From Chapter One
It was about the year 1907.
Jules, short and plump, a stranger to Paris, had asked Jim, tall and
thin, whom he hardly knew, to get him into the Bal des Quat-z'Arts,
and Jim had found him a ticket and taken him to the costumier's. It
was while Jules was gently turning over one material after another and
choosing a simple costume, that of a slave, that Jim's friendship for
Jules was born. The friendship grew during the ball, which Jules took
in serenely, his eyes round with wonder and brimming with humour and
The next day, they had their first real conversation. Jules had no woman
in his life in Paris, and he wanted one. Jim had several. He introduced
Jules to a young musician. At first things looked promising. For a week
Jules was rather taken, and so was she. Then Jules decided she was too
cerebral; and she, that he was too placid and ironical.
Jules and Jim saw each other every day. They sat up late at night, each
teaching the other the language and literature of his own country. They
showed each other one another's poems and translated them together.
Their talk was leisurely; neither had ever found so attentive a listener.
The regulars at the bar soon concluded, without the two young men's
realising it, that their relationship must be abnormal.
Jim introduced Jules into literary cafes frequented by celebrities.
Jules was appreciated there and Jim was pleased. In one of these cafes
Jim had a girlfriend, a pretty, independent, casual young woman who
could stand the nocturnal pace in Les Halles better than all the poets
and still be on her feet at six in the morning. Loftily, as if from
a height, she distributed her brief favours; and whatever life might
do to her she kept her outlaw liberty and an immediate wit that always
found its mark. The three of them went out together several times. She
disconcerted Jules, whom she considered nice, but ineffective. He thought
her remarkable but alarming. She brought along a pleasant silly girl
for Jules - and Jules found her pleasant, but silly.
So Jim couldn't do antyhting for Jules. He persuaded him to go hunting
on his own, but Jules, possibly through being bothered by his still
imperfect French, never got anywhere. Jim told Jules, 'It's not a question
of language,' and gave him a lecture on strategy.
'You might as well lend me your shoes or your boxing-gloves,' said Jules,
'all your things are too big for me.'
Jules, against Jim's advice, had recourse to professionals. But there
was no satisfaction in that.
They fell back on their translations and conversations.