A few good books


Two of us sat together on the terrace of a summer hotel.

“See that young woman over there?”, said my friend.

“A chap is talking to her – talking rapidly, eagerly. Now watch her. She is meagerly endowed – no lure that you can see, and yet there isn’t a beauty in this hotel that attracts men as she does.”

“Is she an heiress?” I asked.

“No. It isn’t money. See the way she listens to that chap, her interested expression? She knows great secret.”

“What’s the secret?”

“She knows,that there is no more gratifying tribute one can give to another than absolute, undivided and sympathetic attention. Every man that talks to her finds that he is interesting to her. He just knows it, and he likes her for letting him know it. The oil of encouragement fairly pours from her eyes and lubricates a man’s ideas.”

“You grow eloquent!”

“Why not? Remember what Saint-Beuve said of exquisite Madame Recamier: She listens with seduction. Her inspired attention invited and drew confidence. That was her great charm, her genius for listening.”

From The Challenge of Existence, 1965, Hong Kong


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