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Sample text

Surely, given his position, he could have her, physically at least, more easily than he could any other woman, and for the rest of his life. The problem was finding her. Andrew had never been to Whitechapel, but he had heard enough about the neighborhood to know it was dangerous, especially for someone of his class. It was not advisable to go there alone, but he could not count on Charles accompanying him. His cousin would not understand him preferring that tart’s grubby vagina to the sweet delights the charming Keller sisters kept hidden beneath their petticoats, or the perfumed honeypots of the Chelsea madams, where half the well-to-do West End gentlemen sated their appetites.

Somehow this literary genre, which most people condemned, acted as a sort of counterbalance to Charles’s soul; it was the ballast that prevented him from lurching into seriousness or melancholy, unlike Andrew, who had been unable to adopt his cousin’s casual attitude to life, and to whom everything seemed so achingly profound, imbued with that absurd solemnity that the transience of existence conferred upon even the smallest act. However, that afternoon Andrew did not have time to look at any book.

He gazed warily out of the window as they entered the district, experiencing the same misgivings as he had in the past. He had never been able to avoid feeling overwhelmed by an uncomfortable sense of shame knowing that he was spying on what was to him an alien world with the dispassionate interest of somebody who studies insects. Although over time his initial revulsion had turned into inevitable compassion for the souls who inhabited that junkyard where the city dumped its human waste. And, peering out of the window, it seemed as if there was every reason for him to feel that compassion still: London’s poorest borough had changed relatively little in the past eight years.

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