Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview

III
THREE CHEERS FOR PLEASURE!

THE reader may perhaps not have forgotten that part of the Court of Miracles was enclosed by the ancient town wall, a good number of whose towers were beginning at that time to fall into ruin. One of these towers had been converted by the truands into a place of entertainment. There was a tavern in the lower room, and the rest on the floors above. This tower was the most lively, and thus the most hideous, spot in the truanderie. It was a sort of monstrous hive, humming day and night. At night, when all the rest of the beggars' realm was asleep, when not one window in the grubby façades of the square remained lit, when there was not a cry to be heard from the hundreds of households, those swarms of thieves, harlots, and stolen or bastard children, the pleasure tower could always be identified by the noise coming from it and from the scarlet glare which, radiating at once from air-vents, windows, and fissures in the cracked walls, leaked out, so to speak, from all its pores.

The cellar, then, was the tavern. The way down to it was by a low door and stairs as steep and rigid as a Classical Alexandrine. On the door, by way of a sign, there was a monstrous daub representing newly minted sols and slaughtered chickens, with this pun underneath: Aux sonneurs pour les trépassés [At the ringers for the dead].

One evening, just as the curfew was ringing out from all the belfries in Paris, the sergeants of the watch, had they been granted admission to the fearsome Court of Miracles, might have noticed that the uproar in the truands' tavern was even greater than usual, that there was more drinking and more swearing. Outside in the square a good number of groups were talking together in low tones, as when some great scheme is afoot, and here and there a rascal squatted down, sharpening some sorry iron blade on a paving-stone.

-431-

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