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12. Chapter XII
The Avenue de Clichy was crowded at that hour, and a lively fancy might see in the passers-by the personages of many a sordid romance. There were clerks and shopgirls; old fellows who might have stepped out of the pages of Honore de Balzac; members, male and female, of the professions which make their profit of the frailties of mankind. There is in the streets of the poorer quarters of Paris a thronging vitality which excites the blood and prepares the soul for the unexpected.
"Do you know Paris well?" I asked.
"No. We came on our honeymoon. I haven't been since."
"How on earth did you find out your hotel?"
"It was recommended to me. I wanted something cheap."
The absinthe came, and with due solemnity we dropped water over the melting sugar.
"I thought I'd better tell you at once why I had come to see you," I said, not without embarrassment.
His eyes twinkled. "I thought somebody would come along sooner or later. I've had a lot of letters from Amy."
"Then you know pretty well what I've got to say."
"I've not read them."
I lit a cigarette to give myself a moment's time. I did not quite know now how to set about my mission. The eloquent phrases I had arranged, pathetic or indignant, seemed out of place on the Avenue de Clichy. Suddenly he gave a chuckle.
"Beastly job for you this, isn't it?"
"Oh, I don't know," I answered.
"Well, look here, you get it over, and then we'll have a jolly evening."
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