THE DISADVANTAGES OF FOLLOWING A PRETTY WOMAN THROUGH THE STREETS AT NIGHT
GRINGOIRE, trusting entirely to luck, had begun following the gypsy girl. He had seen her and her goat take the rue de la Coutellerie; he had taken the rue de la Coutellerie.
'Why not?' he had said to himself.
Gringoire, as a practical philosopher of the Paris streets, had noticed that nothing is more conducive to reverie than following a pretty woman without knowing where she is going. In this voluntary abdication of one's own free will, in this fancy submitting to another's quite unsuspecting fancy, there is a mixture of capricious independence and blind obedience, an indefinable middle term between slavery and freedom, which was to Gringoire's liking, with his essentially mixed, indecisive and complex mind, holding tenuously to every extreme, suspended between every human propensity, cancelling out one by another. He liked to compare himself to Mahomet's tomb, attracted in opposite directions by two lodestones, eternally hesitating between high and low, ceiling and floor, falling and rising, zenith and nadir.
If Gringoire were living in our day, what a fine balance he would have struck between Classic and Romantic!
But he was not primitive enough to live for three hundred years, more's the pity! His absence leaves a vacuum which is felt only too keenly today.
However, for following passers-by (especially female ones) through the streets, something Gringoire enjoyed doing, there is no better frame of mind.
He was therefore in reflective mood as he walked behind the girl, who quickened her pace and made her pretty goat fairly trot along as she saw the townsfolk going home and the taverns closing, for no other shops had been open that day. 'After all,' ran his thoughts, more or less, 'she must live somewhere; gypsy women are kind-hearted--who knows?'