Thereupon the stories and gossip begin again. An uninterrupted flow of filth is vomited from these sad mouths, as from a sewer. The back-shop seems infected with it. The impression is the more disagreeable because the room is rather dark and the faces take on fantastic deformities. It is lighted only by a narrow window opening on a damp and filthy court,—a sort of shaft formed by moss-eaten walls. An odor of pickle, of rotting vegetables, of red herring, persists around us, impregnating our garments. It is intolerable. Then each of these creatures, heaped up on their chairs like bundles of dirty linen, plunges into the narration of some dirty action, some scandal, some crime. Coward that I am, I try to smile with them, to applaud with them; but I feel something insurmountable, something like frightful disgust. A nausea turns my stomach, forces its way to my throat, leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and presses my temples. I should like to go away. I cannot, and I remain there, like an idiot, heaped up like them on my chair, making the same gestures that they make,—I remain there, stupidly listening to these shrill voices that sound to me like dish-water gurgling and dripping through sinks and pipes.
I know very well that we have to defend ourselves against our masters, and I am not the last to do it, I assure you. But no; here, all the same, that passes imagination. These women are odious