Going through the customs dampened them further. Customs inspectors must have a mental twist that makes them suspicious of innocence. Dewy-eyed honeymooners, red-cheeked provincials, and helpless little old ladies lash them into frenzied investigation while slinking Orientals hugging small black bags are passed with scarcely a glance. George and Harriet stood under the letter 'R' and watched reproachfully while a muttering little man flung their underclothes and dirty laundry right and left, leaving scattered heaps for them to put back in their suitcases. 'I thought the French were supposed to be so polite, ' said Harriet indignantly. Maybe it can't be proven statistically, but it's a safe bet that any given American on his or her first trip to France will at some point remark with indignation that he or she had thought the French were supposed to be so polite.
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Harriet, to hide her excitement, had turned to the bookshelves in the corner between the windows and the fireplace. The books, untidily arranged, some standing, some piled on their sides, with newspapers and magazines wedged among them, confused her. There were no sets and a great many were paper-backed. She saw friends - Mr. Dickens was present - and nodding acquaintances - Laurence Sterne, for instance, and Theodore Dreiser - but they were among strangers: Henry Miller, Norman Douglas, Saki, Ronald Firbank, strangers all.
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Life has always seemed to me like a restaurant, ' said Peter. 'When you're born, you come in and sit down... ' 'Oh, my God, ' said Brenda. '... and they show you the menu, ' went on Peter, frowning at Brenda. 'And it's a swell menu. It's got everything on it. And they tell you that you can have anything you want, the rarest and tastiest and most wonderful dishes imaginable.' 'Who's they?' asked Brenda. 'They is a sort of waiter-cum-proprietor, ' said Peter, 'and he represents organized society in the parable.' 'It's a parable, is it?' 'Yes. So you study the menu and you pick out the dishes that appeal to you most. Some people pick more exotic viands than others, but everybody picks out something he thinks is swell and the waiter-cum-proprietor pats him on the back and says it's an excellent choice. And you sit back and wait to be served. That represents the period of adolescence... Damn it, where was I?' 'You were adolescent.' 'So you sit and wait to be served your fondly chosen dish, ' resumed Peter, 'and pretty soon the waiter comes in and what does he bring you? He brings you hash! "Hey, " you say, "this isn't what I ordered." "Oh isn't it?" says the waiter who is no longer friendly. "Well, it's what you're gonna get." Now this is the important part. Some people meekly eat their hash. Some drown it with catsup and try to enjoy it.' 'I get it, ' said Brenda. 'Those are the drunks.' 'But there are a few who say, "Goddamn it, I didn't order hash and I don't want hash and I won't eat hash." They get out of their chairs and the waiter tries to push them back, but they say, "Get out of my way, who the hell are you?" And they fight their way into the kitchen while the waiter hollers and protests and there they find mountains and mountains of hash. But they keep looking around and pretty soon in odd corners of the kitchen they find the dishes they ordered, the rare and costly viands they had their hearts set on. And they eat 'em and they enjoy 'em and then they go out of the restaurant the same as the hash eaters do, but boy, they've dined!' He threw down his cigarette and stamped on it. 'That's all, ' he said. 'Thank you for your attention.' 'Who pays the bill?' asked George with interest. 'I don't know, ' said Peter irritably. 'That would complicate the parable to the point of chaos.' 'Who did you say the waiter was?' asked George. 'Organized society?' 'That's right. A pale flabby guy with a walrus mustache.' 'I don't quite see it, ' said George. 'I do, ' said Harriet, sitting up on the day bed. 'I see it. It's beautiful.' 'It isn't so bad at that, ' said Brenda. 'You're damn right it's not.
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I wouldn't have gone if he'd made me. But it was different, deciding myself. It made staying too easy. It took the... the rebelliousness out of it.' Peter nodded. 'It's easy to take the opposite path from the one you're directed to, ' he said. 'It's much harder to find the right path alone.
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