About the Author
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I was fascinated by them all, but my special interest centred around the Baigel Women. They carried baskets of fresh warm baigels, covered with white cloth, and their scent made my mouth water. From time to time Mother would buy one and we shared it as we pushed our way through the crowd.
But eating in the street was becoming impossible while there were so many hungry eyes burning on every side and so many hands stretched out for alms.
There were hundreds of beggars in the streets and they stood or leaned against the walls with a hat or bowl beside them, chanting each his own little song or staring mutely as if in a trance. We had grown familiar with their faces and watched their progress from the time they arrived in our street, often well dressed, and stood embarrassed and silent, hands in pockets, as if they had simply stopped for a moment to watch the crowd. Gradually the pose would break down and they would start plucking at the sleeves of passers-by and whisper some hurried words, frightened by their own courage and already offering apologies. They would stop being a novelty and we could pass them quickly without our old feeling of embarrassment.
Then the next stage would come and we would find them sitting on the pavement. Their clothes would become neglected, their features dissolved into a mask of stupor. From then on the progress was very swift. They would either become thinner and thinner, till they resembled mere skeletons, or they swelled enormously, their bodies covered in huge blisters which soon infected. When the swelling subsided, all that would be left was a bag of skin loosely floating around a bundle of bones. Then they disappeared and their place was immediately filled by another ghost-like creature ready to go through the same inevitable sequence with more or less haste. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.