Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview
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II
THE RAT-HOLE

WITH the reader's permission, we shall now go back to the Place de Grève, which we left yesterday with Gringoire in order to follow la Esmeralda.

It is ten o'clock in the morning. There are signs everywhere of the day after a public holiday. The roadway is covered with litter, ribbons, scraps of cloth, feathers from plumes, drops of wax from torches, crumbs from the public banquet. A good many townsfolk are strolling about, stirring the charred brands of the bonfire with their feet, going into raptures before the Maison-aux-Piliers, recalling the fine hangings of the previous day as they look this morning at the nails, all that remains of that pleasure. The beer and cider vendors are rolling their barrels among the groups of people. A few passers-by come and go about their business. Tradesmen chat and call out to each other from the doorway of their shops. The festivities, the ambassadors, Coppenole, the Pope of Fools, are on everyone's lips, each trying to outdo the others in apt comment and hearty laughter. Meanwhile, four mounted sergeants who have just stationed themselves at the four corners of the pillory have already concentrated around them a fair proportion of the populace scattered across the square, who condemn themselves to boredom and immobility in the hope of seeing some minor punishment executed.

If the reader, after contemplating the lively, noisy scene being played out in every part of the square, will now turn his eyes on to that ancient half-Gothic, half-Romanesque house of the Tour-Roland, which stands at the western corner of the quayside, he will observe in the angle of the façade a large public breviary, richly illuminated, protected from the rain by a little canopy, and from thieves by a grille, which, however, leaves room to turn the pages. Beside this breviary is a narrow, pointed window, closed by two inter

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