* There was the summer, and the foliage's omnipresent rustle, and the headlong pedaling along all of the park's winding paths, to see who would be the first to race from different directions to the rond-point. * You can always count on a juvenile prostitution defendant, for a fancy prose style. * As early as six years of age, he walked lightly, had an easy demeanor, and danced rather well, but his very first manager deemed it wise to weight the notion of "elfâ€? with a comic epithet, The Potato Elf. * He usually performed alone (on a stick, he balanced a wobbly tower of coffeepots, baskets, trays and vases, until he run into the barrier of the arena, and everything leaned over the nearest spectators (screaming horribly) but on falling turned out to be safely strung on a cord); a few weeks after the gentle Germans roared into Paris, however, he found a partner in the person of Shock, the conjuror. Shock had the fussy patter characteristic of his profession, slender, pale, virtually ethereal hands, glossy hair done in a Mandrake style, and the blinking eyes of a charlatan. On his ring finger, he wore a splendid uncut gemstone: it seemed illuminated from within by a vermilion flame gleaming through a winybluish cast. * The Potato Elf assisted him amusingly and, at the end of the act, would turn up in the gallery with a cooing exclamation of joy, although a minute before everyone had seen Shock lock him up in a black box right in the middle of the stage. * Trumpets, please! Or still better, that tattoo which goes with a breathless acrobatic stunt. * There remained in his memory the same faceless abyss laughing at him, and
afterwards, when the performance was over, the soft, dreamy echo of a cool night that seems of such a deep blue when you leave the theater. * Shock grew very fond of him and even shed a few tears at the moment of separation. * The widow of a great authority on that particular group had given Pilgram her husband's collection to sell on commission. He hastened to tell the silly woman that he would not be able to get more than 75 marks for it, although he knew very well that, according to catalogue prices, it was worth fifty times more, so that the amateur to whom he would sell the lot for, say, a thousand marks would consider it a good bargain. The amateur, how-ever , did not appear, though Pilgram had written to all the wealthiest collectors. So he had locked up the cabinet, and stopped thinking, about it. * I delight sensually in Time, in its stuff and spread, in the fall of its folds, in the very impalpability of its continuum. * Occasionally someone turned to him, and asked how his shop was doing; he would be slow to answer, and often did not answer at all. The bartender would counter briskly, which made the players at the next table rock with ugly glee. * That April morning a sunburned, bespectacled man in an old mackintosh and without any hat on his brown bald head sauntered in, and asked for some carbon paper. The man cast a rapid glance round the shop, and remarked upon the extravagant brilliancy of an iridescent green insect with many tails. Pilgram mumbled something about Madagascar. "And thatâ€”that's not a butterfly, is it?" said the man, indicating another specimen. Pilgram slowly replied that he had a whole collection of that special kind.â€œAch, was!â€? said the man. Pilgram scratched his bristly chin, and limped into a recess of the shop. He pulled out a glass-topped tray, and laid it on the counter. The man pored over those tiny vitreous creatures with bright orange feet and belted bodies. Pilgram
pointed with the stem of his pipe to one of the rows, and simultaneously the man exclaimed: "Good God—uralensisl" and that ejaculation gave him away. * Attainment and science, retainment and art—the two couples keep to themselves, but when they do meet, nothing else in the world matters. * As it dawned upon him that the visitor knew perfectly well of the existence of this collection; that he had come for its sake; and was as a matter of fact the rich amateur Sommer; Pilgram heaped case after case on the counter. * Finally, when the question was carelessly put—"Well, and what would the price be?"—Pilgram smiled, and offered a lighted match to his friend who had his pipe in his teeth and was beating himself with both hands on his torso. * He knew it was a filthy trick on the excellent widow; but he also knew that the 950 marks he might get would permit him to travel for months. So he accepted it all as a man who felt that tomorrow would bring dreary old age and that the good fortune which now beckoned would never again repeat its invitation. * Sommer said (purring, while a thick fold of flesh would swell, just above the stiff collar, on his scarlet nape, a general’s fleshy nape) that in a few days hence he would give a definite answer. Something blinding welled before his eyes, and he stumbled about his shop for quite a while be fore he felt better. * A week passed and the amateur failed to turn up, but a Saturday afternoon, when the whole thing seemed merely delirium, Sommer, a Cattleya in his buttonhole and his overcoat on his arm, reappeared. The robust fillings of his teeth flashed with the golden fire of inspiration. And when he took out a wad, and the banknotes rustled, Pilgram's nose began to bleed violently. His mispronounced German 'thank you' (danke) rhymed exactly with the
locative case of the Russian word for 'bank'. * The delivery of the cabinet and a visit to the credulous widow, to whom he reluctantly gave 50 marks, were his last business in town, The much more expensive visit to the travel agency already referred to his new existence, where only butterflies mattered. A rich, huge happiness was leaning toward him like a magic mountain. His parents, not familiar with his transactions, looked happy: feeling that he was making good profits, but fearing to ask how much. * It was time to pack. He dragged out of a closet his father's old checkered suitcase, with gleaming locks, and packed it with some socks and underwear. He added two or three things that might be sold in an extremity, such as, for instance, a silver cutlery set, shining and ever so slightly scratched, and a gold medal in a velvet case, which perhaps had belonged to his grandfather. * I attended college at only sixteen, and there I played tennis with a cannonball service, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms with schoolmates and teachers alike, one of them everybody's dream: pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, which had the distinctive effect of causing interesting reactions on some glands of my organism, especially when I imagined her naked with gartered stockings. Subsequently, in their renowned debonair manner, some pros gave me, about sex, all the information they thought I needed in the three-dimensional world. * I am now going to do something quite difficult, a kind of double somersault with a Welsh waggle (old acrobats will know what I mean), and hence I want complete silence, please.