Now, Grainier, being a practical philosopher of the streets of Paris, had observed that nothing is more conducive to pleasant reverie than to follow a pretty woman without knowing where she is going. There is in this voluntary abdication of ones free-will, in this subordination of ones whim to that of another person who is totally unconscious of ones proceedings, a mixture of fanciful independence and blind obedience, an indefinable something between slavery and freedom which appealed to Grainier, whose mind was essentially mixed, vacillating, and complex, touching in turn all extremes, hanging continually suspended between all human propensities, and letting one neutralize the other. He was fond of comparing himself to Mahomets coffin, attracted equally by two loadstones, and hesitating eternally between heaven and earth, between the roof and the pavement, between the fall and the ascension, between the zenith and the nadir.
Had Grainier lived in our day, how admirably he would have preserved the golden mean between the classical and the romantic. But he was not primitive enough to live three hundred years, a fact much to be deplored; his absence creates a void only too keenly felt in these days.
He therefore walked all pensively after the girl, who quickened her pace, making her pretty little goat trot beside her, as she saw the townsfolk going home, and the tavernsthe only shops that had been open that daypreparing to close.
Bah, Maître Thibaut! it is nothing to the winter of 1407when there was frost from Martinmas to Candlemas, and so sharp that at every third word the ink froze in the pen of the registrar of the parliament, which interrupted the recording of the judgments
Fortunately he soon picked it up again, and had no difficulty in resuming it, thanks to the gipsy and to Djali, who continued to walk before himtwo graceful, delicate creatures, whose small feet, pretty forms, and engaging ways he admired exceedingly, almost confounding them in his contemplation: regarding them for their intelligence and good fellowship both as girls, while for their sure-footed, light and graceful gait, they might both have been goats.
Meanwhile the streets were momentarily becoming darker and more deserted. Curfew had rung long ago, and it was only at rare intervals that one encountered a foot-passenger in the street or a light in a window. In following the gipsy, Grainier had become involved in that inextricable maze of alleys, lanes, and culs-de-sac which surrounds the ancient burial-ground of the Holy Innocents, and which resembles nothing so much as a skein of cotton ravelled by a kitten.
Very illogical streets, i faith! said Grainier, quite lost in the thousand windings which seemed forever to return upon themselves, but through which the girl followed a path apparently quite familiar to her, and at an increasingly rapid pace. For his part, he would have been perfectly ignorant of his whereabouts, had he not caught sight at a turning of the octagonal mass of the pillory of the Halles, the perforated top of which was outlined sharply against a solitary lighted window in the Rue Verdelet.
For some moments the girl had been aware of his presence, turning round two or three times uneasily; once, even, she had stopped short, and taking advantage of a ray of light from a half-open bakehouse door, had scanned him steadily from head to foot; then, with the little pouting grimace which Grainier had already noticed, she had proceeded on her way.
That little moue gave Grainier food for reflection. There certainly was somewhat of disdain and mockery in that captivating grimace. In consequence he hung his head and began to count the paving-stones, and to follow the girl at a more respectful distance. Suddenly, at a street corner which for the moment had caused him to lose sight of her, he heard her utter a piercing shriek. He hastened forward. The street was very dark, but a twist of cotton steeped in oil that burned behind an iron grating at the feet of an image of the Virgin, enabled Grainier to descry the gipsy struggling in the arms of two men who were endeavouring to stifle her cries. The poor, frightened little goat lowered its horns and bleated piteously.
Quasimodo came at him, dealt him a blow that hurled him four paces off on the pavement, and disappeared rapidly into the darkness, carrying off the girl hanging limply over one of his arms like a silken scarf. His companion followed him, and the poor little goat ran after them bleating piteously.
He snatched the gipsy from the grasp of the stupefied Quasimodo and laid her across his saddle; and as the redoubtable hunchback, recovered from his surprise, was about to throw himself upon him and recover his prey, fifteen or sixteen archers who had followed close upon their captain appeared, broadsword in hand. It was a detachment going the night rounds by order of M. dEstouteville, commandant of the Provostry of Paris.
Quasimodo was instantly surrounded, seized, and bound. He roared, he foamed, he bit, and had it been daylight, no doubt his face alone, rendered still more hideous by rage, would have put the whole detachment to flight. But darkness deprived him of his most formidable weaponhis ugliness.
The gipsy girl sat up lightly on the officers saddle, put her two hands on the young mans shoulders, and regarded him fixedly for several seconds, obviously charmed by his good looks and grateful for the service he had just rendered her.
Thank you, she replied; and while Monsieur the Captain was occupied in twirling his mustache à la Burguignonne, she slid from the saddle like a falling arrow and was goneno lightning could have vanished more rapidly.