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An Interrupted Conversation
by [?]

“We can never depend upon any right

adjustment of emotion to circumstance.”

Max Beerbohm.

Ordinarily one does not learn things about oneself from Edmund Gosse, but my discovery that I am a Pyrrhonist is due to that literary man. A Pyrrhonist, says Mr. Gosse, is “one who doubts whether it is worth while to struggle against the trend of things. The man who continues to cross the road leisurely, although the cyclists’ bells are ringing, is a Pyrrhonist–and in a very special sense, for the ancient philosopher who gives his name to the class made himself conspicuous by refusing to get out of the way of careering chariots.” Now the most unfamiliar friend I have ever walked with knows my extreme impassivity at the corners of streets, remembers the careless attitude with which I saunter from kerb to kerb, whether it be across the Grand Boulevard, Piccadilly, or Fifth Avenue. Only once has this nonchalant defiance of traffic caused me to come to even temporary grief; that was on the last night of the year 1913, when, in crossing Broadway, I became entangled, God knows how, in the wheels of a swiftly passing vehicle, and found myself, top hat and all, in the most ignominious position before I was well aware of what had really happened. Then a policeman stooped over me, book and pencil in hand, and another held the chauffeur of the victorious taxi-cab at bay some yards further up the street. But I was not hurt and I waved them all away with a magnanimous gesture…. It is owing to this habit of mine that I often make interesting rencontres in the middle of streets. It accounts, in fact, for my running, quite absent-mindedly, plump into Dickinson Sitgreaves, who is more American than his name sounds, one August day in Paris.

It was one of those charming days which make August perhaps the most delightful month to spend in Paris, although the facts are not known to tourists. Many a sly French pair, however, bored with Trouville, or the season at Aix, take advantage of the allurements of a Paris August to return surreptitiously to the boulevards. On this particular day almost all the seduction of an October day was in the air, a splendid dull warm-cool crispness, which filtered down through the faded chestnut leaves from the sunlight, and left pale splotches of purple and orange on the trottoirs… a really marvellous day, which I was spending in that most excellent occupation in Paris of gazing into shops and, passing cafes, staring into the faces of those who sat on the terrasses…. But this is an occupation for one alone; so, when I met Sitgreaves, we joined a terrasse ourselves. We were near the Napolitain and there he and I sat down and began to talk as only we two can talk together after long separation. He explained in the beginning how I had interrupted him…. There was a fille, some little Polish beauty who had captivated his senses a day or so before, brought to him quite by accident in an hotel where the patron furnished his clients with such pleasure as the town and his address book afforded…. I knew the patron myself, a fluent, amusing sort of person, who had been a cuirassier and who resembled Mayol … a cafe-concert proprietor of an hotel…. It was his boast that he had never disappointed a client and it is certain that he would promise anything. Some have said that his stock in trade was one pretty girl, who assumed costumes, ages, hair, and accents, to please whatever demand was made upon her, but this I do not believe. There must have been at least two of them. The Grand Duchess Anastasia, it was rumoured, had dined with Marcel at one time, in his little hotel, and certainly one king had been seen to go there, and one member of the English royal family, but Marcel remained simple and obliging.