The Place of Honeymoons (Chapter 3, page 2 of 11)


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Chapter 3

Men scattered fortunes at her feet as foolish Greeks scattered floral
offerings at the feet of their marble gods--without provoking the sense of
reciprocity or generosity or mercy. She had worked; ah, no one would ever
know how hard. She had been crushed, beaten, cursed, starved. That she had
risen to the heights in spite of these bruising verbs in no manner
enlarged her pity, but dulled and vitiated the little there was of it. Her
mental attitude toward humanity was childish: as, when the parent strikes,
the child blindly strikes back. She was determined to play, to enjoy life,
to give back blow for blow, nor caring where she struck. She was going to
press the juice from every grape. A thousand odd years gone, she would
have led the cry in Rome--"Bread and the circus!" or "To the lions!" She
would have disturbed Nero's complacency, and he would have played an
obbligato instead of a solo at the burning. And she was malice incarnate.
They came from all climes--her lovers--with roubles and lire and francs
and shillings and dollars; and those who finally escaped her enchantment
did so involuntarily, for lack of further funds. They called her villas
Circe's isles. She hated but two things in the world; the man she could
have loved and the woman she could not surpass.

Arrayed in a kimono which would have evoked the envy of the empress of
Japan, supposing such a gorgeous raiment--peacocks and pine-trees,
brilliant greens and olives and blues and purples--fell under the gaze of
that lady's slanting eyes, she sat opposite the Slavonic Jove and smoked
her cigarette between sips of coffee. Frequently she smiled. The short
powerful hand of the man stroked his beard and he beamed out of his
cunning eyes, eyes a trifle too porcine to suggest a keen intellect above
them.

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