange man’s loud accusations and the old woman’s cries to slip away unnoticed.
As Gringoire is departing, the procession of the Pope of Fools enters Place de Grève. The bald man, who accused the gypsy girl of witchcraft, snatches the crosier of gilt wood from Quasimodo’s hands. It turns out that the old man is Dom Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Josas. A resident of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, he is also Quasimodo’s master. When Quasimodo sees his master, he leaps from the procession, approaches Frollo, and bows his head before the priest in a gesture of humility. No one tries to stop the Pope of Fools as he leaves the procession to follow his master home.
As the crowd moves on, a thoughtful Gringoire continues on his way, wondering where he will have his next meal.
La Esmeralda, the main female character of the book, is more fully developed in this chapter. Hugo describes her physical beauty in extensive detail, calling her a fairy and an angel. The large crowd, which has gathered around her as she dances and performs tricks with her goat, responds positively to her great beauty. They watch her performance in mesmerized fascination.
Dom Claude Frollo, a priest who resides at Notre Dame, watches the gypsy’s performance from a distance. When she stops dancing, the priest accuses La Esmeralda of witchcraft. Seeming to be familiar with her, he appears to passionately dislike her. In a similar manner, the woman locked in Rolande’s Tower expresses her dislike of La Esmeralda. In contrast, Gringoire is surprised that he is fascinated by La Esmeralda and her performance; but his artist’s heart is genuinely touched by her exquisite beauty and by her talent.
As Gringoire departs from the Place de Grève, the procession of the Priest of Fools enters. When Quasimodo spies Claude Frollo, his master, he quickly leaves the procession, bows before the priest, and follows him towards Notre Dame. No one tries to stop him, for they understand that Frollo exercises complete control over the hunchback bell ringer.
Hugo’s juxtaposition of the description of La Esmeralda and Quasimodo is clearly intentional. The beauty of La Esmeralda is meant to be a total contrast to the grotesque appearance of the deformed Quasimodo.