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Madame De Mauves by Henry James
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The view from the terrace at Saint-Germain-en-Laye is immense and
famous. Paris lies spread before you in dusky vastness, domed and
fortified, glittering here and there through her light vapours and
girdled with her silver Seine. Behind you is a park of stately symmetry,
and behind that a forest where you may lounge through turfy avenues and
light-chequered glades and quite forget that you are within half an hour
of the boulevards. One afternoon, however, in mid-spring, some five
years ago, a young man seated on the terrace had preferred to keep this
in mind. His eyes were fixed in idle wistfulness on the mighty human
hive before him. He was fond of rural things, and he had come to Saint-
Germain a week before to meet the spring halfway; but though he could
boast of a six months' acquaintance with the great city he never looked
at it from his present vantage without a sense of curiosity still
unappeased. There were moments when it seemed to him that not to be
there just then was to miss some thrilling chapter of experience. And
yet his winter's experience had been rather fruitless and he had closed
the book almost with a yawn. Though not in the least a cynic he was what
one may call a disappointed observer, and he never chose the right-hand
road without beginning to suspect after an hour's wayfaring that the
left would have been the better. He now had a dozen minds to go to Paris
for the evening, to dine at the Cafe Brebant and repair afterwards to
the Gymnase and listen to the latest exposition of the duties of the
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