its roots on a stone. Que voulez-vous, une transvasion est une operation douleureuse! I
had little to say in defense of my cherished Vienna, whose gayety
springs from the kind and sprightly hearts of her children and which I
took for granted. For some reason which now escapes me I took up the
cudgels for London, a city I then only knew by repute.
said my British master with a contemptuous sniff, "London is immense.
So is the Sahara. They are both dull places. The only advantage London
has over the Sahara is that one can drink when one wants to. As a
matter of fact, to escape from its frightful dullness everybody in
London drinks—drinks anything that is wet but water. London is so big
that one loses oneself in it until one finds oneself again on the boat
which is taking one home. When all is said and done, it is nothing more
than the foggy capital of a rheumy nation. Je vous en fais cadeau."
an extravagant gift might well have exhausted any man's generosity. In
fact, it was the only gift I ever received from that quarter. He was
reputed to be a great pearl-expert and I had hoped to drink deep of
pearl lore at the fountain head. I discovered all too soon that neither
my master nor any of the great dealers who came to his office cared a
hang about the objects they handled daily except in relation to
profits. Had someone to dive for them, go down after them at risk of
his life on to the bed of an ocean reluctant to give up its treasures?
They had heard something to that effect. But why bother? Was the
knowledge worth good francs to them?
was one exception to the rule. That was Perez the pearl-merchant,
grizzled and old in his calling, who took a fancy to me because like
him I was lonely and like him eaten up with the desire for knowledge.
he said, "shape and shape and shape. Always keep your eye on shape." He
said this in a rather loud voice as we strolled up the Boulevard des
Italiens on our departure from Blonde's table d'hote. Six courses for one franc fifty had put him in a professorial mood.
But an old painted woman, flashily dressed and claiming