A TEAR FOR A DROP OF WATER
THESE words were, so to speak, the point of intersection of two scenes which had up to then developed in parallel, simultaneously, each on its own stage; the one, which you have just read, at the Rat-hole, the other, which you are about to read, on the ladder of the pillory. The only witnesses to the first were the three women whose acquaintance the reader has just made; the spectators of the second were all the people whom we saw earlier, collecting in the Place de Grève around the pillory and the gibbet.
That crowd had been led to expect some sort of execution from the presence of the four sergeants posted since nine in the morning at each corner of the pillory, doubtless not a hanging, but a whipping, an ear-cropping, in a word, something; that crowd had swollen so rapidly that the four sergeants, hemmed in too closely, had more than once needed to 'compress' it, as the expression then went, by laying about them with their cudgels and backing their horses into it.
This mass of people, well trained in waiting for public executions, were not showing signs of undue impatience. They amused themselves looking at the pillory, a very simple sort of monument consisting of a cube of masonry some ten feet high, hollow inside. A very steep set of rough stone steps, known as the 'ladder' par excellence, led to the upper platform, on which could be seen a horizontal wheel of solid oak. The victim was fastened on to this wheel, kneeling, with his arms behind his back. A timber shaft, activated by a capstan concealed inside the small structure, set the wheel rotating, always fixed in a horizontal plane, and thus presented the condemned man's face to each corner of the square in succession. This was termed 'turning' a criminal.
As you can see, the pillory in the Grève was a long way from affording all the entertainment of the pillory in the