CHAPTER 1. THE GRAND HALL.
Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen
days ago to-day, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all
the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and
the town ringing a full peal.
The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of which
history has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable
in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois
of Paris in a ferment from early morning. It was neither an
assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led
along in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of
Laas, nor an entry of "our much dread lord, monsieur the
king," nor even a pretty hanging of male and female thieves
by the courts of Paris. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent
in the fifteenth century, of some plumed and bedizened embassy.
It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of
that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with
concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite
of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance
of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleasing the
king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien
towards this whole rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and
to regale them at his Hôtel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty
morality, allegorical satire, and farce," while a driving rain
drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.
What put the "whole population of Paris in commotion," as
Jehan de Troyes expresses it, on the sixth of January, was
the double solemnity, united from time immemorial, of the
Epiphany and the Feast of Fools.
On that day, there was to be a bonfire on the Place de
Grève, a maypole at the Chapelle de Braque, and a mystery at
the Palais de Justice. It had been cried, to the sound of the
trumpet, the preceding evening at all the cross roads, by the
provost's men, clad in handsome, short, sleeveless coats of
violet camelot, with large white crosses upon their breasts.
So the crowd of citizens, male and female, having closed
their houses and shops, thronged from every direction, at
early morn, towards some one of the three spots designated.