Book VII Chapter 1
It is warm day in the early part of March, several weeks following Quasimodo's ordeal. In a balcony of a house across from Notre Dame three young heireses are gossiping. One of the girls, Fleur-de-Lys is the daughter of the widow of the house and her two companions are girls who have been sent to Paris to seek the honor of becoming bridesmaids in the approaching wedding of the Dauphin and the Dauphiness Marguerite. The widow Gondelaurier is a grand old lady whose husband was the master of the king's crossbowmen. She is seated in the opulent apartment adjacent to the balcony and beside her is a handsome young soldier, Fleur de Lys' fianc�, whose good looks makes ladies swoon but whose manner makes discerning men shake their heads. The three young ladies are at work upon an enormous tapestry and they whisper gossip and laugh coquettishly in the presence of the handsome young man. For his part, the soldier seems uninterested in the girls and his manner suggests constraint and ennui. Fleur-de-Lys perceives her fianc�'s disinterest. Given an opportunity to whisper in his betrothed's ear the captain uses the occasion to criticize her mother's outdated fashion sense.
We learn that the captain was of noble birth but through his experience as a soldier he had come to enjoy the ribaldry of the garrison more than the polite society of the drawing room. He had at first been happy to be engaged to Fleur-de-Lys but as time had passed so had his interest which was distracted by easy lovers and rowdy nights. He was afraid that while in the presence of Fleur-de-Lys and her mother he might accidentally use base language so he could never fully relax in their presence.
Fleur-de-Lys' young sister notices a gypsy girl dancing in front of Notre Dame. The captain is, of course, Phoebus de Chateaupers and he immediately recognizes Esmeralda (though he doesn't know her name) by her goat. The little girl calls their attention to a black clothed man watching the gypsy girl intently from one of the cathedral's towers. They recognize the archdeacon Frollo who is as motionless as a statue. The young ladies urge Phoebus to invite the gypsy girl into their apartment to amuse them and Phoebus calls out to the "little girl." Esmeralda hears someone calling and looking upwards, recognizes Captain Phoebus. She blushes but takes up her tambourine and enters the apartment with her eyes respectfully downcast. Her natural beauty, however, immediately raises the ire of the three young ladies, particularly Fleur-de-Lys, who proceed to mock her. Phoebus asks if she remembers him and she answers that she does remember him. While the gypsy and the soldier discuss Quasimodo's possible motives Fleur de Lys observes that her supposedly cultured captain is able to communicate on a baser level than she thought possible. She and her friends proceed to make fun of Esmeralda's clothes. Phoebus blithely defends the gypsy and his fianc� is hurt by the knowledge that he favors Esmeralda. The group notices the goat and they ask her the meaning of a small sack tied around the animal's neck. Esmeralda replies that it is her secret. The women suggest that she should entertain them or leave. The gypsy girl slowly makes her way to the door but before she reaches it she turns to Phoebus and he sees that her eyes are swollen with tears. He asks her to stay and perform and dance and learns that her name is La Esmeralda, which draws sharp jibes from the ladies. Meanwhile, the young sister unties the sack from the goat's neck and dumps out a small wood block alphabet. The goat immediately arranges the letters to form the word "Phoebus". Fleur de Lys feints at the sight and the knowledge that the gypsy girl is a rival for the captain's love. Esmeralda turns pales and flees the apartment with her goat and Phoebus, after hesitating between his swooning fianc� and the departed gypsy, follows Esmeralda.