3

SCOTTY had gone with a hairdresser to an American in his rooms; Alice and Dolly were busy in the barbers' saloon. I thought it a good moment to experiment with a mud pack which promised the healthful invigoration of spring. I accordingly plucked my eyebrows and covered my face and neck with the soft clay which, drying, made me look like a bronze statue that might have turned green after spending several centuries at the bottom of the Mediterranean. At twenty these things are doubtless superfluous, but then, is one ever satisfied? I never walked along the Strand or went dancing without discovering in other faces qualities that I straightway envied, eyes that were larger, bluer or darker, hair with more lustre or a nose that lent more character to the physiognomy. I was appallingly greedy and longed to possess every characteristic of beauty. No amount of erudition, and heaven knows that I desired it, would have compensated for the lack of seeing men turn in the street to look at me. I thirsted, like Mme Tallien, for sweet homage, and already, perhaps because I was intelligent, it hurt me to think that one day I would lose this power, just as the strongest and most powerful prime minister must one day cease to be idolized and watch another being cheered.

I was sensitive to Davy's compliments, which I considered unprejudiced in the sense that he could not possibly consider himself a suitor. Other desires had sprung up during my first weeks at the hotel. I had become awake to the magic usefulness of foreign languages. The beauty of English filled me with a hunger for its literature. Russian from the mouth of General Tchermoeff was evocative of spring in the Crimea, haven for Gorki's vagabonds, spring richer there with its flowers than on the French and Italian Rivieras. Spanish spoken by our sunburnt customers from Spain, Mexico, or the Argentine set me dancing the tango all alone, the Italians were redolent of love and

-51-

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  • 3 51
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