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.
There was a masquerade ball at the Elysée-Montmartre that evening. It was the ‘Mi-Carême,’ and the crowds were pouring into the brightly lighted passage which leads to the dance ball, like water flowing through the open lock of a canal. The loud call of the orchestra, bursting like a storm of sound, shook the rafters, swelled through the whole neighbourhood and awoke, in the streets and in the depths of the houses, an irresistible desire to jump, to get warm, to have fun, which slumbers within each human animal.
Up Broadway Chandler moved with the vespertine dress parade. For this evening he was an exhibit as well as a gazer. For the next sixty-nine evenings he would be dining in cheviot and worsted at dubious table d’hôtes, at whirlwind lunch counters, on sandwiches and beer in his hall-bedroom. He was willing to do that, for he was a true son of the great city of razzle-dazzle, and to him one evening in the limelight made up for many dark ones.
Why should clogs be despised? Much art has been expended on clogs. They have been made of lovely woods, and delicately inlaid with ivory, and with mother-of-pearl. A clog might be a dream of beauty, and, if not too high or too heavy, most comfortable also. But if there be any who do not like clogs, let them try some adaptation of the trouser of the Turkish lady, which is loose round the limb and tight at the ankle.
Crumpled all together in a basket, waiting to be picked up, the commonly blue greeting sits by the entrance of clean, white spaces. The protective plastic overshoe has the most amusing particularity, especially when wearing heels. It scaffolds the foot into experimental proportions in ways second to none.
Have you any clothes to sell?
The years make a stain you can’t conceal,
Your fabric’s eaten, you discard
That part of your life for which you cared.
You pluck a thread from your cuff; it winces
Straight to your shoulder. Ambition grieves
In trunks and bags; moth-featured, minces
From closets, beating empty sleeves.