On the wall behind M. Jean, there is a beautiful,
Flemish painting of a pale, young boy holding a piece ofgolden fruit. This is “Boy with Apple”. A patch of water
damage above seeps dangerously close to the picture-
The author (a fictionalized version of himself) wandersinto the room with his hands in his pockets. He has darkcircles under his eyes.
Perhaps as a result of this generalsilence, I had established a casual andbantering familiarity with the hotel’sconcierge, a West-continental known onlyas M. Jean, who struck one as being, atonce, both lazy and, really, quiteaccommodating.
M. Jean quickly stubs out his cigarette as the authorapproaches -- and tucks the butt into his coat pocket.
I expect he was not well-paid.
The author and M. Jean chat amicably as they study apamphlet of Alpine tourist sites.
In any case, one evening, as I stoodconferring elbow-to-elbow with M. Jean,
as had become my habit, I noticed a newpresence in our company.
At the far end of a colonnade, beyond Reception, a dark-
skinned, white-haired seventy-year-old man in a threepiece-
suit sits alone smoking a pipe. He is Mr. Moustafa.
A small, elderly man, smartly dressed,
with an exceptionally lively, intelligentface -- and an immediately perceptibleair of sadness. He was, like the rest ofus, alone -- but also, I must say, he wasthe first that struck one as being,
deeply and truly, lonely. (A symptom ofmy own medical condition, as well.)
Mr. Moustafa drinks a sip of sherry. The author lowershis voice and asks discreetly:
“Who’s this interesting, old fellow,” Iinquired of M. Jean. To my surprise, hewas distinctly taken aback. “Don’t youknow?” he asked. “Don’t you recognizehim?” He did look familiar. “That’s Mr.
Moustafa himself! He arrived early thismorning.”