Page:A chambermaid's diary.djvu/333

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ated in the

Rue du Colisee, at the back of a court-yard, on the third floor of a dark and very old house, — almost a house for working-people. At the very entrance the narrow and steep staircase, with its filthy steps that stick to your shoes and its damp banister that sticks to your hands, blows into your face an in- fected air, an odor of sinks and closets, and fills your heart with discouragement. I do not pretend to be fastidious, but the very sight of this staircase turns my stomach and cuts off my legs, and I am seized with a mad desire to run away. The hope which, on the way, has been singing in your head is at once silenced, stifled by this thick and sticky atmosphere, by these vile steps, and these sweating walls that seem to be frequented by glutinous larvae and cold toads. Really, I do not understand how fine ladies dare to venture into this unhealthy hovel. Frankly, they are not disgusted. But what is there to-day that disgusts fine ladies? They would not go into such a house to help a poor person, but to worry a domestic they would go the devil knows where !

This bureau was run by Mme. Paulhat-Durand, a tall woman of almost forty-five years, who, under- neath her very black and slightly wavy hair, and in spite of soft flesh crammed into a terrible corset, still preserved remnants of beauty, a majestic deportment, . . . and such an eye ! My ! but she must have had fun in her day! With her austere