There were twelve mannequins at Jeanne Veron’s: six of them were lunching, the others still paraded, goddess-like, till their turn came for rest and refreshment. Each of the twelve was a distinct and separate type: each of the twelve knew her type and kept to it, practising rigidly in clothing, manner, voice and conversation.
The Pierrot-Eel, seated, casual, tapped the marble balusters with a dangling heel, revealing only its two satin slippers and a black-gloved hand bent back against one hip. The two oblique slits in the mask, carefully covered over with a tulle mesh, allowed only a smothered fire of indeterminate color to pass through.
Helen pouted, and dragged over to the swing for comfort. She swung high, and thought Doctor Malcolm was a most beautiful man – and wondered if his dog had finished the plate of bones in the backyard. Decided to go and see. Slower she swung, then took a flying leap; her tight skirt caught on a nail – there was a sharp, tearing sound – quickly she glanced at the others – they had not noticed – and then at the frock – at a hole big enough to stick her hand through. She felt neither frightened nor sorry.
Riki pulled the towel closer to cover the wide expanses of rosy flesh between the top and bottom of an extremely scanty bikini. Obviously this guy was a real hick who just didn’t know any better. His Southern drawl was a give-away. He probably didn’t even know that this kind of a pass might get him a slap in the face from most girls.
But then, Riki wasn’t most girls! Not by a long shot. It might be fun to lead this square on a little. Just for kicks. With a coy glance, Riki let the towel slip down to expose part of one sun-tinted swell of flesh.
There’s a conventional belief that it’s horrible to grow old, because old age is ugly. As a result, a woman has her white hairs plucked, or dyes them; she uses makeup to hide her wrinkles, or at least, tries to add some luster to her faded cheeks with the deceptive glitter of bright fabrics. I don’t want to make a long catalogue of cosmetic artifices, so I’ll stop there. But note that instead of banishing the signs of old age, such devices merely make them more lasting and more glaring.
The gallery owner was pushing through the crowd towards Drioli. He was calm now, deadly serious, making a smile with his mouth. ‘Monsieur,’ he said, ‘I will buy it. I said I will buy it. Monsieur.’ ‘How can you buy it?’ Drioli asked softly. All the sadness in the world was in his voice. ‘Yes!’ they were saying in the crowd. ‘How can he sell it? It is part of himself!’
‘Molly, darling, I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re after. I mean, do you or do you not want a fur coat? I mean, supposing you didn’t buy a fur coat, what else could you do?’
‘Just exactly what do you mean?’ – very coldly.
‘I mean, it isn’t apparently necessary that you should buy a fur coat. I mean, not if you don’t really want to. There must be some other way of dressing besides fur coats? If you have a scunner against fur coats, why not buy something else just as good? There’s hundreds of millions of other women in the world and they all haven’t fur coats.’
She had been stealing like this for the last year, ravaged by a furious, irresistible passion for dress. These fits got worse, growing daily, sweeping away all the reasonings of prudence; and the enjoyment she felt in the indulgence of them was the more violent from the fact that she was risking before the eyes of a crowd her name, her pride, and her husband’s high position. Now that the latter allowed her to empty his drawers, she stole although she had her pockets full of money, she stole for the mere pleasure of stealing, goaded on by desire, urged on by the species of kleptomania which her unsatisfied luxurious tastes had formerly developed in her at sight of the vast brutal temptations of the big shops.
He thought of Lydia and wondered what it was that had gone wrong. He had felt her drifting away from him like the cloud in the windowpane. He’d just stood there. Until she collected her things, kissed him on the mouth and walked out of the door. The cardboard box had remained. It was filled with her. Her touch, her kindness, her skin. He held the piece of leather in his hands and gently folded it back into the box.
Even the little bathing cabins, set out in rows on the south side of the lake, were topped by swastika banners, small ones fluttering in dozens against the wide somber mountain waters. This place, where before so few people had come, was now singularly alive. Their bathing dress was dark and plain, the women wearing skirted ones with modest backs and necks, and Merrill changed into her pale-blue two-piece suit in the cabin and looked down at the strip of delicately tanned skin between the top and trunks and wondered. I never minded wearing this before, she thought.
When there was nothing left in the bottle Fyodor put the boots on the table and sank into thought. He leaned his heavy head on his fist and began thinking of his poverty, of his hard life with no glimmer of light in it. Then he thought of the rich, of their big houses and their carriages, of their hundred-rouble notes. . . . How nice it would be if the houses of these rich men – the devil flay them! – were smashed, if their horses died, if their fur coats and sable caps got shabby!
The neighbours sometimes talked of certain ‘better days’ that little Mrs. Sommers had known before she had ever thought of being Mrs. Sommers. She herself indulged in no such morbid retrospection. She had no time – no second of time to devote to the past. The needs of the present absorbed her every faculty. A vision of the future like some dim, gaunt monster sometimes appalled her, but luckily tomorrow never comes.