Arms and the Woman (Chapter 9, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 9

I took my pipe and strolled along the river bank. What had I stumbled
into? Here was an old inn, with rather a feudal air; but it was only
one in a thousand; a common feature throughout the Continent. And yet,
why had the gods, when they cast out Hebe, chosen this particular inn
for her mortal residence? The pipe solves many riddles, and then,
sometimes, it creates a density. I put my pipe into my pocket and
cogitated. Gretchen had brought about a new order of things. A
philosophical barmaid was certainly a novelty. That Gretchen was
philosophical I had learned in the rose gardens. That she was also
used to giving commands I had learned in the onion patch. Hitherto I
had held the onion in contempt; already I had begun to respect it.
Above all, Gretchen was a mystery, the most alluring kind of mystery--a
woman who was not what she seemed. How we men love mysteries, which
are given the outward semblance of a Diana or a Venus! By and by, my
journalistic instinct awoke. Who are those who fear the newspapers?
Certainly it is not the guiltless. Of what was Gretchen guilty? The
inn-keeper knew. Was she one of those many conspirators who abound in
the kingdom? She was beautiful enough for anything. And whence came
the remarkable likeness between her and Phyllis? Here was a mystery
indeed. I had a week before me; in that time I might learn something
about Gretchen, even if I could solve nothing. I admit that it is
true, that had Gretchen been plain, it would not have been worth the
trouble. But she had too heavenly a face, too wonderful an eye, too
delicious a mouth, not to note her with concern.

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