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Nature has cursed me with a retiring disposition. I have gone round the world without making a single friend by the way. Coming out of my own shell is as difficult to me as drawing others out of theirs. There are some men who go through life extracting the substance of every one they meet, as one picks out periwinkles with a pin. To me my fellow-men are oysters, and I have no oyster-knife; my sole consolation (if it be one) is that my own values absolutely defy the oyster-knives of others. Not more than twice or thrice in my life have I met a fellow-creature at whose “Open Sesame” the treasures of my heart and brain stood instantly revealed. My Fascinating Friend was one of these rare and sympathetic beings.
I was lounging away a few days at Monaco, awaiting a summons to join some relations in Italy. One afternoon I had started for an aimless and rambling climb among the olive-terraces on the lower slopes of the Tête du Chien. Finding an exquisite coign of vantage amid the roots of a gnarled old trunk springing from a built-up semicircular patch of level ground, I sat me down to rest, and read, and dream. Below me, a little to the right, Monaco jutted out into the purple sea. I could distinguish carriages and pedestrians coming and going on the chaussée between the promontory and Monte Carlo, but I was far too high for any sound to reach me. Away to the left the coast took a magnificent sweep, past the clustering houses of Roccabruna, past the mountains at whose base Mentone nestled unseen, past the Italian frontier, past the bight of Ventimiglia, to where the Capo di Bordighera stood faintly outlined between sea and sky. There was not a solitary sail on the whole expanse of the Mediterranean. A line of white, curving at rhythmic intervals along a small patch of sandy beach, showed that there was a gentle swell upon the sea, but its surface was mirror-like. A lovelier scene there is not in the world, and it was at its very loveliest. I took the Saturday Review from my pocket, and was soon immersed in an article on the commutation of tithes.