The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version
3. History Of A Leavened Cake Of Maize
At the epoch of this history, the cell in the Tour-Roland was occupied. If the
reader desires to know by whom, he has only to lend an ear to the conversation
of three worthy gossips, who, at the moment when we have directed his attention
to the Rat-Hole, were directing their steps towards the same spot, coming up
along the water's edge from the Châtelet, towards the Grève.
Two of these women were dressed like good bourgeoises of Paris. Their fine
white ruffs; their petticoats of linsey- woolsey, striped red and blue; their white
knitted stockings, with clocks embroidered in colors, well drawn upon their legs;
the square-toed shoes of tawny leather with black soles, and, above all, their
headgear, that sort of tinsel horn, loaded down with ribbons and laces, which the
women of Champagne still wear, in company with the grenadiers of the imperial
guard of Russia, announced that they belonged to that class wives which holds
the middle ground between what the lackeys call a woman and what they term a
lady. They wore neither rings nor gold crosses, and it was easy to see that, in
their ease, this did not proceed from poverty, but simply from fear of being fined.
Their companion was attired in very much the same manner; but there was that
indescribable something about her dress and bearing which suggested the wife
of a provincial notary. One could see, by the way in which her girdle rose above
her hips, that she had not been long in Paris.--Add to this a plaited tucker, knots
of ribbon on her shoes--and that the stripes of her petticoat ran horizontally
instead of vertically, and a thousand other enormities which shocked good taste.
The two first walked with that step peculiar to Parisian ladies, showing Paris to
women from the country. The provincial held by the hand a big boy, who held in
his a large, flat cake.
We regret to be obliged to add, that, owing to the rigor of the season, he was
using his tongue as a handkerchief.
The child was making them drag him along, non passibus Cequis, as Virgil says,
and stumbling at every moment, to the great indignation of his mother. It is true
that he was looking at his cake more than at the pavement. Some serious
motive, no doubt, prevented his biting it (the cake), for he contented himself with
gazing tenderly at it. But the mother should have rather taken charge of the cake.
It was cruel to make a Tantalus of the chubby-checked boy.
Meanwhile, the three demoiselles (for the name of dames was then reserved for
noble women) were all talking at once.
"Let us make haste, Demoiselle Mahiette," said the youngest of the three, who
was also the largest, to the provincial, "I greatly fear that we shall arrive too late;
they told us at the Châtelet that they were going to take him directly to the
"Ah, bah! what are you saying, Demoiselle Oudarde Musnier?" interposed the
other Parisienne. "There are two hours yet to the pillory. We have time enough.
Have you ever seen any one pilloried, my dear Mahiette?"
"Yes," said the provincial, "at Reims."