The Place of Honeymoons (Chapter 3, page 1 of 11)

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Chapter 3

Flora Desimone had been born in a Calabrian peasant's hut, and she had
rolled in the dust outside, yelling vigorously at all times. Specialists
declare that the reason for all great singers coming from lowly origin is
found in this early development of the muscles of the throat. Parents of
means employ nurses or sedatives to suppress or at least to smother these
infantile protests against being thrust inconsiderately into the turmoil
of human beings. Flora yelled or slept, as the case might be; her parents
were equally indifferent. They were too busily concerned with the getting
of bread and wine. Moreover, Flora was one among many. The gods are always
playing with the Calabrian peninsula, heaving it up here or throwing it
down there: il terremoto, the earthquake, the terror. Here nature
tinkers vicariously with souls; and she seldom has time to complete her
work. Constant communion with death makes for callosity of feeling; and
the Calabrians and the Sicilians are the cruellest among the civilized
peoples. Flora was ruthless.

She lived amazingly well in the premier of an apartment-hotel in the
Champs-Elysées. In England and America she had amassed a fortune. Given
the warm beauty of the Southern Italian, the passion, the temperament, the
love of mischief, the natural cruelty, the inordinate craving for
attention and flattery, she enlivened the nations with her affairs. And
she never put a single beat of her heart into any of them. That is why her
voice is still splendid and her beauty unchanging. She did not dissipate;
calculation always barred her inclination; rather, she loitered about the
Forbidden Tree and played that she had plucked the Apple. She had an
example to follow; Eve had none.

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