CHAPTER 2. THE RAT-HOLE.
The reader must permit us to take him back to the Place
de Grève, which we quitted yesterday with Gringoire, in
order to follow la Esmeralda.
It is ten o'clock in the morning; everything is indicative of
the day after a festival. The pavement is covered with rubbish;
ribbons, rags, feathers from tufts of plumes, drops of wax
from the torches, crumbs of the public feast. A goodly
number of bourgeois are "sauntering," as we say, here and
there, turning over with their feet the extinct brands of
the bonfire, going into raptures in front of the Pillar House,
over the memory of the fine hangings of the day before, and
to-day staring at the nails that secured them a last pleasure.
The venders of cider and beer are rolling their barrels among
the groups. Some busy passers-by come and go. The merchants
converse and call to each other from the thresholds of
their shops. The festival, the ambassadors, Coppenole, the
Pope of the Fools, are in all mouths; they vie with each
other, each trying to criticise it best and laugh the most.
And, meanwhile, four mounted sergeants, who have just
posted themselves at the four sides of the pillory, have
already concentrated around themselves a goodly proportion
of the populace scattered on the Place, who condemn themselves
to immobility and fatigue in the hope of a small execution.
If the reader, after having contemplated this lively and
noisy scene which is being enacted in all parts of the Place,
will now transfer his gaze towards that ancient demi-Gothic,
demi-Romanesque house of the Tour-Roland, which forms the
corner on the quay to the west, he will observe, at the angle
of the façade, a large public breviary, with rich illuminations,
protected from the rain by a little penthouse, and from thieves
by a small grating, which, however, permits of the leaves being
turned. Beside this breviary is a narrow, arched window,
closed by two iron bars in the form of a cross, and looking on
the square; the only opening which admits a small quantity
of light and air to a little cell without a door, constructed on
the ground-floor, in the thickness of the walls of the old house,
and filled with a peace all the more profound, with a silence
all the more gloomy, because a public place, the most populous
and most noisy in Paris swarms and shrieks around it.