Chapter Thirty-three

DURING THIS PHASE of readjustment I withdrew completely from public affairs. There was no hardship, but rather a fresh and novel interest, in this voluntary retreat. For the first time in my life -- that bustling, crowded, tense existence wherein, with never a second to spare, I was constantly engaged -- I had leisure to undertake some meditative occupation, to fill the gaps in my sketchy education, to explore the fascinating fields of history, architecture, and art, to plod with pleasure through a first folio of Chaucer, to brush up my French and Italian, to read Montaigne in the original text, yes, even to prune a cherry tree reflectively, not breaking my back to finish in an hour, to adjust methodically an old clock that was losing time, to relax completely with my children in a game of tennis or croquet -- these were privileges and satisfactions I had not previously enjoyed.

Above all, this new freedom now afforded us the opportunity to travel. It was a thrilling adventure to take a car across the Channel from Dover to Calais, and to set off along the arrow-straight French roads, between the tall sentinel poplars and those flowering hawthorn hedges beloved by Proust, through cobbled villages ablaze with roses, past red-tiled farmhouses and graceful churches, brassy estaminets and crumbling old châteaux, green canals with barges on them, woods, meadows, and orchards already pink with apple blossom. . . . Ah, how wonderful to escape to such delights!

Paris in the spring was a silver city. What enchantment in the fresh morning streets, to view the hurrying crowds and blue-cloaked policemen; the early housewives with arms crooked on laden baskets;

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