CHAPTER 6. THE BROKEN JUG.
This exclamation afforded him a little solace, and a sort of
reddish reflection which he caught sight of at that moment, at
the extremity of a long and narrow lane, completed the elevation
of his moral tone. "God be praised!" said he, "There
it is yonder! There is my pallet burning." And comparing
himself to the pilot who suffers shipwreck by night, "Salve,"
he added piously, "salve, maris stella!"
Did he address this fragment of litany to the Holy Virgin,
or to the pallet? We are utterly unable to say.
He had taken but a few steps in the long street, which
sloped downwards, was unpaved, and more and more muddy
and steep, when he noticed a very singular thing. It was
not deserted; here and there along its extent crawled certain
vague and formless masses, all directing their course towards
the light which flickered at the end of the street, like those
heavy insects which drag along by night, from blade to blade
of grass, towards the shepherd's fire.
Nothing renders one so adventurous as not being able to
feel the place where one's pocket is situated. Gringoire
continued to advance, and had soon joined that one of the forms
which dragged along most indolently, behind the others. On
drawing near, he perceived that it was nothing else than a
wretched legless cripple in a bowl, who was hopping along on
his two hands like a wounded field-spider which has but two
legs left. At the moment when he passed close to this species
of spider with a human countenance, it raised towards
him a lamentable voice: "La buona mancia, signor! la buona
"Deuce take you," said Gringoire, "and me with you, if I
know what you mean!"
And he passed on.
He overtook another of these itinerant masses, and examined
it. It was an impotent man, both halt and crippled,
and halt and crippled to such a degree that the complicated
system of crutches and wooden legs which sustained him, gave
him the air of a mason's scaffolding on the march. Gringoire,
who liked noble and classical comparisons, compared him in
thought to the living tripod of Vulcan.