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Restless, shifting, fugacious as time itself is a certain vast bulk of the population of the red brick district of the lower West Side. Homeless, they have a hundred homes. They flit from furnished room to furnished room, transients forever — transients in abode, transients in heart and mind. Hence the houses of this district, having had a thousand dwellers, should have a thousand tales to tell, mostly dull ones, no doubt; but it would be strange if there could not be found a ghost or two in the wake of all these vagrant guests.

One evening after dark a young man prowled among these crumbling red mansions, ringing their bells. At the twelfth he rested his lean hand baggage upon the step and wiped the dust from his hatband and forehead. The bell sounded faint and far away in some remote, hollow depths. To the door of the twelfth house, whose bell he had rung, came a housekeeper, who made him think of an unwholesome, surfeited worm that had eaten its nut to a hollow shell and now sought to fill the vacancy with edible lodgers. He asked if there was a room to let. ‘Come in,’ said the housekeeper. Her voice came from her throat; her throat seemed lined with fur. ‘I have the third-floor-back, vacant since a week back. Should you wish to look at it?’

The young man followed her up the stairs. A faint light from no particular source mitigated the shadows of the halls. They trod noiselessly upon a carpeted staircase that seemed to have become vegetable; to have degenerated in that rank, sunless air to lush lichen or spreading moss that grew in patches to the staircase. At each turn of the stairs were vacant niches in the wall. Perhaps plants had once been set within them. If so, they had died in that foul and tainted air. It may be that statues of the saints had stood there, but it was not difficult to conceive that imps and devils had dragged them forth in the darkness and down to the unholy depths of some furnished pit below.

‘This is the room,’ said the housekeeper, from her furry throat. ‘It’s a nice room. I had some of the most elegant people in it last summer — no trouble at all, and paid in advance to the minute. The water’s at the end of the hall. Sprowls and Mooney kept it for three months. They did a vaudeville sketch. Miss Bretta Sprowls — you may have heard of her — right there over the dresser is where the marriage certificate hung, framed. The gas is here, and you see there is plenty of closet room. It’s a room everybody likes. It never stays idle long.’

‘Do you have many theatrical people rooming here?’ asked the young man. ‘They come and go. Л good proportion of my lodgers are connected with theatres. Yes, sir, this is the theatrical district. Actor people never stay long anywhere. I get my share. Yes, they come and they go.’

He engaged the room, paying for a week in advance. He was tired, he said, and would take possession at once. The room had been made ready, she said. As the housekeeper moved away he put, for the thousandth time, the question that he carried at the end of his tongue.

‘A young girl — Miss Eloise Vashner — do you remember such a name among your lodgers? She would be singing on the stage, most likely. A fair girl, of medium height and slender, with reddish gold hair and a dark mole near her left eyebrow.’

‘No, I don’t remember the name. These stage people have names they change as often as their rooms. No, I don’t call that one to mind.’

No. Always no. Five months of ceaseless interrogation and the inevitable negative. So much time spent by day in questioning managers, agents, schools and choruses; by night among the audiences of theaters from all-star casts down to music halls so low that he dreaded to find what he most hoped for. He who had loved her best had tried to find her. He was sure that since her disappearance from home this great, water-girt city held her somewhere, but it was like a monstrous quicksand, shifting its particles constantly, with no foundation, its upper granules of today buried tomorrow in ooze and slime.

ВОПРОС 1 The houses of the lower West Side
1) had some mystery in their history.
2) had lots of exciting stories to tell.
3) had permanent dwellers.
4) were mostly wooden.

ВОПРОС 2 The young man
1) had heavy hand baggage.
2) looked clean and respectable.
3) was in a hurry.
4) was looking for a room to rent.

ВОПРОС 3 The housekeeper
1) looked healthy.
2) was very hungry.
3) seemed to be looking for new victims.
4) was wearing fur round her throat.

ВОПРОС 4 In the hall of the house
1) it was completely dark.
2) there was moss instead of a stair carpet
3) the air had a disgusting smell.
4) there were plants and statues within the niches in the wall.

ВОПРОС 5 The housekeeper told the young man that
1) the room was often vacant for a long time.
2) there was gas and water in the room
3) her lodgers were seldom connected with the theatres.
4) her previous lodgers had paid for the room beforehand.

ВОПРОС 6 The girl who the young man was looking for
1) was tall and slim.
2) had a distinguishing feature.
3) was his bride.
4) was absent for three months.

ВОПРОС 7 In the last paragraph ‘ceaseless’ means
1) hopeless.
2) meaningless.
3) useless.
4) endless.

ВОПРОС 1: – 1
ВОПРОС 2: – 4
ВОПРОС 3: – 3
ВОПРОС 4: – 3
ВОПРОС 5: – 4
ВОПРОС 6: – 2
ВОПРОС 7: – 4