And one morning, after a fortnight, I thought of Monte Carlo. And the vision of that place, which I had never seen, too voluptuously lovely to be really beautiful, where there are no commandments, where unconventionality and conventionality fight it out on even terms, where the adulteress swarms, and the sin is for ever sinned, and wounded hearts go about gaily, where it is impossible to distinguish between virtue and vice, and where Toleration in fine clothes is the supreme social goddess—the vision of Monte Carlo, as a place of refuge from the exacerbating and moribund and yet eternal demureness of Torquay, appealed to me so persuasively that I was on my way to the Riviera in two hours. In that crisis of my life my moods were excessively capricious. Let me say that I had not reached Exeter before I began to think kindly of Torquay. What was Torquay but an almost sublime example of what the human soul can accomplish in its unending quest of an ideal?
I left England on a calm, slate-coloured sea—sea that more than any other sort of sea produces the reflective melancholy which makes wonderful the faces of fishermen. How that brief voyage symbolized for me the mysterious movement of humanity! We converged from the four quarters of the universe, passed together an hour, helpless, in somewhat inimical curiosity concerning each other, and then, mutually forgotten, took wing, and spread out into the unknown. I think that as I stood near the hot funnel, breasting the wind, and vacantly staring at the smooth expanse that continually slipped from under us, I understood myself better than I had done before. My soul was at peace—the peace of ruin after a conflagration, but peace. Sometimes a little flame would dart out—flame of regret, revolt, desire—and I would ruthlessly extinguish it. I felt that I had nothing to live for, that no energy remained to me, no interest, no hope. I saw the forty years of probable existence in front of me flat and sterile as the sea itself. I was coldly glad that I had finished my novel, well knowing that it would be my last. And the immense disaster had been caused by a chance! Why had I been born with a vein of overweening honesty in me? Why should I have sacrificed everything to the pride of my conscience, seeing that consciences were the product of education merely? Useless to try to answer the unanswerable! What is, is. And circumstances