Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

III
THE STORY OF A MAIZE CAKE

AT the time of which we are writing the Tour-Roland cell was occupied. If the reader wishes to know by whom, he has only to listen in to the conversation of three worthy gossips who, at the moment when we fixed our attention on the Rat-hole, were proceeding in the very same direction as they walked beside the river up from the Châtelet towards the Grève.

Two of these women were dressed like good townswomen of Paris. Their fine white gorgets, their red-and-white striped tiretaine skirts, their white knitted stockings, with coloured embroidery at the ankles, pulled trimly over the leg, their square shoes of fawn leather with black soles, and especially their headdress, a sort of tinsel horn loaded with ribbons and lace, such as women still wear in Champagne, in common with the grenadiers of the Russian Imperial Guard, proclaimed that they belonged to that class of rich tradespeople which comes midway between what servants call 'a woman' and what they call 'a lady'. They did not wear rings, or gold crosses, and it was easy to see that in their case this was due not to poverty but quite simply for fear of incurring a fine. Their companion was got up in much the same way, but there was something about her dress and bearing which had a whiff of the country lawyer's wife. You could see from the way her belt came up above her hips that she had not been long in Paris. Add to that a pleated gorget, ribbon-bows on her shoes, the stripes on her skirt running horizontally and not vertically, and countless other enormities offensive to good taste.

The first two women walked with the step peculiar to Parisians showing provincials around Paris. The provincial woman held a stout lad by the hand, and he in turn held a large cake.

-223-

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