CHAPTER 3. HISTORY OF A LEAVENED CAKE OF MAIZE.
At the epoch of this history, the cell in the Tour-Roland
was occupied. If the reader desires to know by whom, he
has only to lend an ear to the conversation of three worthy
gossips, who, at the moment when we have directed his
attention to the Rat-Hole, were directing their steps
towards the same spot, coming up along the water's edge
from the Châtelet, towards the Grève.
Two of these women were dressed like good bourgeoises of
Paris. Their fine white ruffs; their petticoats of linsey-
woolsey, striped red and blue; their white knitted stockings,
with clocks embroidered in colors, well drawn upon their
legs; the square-toed shoes of tawny leather with black soles,
and, above all, their headgear, that sort of tinsel horn,
loaded down with ribbons and laces, which the women of Champagne
still wear, in company with the grenadiers of the imperial
guard of Russia, announced that they belonged to that class
wives which holds the middle ground
between what the lackeys call a woman and what they term a
lady. They wore neither rings nor gold crosses, and it was
easy to see that, in their ease, this did not proceed from
poverty, but simply from fear of being fined. Their companion
was attired in very much the same manner; but there was
that indescribable something about her dress and bearing
which suggested the wife of a provincial notary. One could
see, by the way in which her girdle rose above her hips, that
she had not been long in Paris.--Add to this a plaited tucker,
knots of ribbon on her shoes--and that the stripes of her
petticoat ran horizontally instead of vertically, and a
thousand other enormities which shocked good taste.
The two first walked with that step peculiar to Parisian
ladies, showing Paris to women from the country. The
provincial held by the hand a big boy, who held in his a
large, flat cake.
We regret to be obliged to add, that, owing to the rigor of
the season, he was using his tongue as a handkerchief.
The child was making them drag him along, non passibus
Cequis, as Virgil says, and stumbling at every moment, to the
great indignation of his mother. It is true that he was
looking at his cake more than at the pavement. Some serious
motive, no doubt, prevented his biting it (the cake), for he
contented himself with gazing tenderly at it. But the mother
should have rather taken charge of the cake. It was cruel to
make a Tantalus of the chubby-checked boy.