The Razor’s Edge Chapter 2

I SPENT THE NEXT morning very pleasantly. I went to the Luxembourg and passed an hour looking at some pictures I liked. Then I strolled in the gardens, recapturing the memories of my youth. Nothing had changed. They might have been the same students who walked along the gravel paths in pairs, eagerly discussing the writers who excited them. They might have been the same children who trundled the same hoops under the watchful eyes of the same nurses. They might have been the same old men who basked in the sunshine, reading the morning paper. They might have been the same middle-aged women in mourning who sat on the free benches and gossiped with one another about the price of food and the misdeeds of servants. Then I went to the Odéon and looked at the new books in the galleries and I saw the lads who like myself thirty years before were trying under the petulant eyes of the smock-frocked attendants to read as much as they could of books they could not afford to buy. Then I strolled leisurely along those dear, dingy streets till I came to the Boulevard du Montparnasse and so to the Dôme. Larry was waiting. We had a drink and walked along to a restaurant where he could lunch in the open air.

He was perhaps a little paler than I remembered him and this made his very dark eyes, in their deep orbits, more striking; but he had the same self-possession, curious in one so young, and the same ingenuous smile. When he ordered his lunch I noticed that he spoke French fluently and with a good accent. I congratulated him on it.

“I knew a certain amount of French before, you know,” he explained. “Aunt Louisa had a French governess for Isabel, and when they were at Marvin she used to make us talk French with her all the time.”

I asked him how he liked Paris.

“Very much.”

“D’you live in Montparnasse?”

“Yes,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation which I interpreted into a disinclination to tell exactly where he lived.

“Elliott was rather put out that the only address you gave was the American Express.”

Larry smiled but did not answer.

“What do you do with yourself all the time?”

“I loaf.”

“And you read?”

“Yes, I read.”

“Do you ever hear from Isabel?”

“Sometimes. We’re neither of us great letter-writers. She’s having a grand time in Chicago. They’re coming over next year to stay with Elliott.”

“That’ll be nice for you.”

“I don’t believe Isabel’s ever been to Paris. It’ll be fun taking her around.”

He was curious to know about my journey in China and listened attentively to what I told him; but when I tried to get him to talk about himself, I failed. He was so uncommunicative that I was forced to the conclusion that he had asked me to lunch with him merely to enjoy my company. I was pleased, but baffled. We had no sooner finished our coffee than he called for the bill, paid it, and got up.

“Well, I must be off,” he said.

We parted. I knew no more of what he was up to than before. I did not see him again.