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Part 6 Chapter 1

"Life," said Emerson, "consists in what a man is thinking all day." If that be so, then my life is nothing but a big intestine. I not only think about food all day, but I dream about it at night.

But I don't ask to go back to America, to be put in double harness again, to work the treadmill. No, I prefer to be a poor man of Europe. God knows, I am poor enough; it only remains to be a man. Last week I thought the problem of living was about to be solved, thought I was on the way to becoming self supporting. It happened that I ran across another Russian – Serge is his name. He lives in Suresnes where there is a little colony of émigrés and run down artists. Before the revolution Serge was a captain in the Imperial Guard; he stands six foot three in his stockinged feet and drinks vodka like a fish. His father was an admiral, or something like that, on the battleship "Potemkin."

I met Serge under rather peculiar circumstances. Sniffing about for food I found myself toward noon the other day in the neighbourhood of the Folies Bergère – the back entrance, that is to say, in the narrow little lane with an iron gate at one end. I was dawdling about the stage entrance, hoping vaguely for a casual brush with one of the butterflies, when an open truck pulls up to the sidewalk. Seeing me standing there with my hands in my pockets the driver, who was Serge, asks me if I would give him a hand unloading the iron barrels. When he learns that I am an American and that I'm broke he almost weeps with joy. He has been looking high and low for an English teacher, it seems. I help him roll the barrels of insecticide inside and I look my fill at the butterflies fluttering about the wings. The incident takes on strange proportions to me – the empty house, the sawdust dolls bouncing in the wings, the barrels of germicide, the battleship "Potemkin" – above all, Serge's gentleness. He is big and tender, a man every inch of him, but with a woman's heart.

In the café nearby – Café des Artistes – he proposes immediately to put me up; says he will put a mattress on the floor in the hallway. For the lessons he says he will give me a meal every day, a big Russian meal, or if for any reason the meal is lacking then five francs. It sounds wonderful to me – wonderful. The only question is, how will I get from Suresnes to the American Express every day

Serge insists that we begin at once – he gives me the carfare to get out to Suresnes in the evening. I arrive a little before dinner, with my knapsack, in order to give Serge a lesson. There are some guests on hand already – seems as though they always eat in a crowd, everybody chipping in.

There are eight of us at the table – and three dogs. The dogs eat first. They eat oatmeal. Then we commence. We eat oatmeal too – as an hors d'?uvre. "Chez nous," says Serge, with a twinkle in his eye, "C'est pour les chiens, les Quaker Oats. Ici pour le gentleman. ?a va." After the oatmeal, mushroom soup and vegetables; after that bacon omelet, fruit, red wine, vodka, coffee, cigarettes. Not bad, the Russian meal. Everyone talks with his mouth full. Toward the end of the mea Serge's wife, who is a lazy slut of an Armenian, flops on the couch and begins to nibble bonbons. She fishes around in the box with her fat fingers, nibbles a tiny piece to see if there is any juice inside, and then throws it on the floor for the dogs.

The meal over, the guests rush away. They rush away precipitously, as if they feared a plague. Serge and I are left with the dogs – his wife has fallen asleep on the couch. Serge moves about unconcernedly, scraping the garbage for the dogs. "Dogs like very much," he says. "Very good for dogs. Little dog he has worms … he is too young yet." He bends down to examine some white worms lying on............

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