I am not one of your doorway prostitutes, too old and too withered to venture past a shadowed entryway. My territory is the eastern edge of the Place Des Vosges, four blocks over and two down from my upstairs flat behind the grave-yard. Every working night, I run down the great flights of stairs - such a pain, in French heels, but I am a small woman and I must wear them - and back up, twice for each customer that comes my way.

This night I am more out of breath than usual from the exertions, and I must sit for nearly five minutes to catch my breath, before arranging my blood-coloured (but actually bloodless) lips into the sweet, simpleton smile of the professional coquette. Every man in the square resembles the other; hundreds of replications of the same beast. Vosges could be the dwelling of a many-headed monster, desiring only to feed upon the dispensable flesh of the sparrows.

Ah; there is a weight upon the bench besides my own. I glance up, fluttering my eyelids delicately, then frankly stare, shocked to my bones. "Adele!! What are you doing here?" I press her hand between my own, then remember. "Where is Serge?" Adele's white-caked face is split suddenly by a crimson gash. "Dead!! The bastard is dead, Marie, may he rot in Hell!! He was run over by an express at St Lazare last week-end."

Is this cruel of Adele, to think so ill of her husband? Not in the slightest. He made her miserable and whored around besides. Ah, but there is something the matter. Adele's manic grin has not reached her eyes; they are dull and expressionless as two lumps of coal in the snow.

"Why, what is making you sad, Adele?" Her lips tremble for a moment, mashed together like two bricks as she tries to contain herself. At last she gives it up and buries her head in my shoulder, sobbing, though not as if her heart would break - it is quite clearly already broken. I take her head in my hands, seeing their shocking blue and white against the russet of Adele's hair. "Whatever is the matter?" I raise her face on a level with my own, and hand her my torn and violet-smelling handkerchief. Adele dabs at her eyes with it; she has shed a great deal of her make-up along with her tears. "Last month -" She gulps futilely. "Celeste-"

Adele need say no more, I have already divined her meaning. Little Celeste has died; her blue eyes and chestnut hair will never earn her living. Montmartre is strange; what would be a tragedy in any sane locale is often a blessing here. Celeste is with the angels, where a little girl belongs; she will never know the indignity of selling her body for her bread. Through my whirling thoughts I hear Adele's muffled, glottal bursts of speech. "It was- the- the- influenza... She n-never ha-a-ad a chance."

Adele is ghastly under the gaslamps; her blue dress is a strange and violent shade of green. The violet circles smeared round her eyes and the lopsided carmine gash of her lips give her the appearance of some bloodsucking ghoul out of the catacombs. I lick my thumbs and put her make-up somewhat to rights; she never was very pretty in the greasepaint, poor girl, but she will do. Impulsively we embrace; then, embarrassed, separate. Not a moment must be wasted; each of us must earn our twenty-five francs tonight or starve on the morrow. Quickly we mutter our farewells. There is business to do.

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