European Diary

Memoirs of a Bridegroom

If the typical life of a young couple resembles an Oriental bazaar, where the clamoring for jewels, perfumes, spices, silks, and other aphrodisiac appurtenances of fata morgana breaks on the morose tightfistedness of those who can afford them, in my case the reverse was true, not only because I could afford nothing, but because my fiancée’s not clamoring for jewels and perfumes was symptomatic of the abnormality I had vowed to correct.  The first problem was insoluble, and hence nothing to lose sleep over, but the other was a source of nightly torment.

In one of his essays Orwell calculated how many pairs of silk stockings were equivalent to the labor that went into the making of a bombing plane, but what concerned me was that the silk stockings my fiancée showed no signs of coveting cost the equivalent of 28 tins of Portuguese sardines.  A silken folly from Cadolle in the Rue Cambon, likewise spurned at 3,000 francs, was equivalent to what I might get in a lucky week for a review in the Times.  Finally, a ring with a sparkle lively enough to engage somebody, to say nothing of the fairy-tale solitaire clear enough to augur a cloudless ménage, was no more procurable, for all its being so callously unwanted, than any of the jewels on display in the Tower of London.  But one fine day, fate intervened.

When we left New York, where some of her family dwelt in what to the...

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