Bliss and Other Stories
There again. Even with Dick. It was he who made the first advances.
I met him at an evening party given by the editor of a new review. It was a very select, very fashionable affair. One or two of the older men were there and the ladies were extremely comme il faut. They sat on cubist sofas in full evening dress and allowed us to hand them thimbles of cherry brandy and to talk to them about their poetry. For, as far as I can remember, they were all poetesses.
It was impossible not to notice Dick. He was the only Englishman present, and instead of circulating gracefully round the room as we all did, page 86he stayed in one place leaning against the wall, his hands in his pockets, that dreamy half smile on his lips, and replying in excellent French in his low, soft voice to anybody who spoke to him.
" Who is he ? "
" An Englishman. From London. A writer. And he is making a special study of modern French literature."
That was enough for me. My little book, False Coins, had just been published. I was a young, serious writer who was making a special study of modern English literature.
But I really had not time to fling my line before he said, giving himself a soft shake, coming right out of the water after the bait, as it were : " Won't you come and see me at my hotel ? Come about five o'clock and we can have a talk before going out to dinner."
" Enchanted ! "
I was so deeply, deeply flattered that I had to leave him then and there to preen and preen myself before the cubist sofas. What a catch! An Englishman, reserved, serious, making a special study of French literature, . . .
That same night a copy of False Coins with a carefully cordial inscription was posted off, and a day or two later we did dine together and spent the evening talking.
Talking—but not only of literature. I discovered to my relief that it wasn't necessary to keep to the page 87tendency of the modern novel, the need of a new form, or the reason why our young men appeared to be just missing it. Now and again, as if by accident, I threw in a card that seemed to have nothing to do with the game, just to see how he'd take it. But each time he gathered it into his hands with his dreamy look and smile unchanged. Perhaps he murmured: " That's very curious." But not as if it were curious at all.
That calm acceptance went to my head at last. It fascinated me. It led me on and on till I threw every card that I possessed at him and sat back and watched him arrange them in his hand.
" Very curious and interesting. . . ."
By that time we were both fairly drunk, and he began to sing his song very soft, very low, about the man who walked up and down seeking his dinner.
But I was quite breathless at the thought of what I had done. I had shown somebody both sides of my life. Told him everything as sincerely and truthfully as I could. Taken immense pains to explain things about my submerged life that really were disgusting and never could possibly see the light of literary day. On the whole I had made myself out far worse than I was—more boastful, more cynical, more calculating.
And there sat the man I had confided in, singing to himself and smiling. ... It moved me so that page 88real tears came into my eyes. I saw them glittering on my long silky lashes—so charming.