Bawdyhouse for Beggars
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
BEFORE THE WAR there was, I think, in the Saint-Paul neighborhood on rue de Fourcy, a most astonishing public space, a whorehouse for hobos. This bedlam, now vanished from the earth if not its clients’ memories, whose sorely missed atmosphere can be readily imagined, consisted of two rooms-the Senate, where the rate was ten francs across the board, and the House of Representatives, where it hovered, according to mood and quality, around fifteen. It is pleasant to listen to an old woman who thought to live out her days as a pensioner there try and recover her memories of the extraordinary comico-heroic theatre that went on: an old panhandler with formidable whiskers making a racket, making threats, shaking his fist at some low-rent floozy, howling in a voice more-than-soused at her face: ten francs? You tart! You’re not even worth twenty centimes . . .