The Arrow of Gold

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The Arrow of Gold  - copertina
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Certain streets have an atmosphere of their own, a sort of universal fame and the particular affection of their citizens.  One of such streets is the Cannebière, and the jest: “If Paris had a Cannebière it would be a little Marseilles” is the jocular expression of municipal pride.  I, too, I have been under the spell.  For me it has been a street leading into the unknown.

There was a part of it where one could see as many as five big cafés in a resplendent row.  That evening I strolled into one of them.  It was by no means full.  It looked deserted, in fact, festal and overlighted, but cheerful.  The wonderful street was distinctly cold (it was an evening of carnival), I was very idle, and I was feeling a little lonely.  So I went in and sat down.

The carnival time was drawing to an end.  Everybody, high and low, was anxious to have the last fling.  Companies of masks with linked arms and whooping like red Indians swept the streets in crazy rushes while gusts of cold mistral swayed the gas lights as far as the eye could reach.  There was a touch of bedlam in all this.

Perhaps it was that which made me feel lonely, since I was neither masked, nor disguised, nor yelling, nor in any other way in harmony with the bedlam element of life.  But I was not sad.  I was merely in a state of sobriety.  I had just returned from my second West Indies voyage.  My eyes were still full of tropical splendour, my memory of my experiences, lawful and lawless, which had their charm and their thrill; for they had startled me a little and had amused me considerably.  But they had left me untouched.  Indeed they were other men’s adventures, not mine.  Except for a little habit of responsibility which I had acquired they had not matured me.  I was as young as before.  Inconceivably young—still beautifully unthinking—infinitely receptive.

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