Castle to Castle
Uproar in the whorehouse! Angèle has accused Joconde of wearing a wig. “And then, hup! Without time to say oof!” she’s pulled a knife and plunged it into Joconde’s fanny. Screams ring through the room as Joconde, “squeezing her ass in her two hands,” races from pillar to post yelling “Help!” Moved by feminine curiosity, all the other whores dash after her trying to see the wound; Angèle starts feeling guilty and begins to snivel; Cascade, the great ponce, sees that he must intervene;
“Where’d she stick you, tell me, Mimine?”
“There, sweet darling, there!…Ow!”
One quick glance at her ass is enough. Joconde must go to the hospital. But she hears the dreaded word. She screams:
“I want to die here!”
“You won’t die here, you slut!”
He tries to cheer her up. “Look! You’re not the only one with a nice ass.”
He whips off his pants, presents his own behind. It’s tattooed all over! On the right buttock, a rose. On the left, a wolf’s face with long teeth. Over the wolf is written in green letters: “I bite everywhere.”
Even Joconde smiles when she sees that. She lets the other whores stuff towels and oilcloth up her ass, roll her up in a tablecloth, and rush her to the street door. Cascade can’t help take her to the hospital because a police inspector has happened by at this difficult moment and must be persuaded that the situation is normal:
“I’m sure that in your family, Inspector, you’ve got trouble, too!…Ah, I bet! …It’s a subject that makes me terribly sad…. And how unhappy everyone is! …And how that kind of thing ages you…!”
Now Joconde is in the cab—and it’s off to the London Hospital. A long way, but no other hospital will do. At the London is Dr. Clodovitz, the French refugee with no papers. The British let “Clodo” work there because there’s a war on and he’s ready to do the dirty jobs—face up to
…the cockney housewives and the drunken bullies…the peglegs, the whisky cirrhoses, the fistulas, the broken heads, the dyspeptics, the lumbagoes cut in two who squalled about everything, the albuminous, their little bottles, the finical bellyachers, the anti-everythings, the death dodgers, the people with little pensions, the choking asthmatics, all of them corralled, roped in, pushing one another, squeezed against the door….
And down on all this comes the yellow fog, drifting into the public wards—and “Clodo” drifting with it, a kerosene carriage lamp (to see the patients with) held high in one hand, a kindly hypodermic in the other. “Soon be over…. Soon be over,” he murmurs in each ear. And the beds with the dead in them are wheeled into the street, and the fog on the Thames Embankment covers them forever like an eternal pall. “I can’t help saying that when I die I’d like …
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