The Mishaps Consequent on Following a Pretty Woman Through the Streets at Night
At a venture, Gringoire set off to follow the gipsy girl. He had seen her and her goat turn into the Rue de la Coutellerie, so he too turned down the Rue de la Coutellerie.
Why not? said he to himself.
Now, Gringoire, being a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris, had observed that nothing is more conducive to pleasant reverie than to follow a pretty woman without knowing where she is going. There is in this voluntary abdication of ones free-will, in this subordination of ones whim to that of another person who is totally unconscious of ones proceedings, a mixture of fanciful independence and blind obedience, an indefinable something between slavery and freedom which appealed to Gringoire, whose mind was essentially mixed, vacillating, and complex, touching in turn all extremes, hanging continually suspended between all human propensities, and letting one neutralize the other. He was fond of comparing himself to Mahomets coffin, attracted equally by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally between heaven and earth, between the roof and the pavement, between the fall and the ascension, between the zenith and the nadir.
Had Gringoire lived in our day, how admirably he would have preserved the golden mean between the classical and the romantic. But he was not primitive enough to live three hundred years, a fact much to be deplored; his absence creates a void only too keenly felt in these days.
For the rest, nothing disposes one more readily to follow passengers through the streetsespecially female ones, as Gringoire had a weakness for doingthan not to know where to find a bed.
He therefore walked all pensively after the girl, who quickened her pace, making her pretty little goat trot beside her, as she saw the townsfolk going home, and the taverns the only shops that had been open that daypreparing to close.
After all, he thought, she must lodge somewhere gipsy women are kind-heartedwho knows ?
And he filled in the asterisks which followed this discreet break with I know not what engaging fancies.
Meanwhile, from time to time, as he passed the last groups of burghers closing their doors, he caught scraps of their conversation which broke the charmed spell of his happy imaginings.
Now it was two old men accosting each other:
Maître Thibaut Fernicle, do you know that it is very cold? (Gringoire had known it ever since the winter set in.)
You are right there, Maître Boniface Disome. Are we going to have another winter like three years ago, in 80, when wood cost eight sols a load?
Bah, Maître Thibaut! it is nothing to the winter of 1407 when there was frost from Martinmas to Candlemas, and so sharp that at every third word the ink froze in the pen of the registrar of the parliament, which interrupted the recording of the judgments
Farther on were two gossips at their windows with candles that spluttered in the foggy air.
Has your husband told you of the accident, Mlle. La Boudraque?
No; what is it, Mlle. Turquant?
Why, the horse of M. Gilles Godin, notary at the Châtelet, was startled by the Flemings and their procession and knocked down Maître Phillipot Avrillot, a Celestine lay-brother.
Is that so?
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