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Tbe Oxford Letter

By Christopher Janus

Marseilles is over run with deserters from Spain, French soldiers, Ford cars, prostitutes and Oxford students on their Spring vacation. My hotel window looks out to a bustling alley strewn with garlic shops, clothes lines and fish mongers. This place was recommened as being picturesque: it is all that, even down to the hotel porters, which by the way, are women. I was a bit embarrassed when at the ring of the bell a young girl not much bigger than the size of my bag came up, strapped the luggage on her back and was off three flights of stairs to my room. When I offered to help she was hurt. This is her job, she explained; and she does it with as much pride as I must do whatever I'm doing. So I gave her five francs and she kissed my hand.

Down at the end of the alley is the Vieux Port. From here Edmund Dantes, the Abbe Faria and other prisoners were taken to Chateau d'If. The prison isn't as romantic looking as Paramount did it for. The Count of Monte-Cristo-but it's all there: The cell where Dantes slept, the cup from which he drank, and for a franc or two you can touch the initials he carved on the wall. Why do such things thrill us? Perhaps it's the secret desire we all have for immortality, for fame. One tourist with horn-rimmed glasses paid his franc and then proceeded to carve his own initials under those of Dantes. But then again another had to be reminded of a big sign in the cell: "Defense d'Uriner Dans Les Prisons." Such is life.

On the way back from Chateau d'If (which takes about forty minutes by boat) I sat next to three girls who looked French but spoke Greek. They praised Dumas' imagination, showed traces of profound interest in the ancient "Massilia" during the Gallo-Roman epoch, then turned girlish and discussed men: Frenchmen were too short, but nice to be gay with; Germans were rough but make good husbands; Englishmen are stiff and cold; Americans are rich-but oh, so very young! Yet how good it would be to meet some men, no matter from where. "Come, Loretta. you are nearest, shall we commence with this innocent-looking boy?". But enough of this.

To-morrow I go to Cannes: town of palm trees, English aristocracy, poodle dogs and of course one time abode of Mrs. Simpson.

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