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Aaron's Rod by D. H. Lawrence

Perhaps too acrid and challenging today

Aaron felt a new self, a new life-urge rising inside himself. Florence seemed to start a new man in him. It was a town of men. On Friday morning, so early, he heard the traffic. Early, he watched the rather low, two-wheeled traps of the peasants spanking recklessly over the bridge, coming in to town. And then, when he went out, he found the Piazza della Signoria packed with men: but all, all men. And all farmers, land-owners and land-workers. The curious, fine-nosed Tuscan farmers, with their half-sardonic, amber-coloured eyes. Their curious individuality, their clothes worn so easy and reckless, their hats with the personal twist. Their curious full oval cheeks, their tendency to be too fat, to have a belly and heavy limbs. Their close-sitting dark hair. And above all, their sharp, almost acrid, mocking expression, the silent curl of the nose, the eternal challenge, the rock-bottom unbelief, and the subtle fearlessness. The dangerous, subtle, never-dying fearlessness, and the acrid unbelief. But men! Men! A town of men, in spite of everything. The one manly quality, undying, acrid fearlessness. The eternal challenge of the un-quenched human soul. Perhaps too acrid and challenging today, when there is nothing left to challenge. But men--who existed without apology and without justification. Men who would neither justify themselves nor apologize for themselves. Just men. The rarest thing left in our sweet Christendom.

Altogether Aaron was pleased with himself, for being in Florence. Those were early days after the war, when as yet very few foreigners had returned, and the place had the native sombreness and intensity. So that our friend did not mind being alone.

The third day, however, Francis called on him. There was a tap at the bedroom door, and the young man entered, all eyes of curiosity.

"Oh, there you ARE!" he cried, flinging his hand and twisting his waist and then laying his hand on his breast. "Such a LONG way up to you! But miles--! Well, how are you? Are you quite all right here? You are? I'm so glad--we've been so rushed, seeing people that we haven't had a MINUTE. But not a MINUTE! People! People! People! Isn't it amazing how many there are, and how many one knows, and gets to know! But amazing! Endless acquaintances!--Oh, and such quaint people here! so ODD! So MORE than odd! Oh, extraordinary--!" Francis chuckled to himself over the extraordinariness. Then he seated himself gracefully at Aaron's table. "Oh, MUSIC! What? Corelli! So interesting! So very CLEVER, these people, weren't they!--Corelli and the younger Scarlatti and all that crowd." Here he closed the score again. "But now--LOOK! Do you want to know anybody here, or don't you? I've told them about you, and of course they're dying to meet you and hear you play. But I thought it best not to mention anything about--about your being hard-up, and all that. I said you were just here on a visit. You see with this kind of people I'm sure it's much the best not to let them start off by thinking you will need them at all--or that you MIGHT need them. Why give yourself away, anyhow? Just meet them and take them for what they're worth--and then you can see. If they like to give you an engagement to play at some show or other--well, you can decide when the time comes whether you will accept. Much better that these kind of people shouldn't get it into their heads at once that they can hire your services. It doesn't do. They haven't enough discrimination for that. Much best make rather a favour of it, than sort of ask them to hire you.--Don't you agree? Perhaps I'm wrong."

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