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32. Chapter XXXII
I did not see Strickland for several weeks. I was disgusted with him, and if I had had an opportunity should have been glad to tell him so, but I saw no object in seeking him out for the purpose. I am a little shy of any assumption of moral indignation; there is always in it an element of self-satisfaction which makes it awkward to anyone who has a sense of humour. It requires a very lively passion to steel me to my own ridicule. There was a sardonic sincerity in Strickland which made me sensitive to anything that might suggest a pose.
But one evening when I was passing along the Avenue de Clichy in front of the cafe which Strickland frequented and which I now avoided, I ran straight into him. He was accompanied by Blanche Stroeve, and they were just going to Strickland's favourite corner.
"Where the devil have you been all this time?" said he. "I thought you must be away."
His cordiality was proof that he knew I had no wish to speak to him. He was not a man with whom it was worth while wasting politeness.
"No," I said; "I haven't been away."
"Why haven't you been here?"
"There are more cafes in Paris than one, at which to trifle away an idle hour."
Blanche then held out her hand and bade me good-evening. I do not know why I had expected her to be somehow changed; she wore the same gray dress that she wore so often, neat and becoming, and her brow was as candid, her eyes as untroubled, as when I had been used to see her occupied with her household duties in the studio.
"Come and have a game of chess," said Strickland.
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