The Place of Honeymoons (Chapter 1, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 1

Courtlandt took his leave in leisure. Here and there he saw familiar
faces, but these, after the finding glance, he studiously avoided. He
wanted to be alone. For while the music was still echoing in his ears, in
a subtone, his brain was afire with keen activity; but unfortunately for
the going forward of things, this mental state was divided into so many
battalions, led by so many generals, indirectly and indecisively, nowhere.
This plan had no beginning, that one had no ending, and the other neither
beginning nor ending. Outside he lighted a cigar, not because at that
moment he possessed a craving for nicotine, but because like all
inveterate smokers he believed that tobacco conduced to clarity of
thought. And mayhap it did. At least, there presently followed a mental
calm that expelled all this confusion. The goal waxed and waned as he
gazed down the great avenue with its precise rows of lamps. Far away he
could discern the outline of the brooding Louvre.

There was not the least hope in the world for him to proceed toward his
goal this night. He realized this clearly, now that he was face to face
with actualities. It required more than the chaotic impulses that had
brought him back from the jungles of the Orient. He must reason out a plan
that should be like a straight line, the shortest distance between two
given points. How then should he pass the night, since none of his schemes
could possibly be put into operation? Return to his hotel and smoke
himself headachy? Try to become interested in a novel? Go to bed, to turn
and roll till dawn? A wild desire seized him to make a night of
it,--Maxim's, the cabarets; riot and wine. Who cared? But the desire burnt
itself out between two puffs of his cigar. Ten years ago, perhaps, this
particular brand of amusement might have urged him successfully. But not
now; he was done with tomfool nights. Indeed, his dissipations had been
whimsical rather than banal; and retrospection never aroused a furtive
sense of shame.

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