an overcoat, you want eyes in the back of your head.
And they are populated! Change your bed, and
you’ll run all the dangers of not sleeping alone.
‘V’la ma clientele’! The half
of them don’t pay me!” He, snapped his
yellow sticks of fingers. “A penny for
a shave, twopence a cut! ‘Quelle vie’!
Here,” he continued, standing by a bed, “is
a gentleman who owes me fivepence. Here’s
one who was a soldier; he’s done for!
All brutalised; not one with any courage left!
But, believe me, monsieur,” he went on, opening
another door, “when you come down to houses
of this sort you must have a vice; it’s as necessary
as breath is to the lungs. No matter what, you
must have a vice to give you a little solace—’un
peu de soulagement’. Ah, yes! before you
judge these swine, reflect on life! I’ve
been through it. Monsieur, it is not nice never
to know where to get your next meal. Gentlemen
who have food in their stomachs, money in their pockets,
and know where to get more, they never think.
Why should they—’pas de danger’!
All these cages are the same. Come down, and
you shall see the pantry.” He took Shelton
through the kitchen, which seemed the only sitting-room
of the establishment, to an inner room furnished with
dirty cups and saucers, plates, and knives. Another
fire was burning there. “We always have
hot water,” said the Frenchman, “and three
times a week they make a fire down there”—he
pointed to a cellar—“for our clients
to boil their vermin. Oh, yes, we have all the
Shelton returned to the kitchen, and directly after
took leave of the little Frenchman, who said, with
a kind of moral button-holing, as if trying to adopt
him as a patron:
“Trust me, monsieur; if he comes back—that
young man—he shall have your letter without
fail. My name is Carolan Jules Carolan; and I
am always at your service.”
Shelton walked away; he had been indulging in a nightmare.
“That old actor was drunk,” thought he,
“and no doubt he was an Irishman; still, there
may be truth in what he said. I am a Pharisee,
like all the rest who are n’t in the pit.
My respectability is only luck. What should
I have become if I’d been born into his kind
of life?” and he stared at a stream of people
coming from the Stares, trying to pierce the mask of
their serious, complacent faces. If these ladies
and gentlemen were put into that pit into which he
had been looking, would a single one of them emerge
again? But the effort of picturing them there
was too much for him; it was too far—too