CHAPTER 4. THE INCONVENIENCES OF FOLLOWING A PRETTY WOMAN THROUGH THE STREETS IN THE EVENING.
Gringoire set out to follow the gypsy at all hazards. He
had seen her, accompanied by her goat, take to the Rue de la
Coutellerie; he took the Rue de la Coutellerie.
"Why not?" he said to himself.
Gringoire, a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris,
had noticed that nothing is more propitious to revery than
following a pretty woman without knowing whither she is
going. There was in this voluntary abdication of his freewill,
in this fancy submitting itself to another fancy, which
suspects it not, a mixture of fantastic independence and blind
obedience, something indescribable, intermediate between slavery
and liberty, which pleased Gringoire,--a spirit essentially
compound, undecided, and complex, holding the extremities of
all extremes, incessantly suspended between all human propensities,
and neutralizing one by the other. He was fond of comparing
himself to Mahomet's coffin, attracted in two different
directions by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally
between the heights and the depths, between the vault and the
pavement, between fall and ascent, between zenith and nadir.
If Gringoire had lived in our day, what a fine middle course
he would hold between classicism and romanticism!
But he was not sufficiently primitive to live three hundred
years, and 'tis a pity. His absence is a void which is but too
sensibly felt to-day.
Moreover, for the purpose of thus following passers-by (and
especially female passers-by) in the streets, which Gringoire
was fond of doing, there is no better disposition than ignorance
of where one is going to sleep.
So he walked along, very thoughtfully, behind the young
girl, who hastened her pace and made her goat trot as she
saw the bourgeois returning home and the taverns--the only
shops which had been open that day--closing.
"After all," he half thought to himself, "she must lodge
somewhere; gypsies have kindly hearts. Who knows?--"
And in the points of suspense which he placed after this reticence
in his mind, there lay I know not what flattering ideas.