The pension dining room was cave-like, hung with fishing nets and glass floats, receding backwards to the dark kitchen. He propped up against the water carafe a book which he had taken at random from a shelf of English paper-backs in his bedroom. Modern verse. He would have preferred a newspaper, but it was just something to look at, to prevent him from staring blankly while he drank his coffee.
He was angry at himself for not enjoying St. Tropez. Here it was, an ancient fortified town, sunbaked, curious, typical of the Midi. There were leathery peasant women in black shawls, waddling through crumbling streets with baskets of fruit on their heads, there was everything to excite his northern blood, yet somehow he could make none of it seem real.
Somebody had encircled two lines with a red pencil:
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
He thumbed through the rest of the book, hoping for some further comments or graffiti. But there was none and he put the book aside. He felt a peculiar sympathy for the unknown annotator. He felt a peculiar sympathy for the unknown annotator.
A youth, the only other occupant of the room, looked back at him from the shadows. He was shirtless, in the prevailing fashion of the pension. Jerome speculated about whether he was dark-skinned or just sunburned. Black hair, but northern features: Spanish perhaps, he decided.