Westward Ha!

Westward Ha!

Westward Ha!

Westward Ha!

Excerpt

THE WHOLE sordid business began on a bleak November afternoon a couple of years ago in Philadelphia, a metropolis sometimes known as the City of Brotherly Love but more accurately as the City of Bleak November Afternoons. Actually, the whole business began sixteen years ago, as do so many complex ventures, with an unfavorable astrological conjunction, Virgo being in the house of Alcohol. Late one August day in 1932, I was seated at the Closerie des Lilas in Paris with my wife, a broth of a girl with a skin like damask and a waist you could span with an embroidery hoop. I had had three mild transfusions of a life-giving fluid called Chambéry Fraise and felt a reasonable degree of self-satisfaction. Halfway through my imitation of Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand , my wife wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and arose.

"Look, Julian Eltinge," she smiled, naming an actor who had achieved some transitory fame for his powers of mimicry, "descendez de cette table, salop, et dinons (come down off that there table, sweetheart, and let us feed the inner man)."

Ever the thrall of a pair of saucy blue eyes, I good-naturedly complied and sprang down with a graceful bound, sustaining a trifling fracture of the spleen. There then ensued a long, absurd debate as to which of us would pay the tab. An innate sense of gallantry prevented me from taking money from a woman, but I stifled it and soon we were bowling along the Boulevard St. Michel in a fiacre. In less time than it takes to build a fourteen-room house, we had crossed the Seine, got lost in Passy, and arrived at a quaint Javanese restaurant . . .

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