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Title:      Cities of the Plain
            (Sodom et Gomorrhe)
            [Vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past—
            (À la Recherche du temps perdu)]
Author:     Marcel Proust
            Translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300491.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          March 2003
Date most recently updated: March 2014

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                  are enclosed by underscores (_) in this eBook

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Cities of the Plain
            (Sodom et Gomorrhe)
            [Vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past]
            [À la Recherche du temps perdu]
Author:     Marcel Proust
            Translated from the French by C. K. Scott Moncrieff


[PUBLISHER'S NOTE]

Marcel Proust's continuous novel _À la Recherche du Temps
Perdu_ (REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST) was originally published
in eight parts, the titles and dates of which were: I. _Du Coté
de Chez Swann_ (1913); II. _À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en
Fleurs_ (1918), awarded the Prix Goncourt in 1919; III. _Le
Côté de Guermantes_ I (1920); IV. _Le Côté de Guermantes_
II, _Sodome et Gomorrhe_ I (1921); V. _Sodome et
Gomorrhe_ II (1922); VI. _La Prisonnière_ (1923); VII.
_Albertine Disparue_ (1925); VIII. _Le Temps Retrouvé_
(1927).

_Du Côté de Chez Swann_ has been published in English as
SWANN'S WAY; _À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs_ as
WITHIN A BUDDING GROVE; _Le Côté de Guermantes_ as THE
GUERMANTES WAY; _Sodome et Gomorrhe_ as CITIES OF THE PLAIN;
_La Prisonnière_ as THE CAPTIVE; _Albertine Disparue_
as THE SWEET CHEAT GONE: and _Le Temps Retrouvé_ as TIME
REGAINED. The first seven parts were translated by C. K. Scott
Moncrieff; the eighth was first translated for Chatto &
Windus by Stephen Hudson.




VOLUME IV

CITIES OF THE PLAIN

(Sodom et Gomorrhe)

[Vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past]
[Vol. 4 of À la Recherche du temps perdu]





MARCEL PROUST

CITIES OF THE PLAIN


_Translated [from the French] by

C. K. Scott Moncrieff_





CONTENTS

PART 1

_Introducing the men-women, descendants of those of the inhabitants of
Sodom who were spared by the fire from heaven_.


PART 2

Chapter One
_M. de Charlus in Society—A physician—Typical physiognomy
of Mme. de Vaugoubert—Mme. d'Arpajon, the Hubert Robert fountain and
the merriment of the Grand Duke Vladimir—Mmes. d'Amoncourt, de
Citri, de Saint-Euverte, etc.—Curious conversation between Swann and
the Prince de Guermantes—Albertine on the telephone—My social life
in the interval before my second and final visit to Balbec—Arrival at
Balbec._


The Heart's Intermissions


Chapter Two
_The mysteries of Albertine—The girls whom she sees
reflected in the glass—The other woman—The lift-boy—Madame de
Cambremer— The pleasures of M. Nissim Bernard
(continued)—Outline of the strange character of Morel—M. de Charlus
dines with the Verdurins._

Chapter Three
_The sorrows of M. de Charlus—His sham duel—The
stations on the "Transatlantic"—Weary of Albertine, I decide to break
with her._

Chapter Four
_Sudden revulsion in favour of Albertine—Agony at
sunrise—I set off at once with Albertine for Paris._





TRANSLATOR'S DEDICATION

_To_

RICHARD and MYRTLE KURT

and Their Creator

PISA, 1927





PART 1

Introducing the men-women, descendants of those of the inhabitants
of Sodom who were spared by the fire from heaven.

_La femme aura Gomorrhe et l'homme aura
Sodome_. Alfred de Vigny.


THE reader will remember that, long before going that day (on the
evening of which the Princesse de Guermantes was to give her party) to
pay the Duke and Duchess the visit which I have just described, I had
kept watch for their return and had made, in the course of my vigil, a
discovery which, albeit concerning M. de Charlus in particular, was in
itself so important that I have until now, until the moment when I
could give it the prominence and treat it with the fulness that it
demanded, postponed giving any account of it. I had, as I have said,
left the marvellous point of vantage, so snugly contrived for me at
the top of the house, commanding the broken and irregular slopes
leading up to the Hôtel de Bréquigny, and gaily decorated in the
Italian manner by the rose-pink campanile of the Marquis de Frécourt's
stables. I had felt it to be more convenient, when I thought that the
Duke and Duchess were on the point of returning, to post myself on the
staircase. I regretted somewhat the abandonment of my watch-tower. But
at that time of day, namely the hour immediately following luncheon, I
had less cause for regret, for I should not then have seen, as in the
morning, the footmen of the Bréquigny-Tresmes household, converted by
distance into minute figures in a picture, make their leisurely ascent
of the abrupt precipice, feather-brush in hand, behind the large,
transparent flakes of mica which stood out so charmingly upon its
ruddy bastions. Failing the geologist's field of contemplation, I had
at least that of the botanist, and was peering through the shutters of
the staircase window at the Duchess's little tree and at the precious
plant, exposed in the courtyard with that insistence with which
mothers 'bring out' their marriageable offspring, and asking myself
whether the unlikely insect would come, by a providential hazard, to
visit the offered and neglected pistil. My curiosity emboldening me
by degrees, I went down to the ground-floor window, which also stood
open with its shutters ajar. I could hear distinctly, as he got ready
to go out, Jupien who could not detect me behind my blind, where I
stood perfectly still until the moment when I drew quickly aside in
order not to be seen by M. de Charlus, who, on his way to call upon
Mme. de Villeparisis, was slowly crossing the courtyard, a pursy
figure, aged by the strong light, his hair visibly grey. Nothing short
of an indisposition of Mme. de Villeparisis (consequent on the illness
of the Marquis de Fierbois, with whom he personally was at daggers
drawn) could have made M. de Charlus pay a call, perhaps for the first
time in his life, at that hour of the day. For with that eccentricity
of the Guermantes, who, instead of conforming to the ways of society,
used to modify them to suit their own personal habits (habits not,
they thought, social, and deserving in consequence the abasement
before them of that thing of no value, Society—thus it was that Mme.
de Marsantes had no regular 'day,' but was at home to her friends
every morning between ten o'clock and noon), the Baron, reserving
those hours for reading, hunting for old curiosities and so forth,
paid calls only between four and six in the afternoon. At six o'clock
he went to the Jockey Club, or took a stroll in the Bois. A moment
later, I again recoiled, in order not to be seen by Jupien. It was
nearly time for him to start for the office, from which he would
return only for dinner, and not even then always during the last week,
his niece and her apprentices having gone to the country to finish a
dress there for a customer. Then, realising that no one could see me,
I decided not to let myself be disturbed again, for fear of missing,
should the miracle be fated to occur, the arrival, almost beyond the
possibility of hope (across so many obstacles of distance, of adverse
risks, of dangers), of the insect sent from so far as ambassador to
the virgin who had so long been waiting for him to appear. I knew that
this expectancy was no more passive than in the male flower, whose
stamens had spontaneously curved so that the insect might more easily
receive their offering; similarly the female flower that stood here,
if the insect came, would coquettishly arch her styles; and, to be
more effectively penetrated by him, would imperceptibly advance, like
a hypocritical but ardent damsel, to meet him half-way. The laws of
the vegetable kingdom are themselves governed by other laws,
increasingly exalted. If the visit of an insect, that is to say, the
transportation of the seed of one flower is generally necessary for
the fertilisation of another, that is because autofecundation, the
fertilisation of a flower by itself, would lead, like a succession of
intermarriages in the same family, to degeneracy and sterility,
whereas the crossing effected by the insects gives to the subsequent
generations of the same species a vigour unknown to their forebears.
This invigoration may, however, prove excessive, the species develop
out of all proportion; then, as an anti-toxin protects us against
disease, as the thyroid gland regulates our adiposity, as defeat comes
to punish pride, fatigue, indulgence, and as sleep in turn depends
upon fatigue, so an exceptional act of autofecundation comes at a
given point to apply its turn of the screw, its pull on the curb,
brings back within normal limits the flower that has exaggerated its
transgression of them. My reflexions had followed a tendency which I
shall describe in due course, and I had already drawn from the visible
stratagems of flowers a conclusion that bore upon a whole unconscious
element of literary work, when I saw M. de Charlus coming away from
the Marquise. Perhaps he had learned from his elderly relative
herself, or merely from a servant, the great improvement, or rather
her complete recovery from what had been nothing more than a slight
indisposition. At this moment, when he did not suspect that anyone was
watching him, his eyelids lowered as a screen against the sun, M. de
Charlus had relaxed that tension in his face, deadened that artificial
vitality, which the animation of his talk and the force of his will
kept in evidence there as a rule. Pale as marble, his nose stood out
firmly, his fine features no longer received from an expression
deliberately assumed a different meaning which altered the beauty of
their modelling; nothing more now than a Guermantes, he seemed already
carved in stone, he Palamède the Fifteenth, in their chapel at
Combray. These general features of a whole family took on, however, in
the face of M. de Charlus a fineness more spiritualised, above all
more gentle. I regretted for his sake that he should habitually
adulterate with so many acts of violence, offensive oddities,
tale-bearings, with such harshness, susceptibility and arrogance, that
he should conceal beneath a false brutality the amenity, the kindness
which, at the moment of his emerging from Mme. de Villeparisis's, I
could see displayed so innocently upon his face. Blinking his eyes in
the sunlight, he seemed almost to be smiling, I found in his face seen
thus in repose and, so to speak, in its natural state something so
affectionate, so disarmed, that I could not help thinking how angry M.
de Charlus would have been could he have known that he was being
watched; for what was suggested to me by the sight of this man who was
so insistent, who prided himself so upon his virility, to whom all
other men seemed odiously effeminate, what he made me suddenly think
of, so far had he momentarily assumed her features, expression, smile,
was a woman.

I was about to change my position again, so that he should not catch
sight of me; I had neither the time nor the need to do so. What did I
see? Face to face, in that courtyard where certainly they had never
met before (M. de Charlus coming to the Hôtel de Guermantes only in
the afternoon, during the time when Jupien was at his office), the
Baron, having suddenly opened wide his half-shut eyes, was studying
with unusual attention the ex-tailor poised on the threshold of his
shop, while the latter, fastened suddenly to the ground before M. de
Charlus, taking root in it like a plant, was contemplating with a look
of amazement the plump form of the middle-aged Baron. But, more
astounding still, M. de Charlus's attitude having changed, Jupien's,
as though in obedience to the laws of an occult art, at once brought
itself into harmony with it. The Baron, who was now seeking to conceal
the impression that had been made on him, and yet, in spite of his
affectation of indifference, seemed unable to move away without
regret, went, came, looked vaguely into the distance in the way which,
he felt, most enhanced the beauty of his eyes, assumed a complacent,
careless, fatuous air. Meanwhile Jupien, shedding at once the humble,
honest expression which I had always associated with him, had—in
perfect symmetry with the Baron—thrown up his head, given a becoming
tilt to his body, placed his hand with a grotesque impertinence on his
hip, stuck out his behind, posed himself with the coquetry that the
orchid might have adopted on the providential arrival of the bee. I
had not supposed that he could appear so repellent. But I was equally
unaware that he was capable of improvising his part in this sort of
dumb charade, which (albeit he found himself for the first time in the
presence of M. de Charlus) seemed to have been long and carefully
rehearsed; one does not arrive spontaneously at that pitch of
perfection except when one meets in a foreign country a compatriot
with whom an understanding then grows up of itself, both parties
speaking the same language, even though they have never seen one
another before.

This scene was not, however, positively comic, it was stamped with a
strangeness, or if you like a naturalness, the beauty of which
steadily increased. M. de Charlus might indeed assume a detached air,
indifferently let his eyelids droop; every now and then he raised
them, and at such moments turned on Jupien an attentive gaze. But
(doubtless because he felt that such a scene could not be prolonged
indefinitely in this place, whether for reasons which we shall learn
later on, or possibly from that feeling of the brevity of all things
which makes us determine that every blow must strike home, and renders
so moving the spectacle of every kind of love), each time that M. de
Charlus looked at Jupien, he took care that his glance should be
accompanied by a spoken word, which made it infinitely unlike the
glances we usually direct at a person whom we do or do not know; he
stared at Jupien with the peculiar fixity of the person who is about
to say to us: "Excuse my taking the liberty, but you have a long white
thread hanging down your back," or else: "Surely I can't be mistaken,
you come from Zurich too; I'm certain I must have seen you there often
in the curiosity shop." Thus, every other minute, the same question
seemed to be being intensely put to Jupien in the stare of M. de
Charlus, like those questioning phrases of Beethoven indefinitely
repeated at regular intervals, and intended—with an exaggerated
lavishness of preparation—to introduce a new theme, a change of
tone, a 're-entry.' On the other hand, the beauty of the reciprocal
glances of M. de Charlus and Jupien arose precisely from the fact that
they did not, for the moment at least, seem to be intended to lead to
anything further. This beauty, it was the first time that I had seen
the Baron and Jupien display it. In the eyes of both of them, it was
the sky not of Zurich but of some Oriental city, the name of which I
had not yet divined, that I saw reflected. Whatever the point might
be that held M. de Charlus and the ex-tailor thus arrested, their pact
seemed concluded and these superfluous glances to be but ritual
preliminaries, like the parties that people give before a marriage
which has been definitely 'arranged.' Nearer still to nature—and the
multiplicity of these analogies is itself all the more natural in that
the same man, if we examine him for a few minutes, appears in turn as
a man, a man-bird or man-insect, and so forth—one would have called
them a pair of birds, the male and the female, the male seeking to
make advances, the female—Jupien—no longer giving any sign of
response to these overtures, but regarding her new friend without
surprise, with an inattentive fixity of gaze, which she doubtless felt
to be more disturbing and the only effective method, once the male had
taken the first steps, and had fallen back upon preening his feathers.
At length Jupien's indifference seemed to suffice him no longer; from
this certainty of having conquered, to making himself be pursued and
desired was but the next stage, and Jupien, deciding to go off to his
work, passed through the carriage gate. It was only, however, after
turning his head two or three times that he escaped into the street
towards which the Baron, trembling lest he should lose the trail
(boldly humming a tune, not forgetting to fling a 'Good day' to the
porter, who, half-tipsy himself and engaged in treating a few friends
in his back kitchen, did not even hear him), hurried briskly to
overtake him. At the same instant, just as M. de Charlus disappeared
through the gate humming like a great bumble-bee, another, a real bee
this time, came into the courtyard. For all I knew this might be the
one so long awaited by the orchid, which was coming to bring it that
rare pollen without which it must die a virgin. But I was distracted
from following the gyrations of the insect for, a few minutes later,
engaging my attention afresh, Jupien (perhaps to pick up a parcel
which he did take away with him eventually and so, presumably, in the
emotion aroused by the apparition of M. de Charlus, had forgotten,
perhaps simply for a more natural reason) returned, followed by the
Baron. The latter, deciding to cut short the preliminaries, asked the
tailor for a light, but at once observed: "I ask you for a light, but
I find that I have left my cigars at home." The laws of hospitality
prevailed over those of coquetry. "Come inside, you shall have
everything you require," said the tailor, on whose features disdain
now gave place to joy. The door of the shop closed behind them and I
could hear no more. I had lost sight of the bee. I did not know
whether he was the insect that the orchid needed, but I had no longer
any doubt, in the case of an extremely rare insect and a captive
flower, of the miraculous possibility of their conjunction when M. de
Charlus (this is simply a comparison of providential hazards, whatever
they may be, without the slightest scientific claim to establish a
relation between certain laws and what is sometimes, most ineptly,
termed homosexuality), who for years past had never come to the house
except at hours when Jupien was not there, by the mere accident of
Mme. de Villeparisis's illness had encountered the tailor, and with
him the good fortune reserved for men of the type of the Baron by one
of those fellow-creatures who may indeed be, as we shall see,
infinitely younger than Jupien and better looking, the man predestined
to exist in order that they may have their share of sensual pleasure
on this earth; the man who cares only for elderly gentlemen.

All that I have just said, however, I was not to understand until
several minutes had elapsed; so much is reality encumbered by those
properties of invisibility until a chance occurrence has divested it
of them. Anyhow, for the moment I was greatly annoyed at not being
able to hear any more of the conversation between the ex-tailor and
the Baron. I then bethought myself of the vacant shop, separated from
Jupien's only by a partition that was extremely slender. I had, in
order to get to it, merely to go up to our flat, pass through the
kitchen, go down by the service stair to the cellars, make my way
through them across the breadth of the courtyard above, and on coming
to the right place underground, where the joiner had, a few months
ago, still been storing his timber and where Jupien intended to keep
his coal, climb the flight of steps which led to the interior of the
shop. Thus the whole of my journey would be made under cover, I
should not be seen by anyone. This was the most prudent method. It was
not the one that I adopted, but, keeping close to the walls, I made a
circuit in the open air of the courtyard, trying not to let myself be
seen. If I was not, I owe it more, I am sure, to chance than to my own
sagacity. And for the fact that I took so imprudent a course, when the
way through the cellar was so safe, I can see three possible reasons,
assuming that I had any reason at all. First of all, my impatience.
Secondly, perhaps, a dim memory of the scene at Montjouvain, when I
stood concealed outside Mlle. Vinteuil's window. Certainly, the
affairs of this sort of which I have been a spectator have always been
presented in a setting of the most imprudent and least probable
character, as if such revelations were to be the reward of an action
full of risk, though in part clandestine. Lastly, I hardly dare, so
childish does it appear, to confess the third reason, which was, I am
quite sure, unconsciously decisive. Since, in order to follow—and see
controverted—the military principles enunciated by Saint-Loup, I had
followed in close detail the course of the Boer war, I had been led on
from that to read again old accounts of explorations, narratives of
travel. These stories had excited me, and I applied them to the events
of my daily life to stimulate my courage. When attacks of illness had
compelled me to remain for several days and nights on end not only
without sleep but without lying down, without tasting food or drink,
at the moment when my pain and exhaustion became so intense that I
felt that I should never escape from them, I would think of some
traveller cast on the beach, poisoned by noxious herbs, shivering with
fever in clothes drenched by the salt water, who nevertheless in a day
or two felt stronger, rose and went blindly upon his way, in search of
possible inhabitants who might, when he came to them, prove cannibals.
His example acted on me as a tonic, restored my hope, and I felt
ashamed of my momentary discouragement. Thinking of the Boers who,
with British armies facing them, were not afraid to expose themselves
at the moment when they had to cross, in order to reach a covered
position, a tract of open country: "It would be a fine thing," I
thought to myself, "if I were to shew less courage when the theatre of
operations is simply the human heart, and when the only steel that I,
who engaged in more than one duel without fear at the time of the
Dreyfus case, have to fear is that of the eyes of the neighbours who
have other things to do besides looking into the courtyard,"

But when I was inside the shop, taking care not to let any plank in
the floor make the slightest creak, as I found that the least sound in
Jupien's shop could be heard from the other, I thought to myself how
rash Jupien and M. de Charlus had been, and how wonderfully fortune
had favoured them.

I did not dare move. The Guermantes groom, taking advantage no doubt
of his master's absence, had, as it happened, transferred to the shop
in which I now stood a ladder which hitherto had been kept in the
coach-house, and if I had climbed this I could have opened the
ventilator above and heard as well as if I had been in Jupien's shop
itself. But I was afraid of making a noise. Besides, it was
unnecessary. I had not even cause to regret my not having arrived in
the shop until several minutes had elapsed. For from what I heard at
first in Jupien's shop, which was only a series of inarticulate
sounds, I imagine that few words had been exchanged. It is true that
these sounds were so violent that, if one set had not always been
taken up an octave higher by a parallel plaint, I might have thought
that one person was strangling another within a few feet of me, and
that subsequently the murderer and his resuscitated victim were taking
a bath to wash away the traces of the crime. I concluded from this
later on that there is another thing as vociferous as pain, namely
pleasure, especially when there is added to it—failing the fear of an
eventual parturition, which could not be present in this case, despite
the hardly convincing example in the _Golden Legend_—an immediate
afterthought of cleanliness. Finally, after about half an hour
(during which time I had climbed on tip-toe up my ladder so as to peep
through the ventilator which I did not open), a conversation began.
Jupien refused with insistence the money that M. de Charlus was
pressing upon him.

"Why do you have your chin shaved like that," he inquired of the Baron
in a cajoling tone. "It's so becoming, a nice beard." "Ugh! It's
disgusting," the Baron replied. Meanwhile he still lingered upon the
threshold and plied Jupien with questions about the neighbourhood.
"You don't know anything about the man who sells chestnuts at the
corner, not the one on the left, he's a horror, but the other way, a
great, dark fellow? And the chemist opposite, he has a charming
cyclist who delivers his parcels." These questions must have ruffled
Jupien, for, drawing himself up with the scorn of a great courtesan
who has been forsaken, he replied: "I can see you are completely
heartless." Uttered in a pained, frigid, affected tone, this reproach
must have made its sting felt by M. de Charlus, who, to counteract the
bad impression made by his curiosity, addressed to Jupien, in too low
a tone for me to be able to make out his words, a request the granting
of which would doubtless necessitate their prolonging-their sojourn in
the shop, and which moved the tailor sufficiently to make-him forget
his annoyance, for he studied the Baron's face, plump and flushed
beneath his grey hair, with the supremely blissful air of a person
whose self-esteem has just been profoundly flattered, and, deciding to
grant M. de Charlus the favour that he had just asked of him, after
various remarks lacking in refinement such as: "Aren't you naughty!"
said to the Baron with a smiling, emotional, superior and grateful
air: "All right, you big baby, come along!"

"If I hark back to the question of the tram conductor," M. de Charlus
went on imperturbably, "it is because, apart from anything else, he
might offer me some entertainment on my homeward journey. For it falls
to my lot, now and then, like the Caliph who used to roam the streets
of Bagdad in the guise of a common merchant, to condescend to follow
some curious little person whose profile may have taken my fancy." I
made at this point the same observation that I had made on Bergotte.
If he should ever have to plead before a bench, he would employ not
the sentences calculated to convince his judges, but such Bergottesque
sentences as his peculiar literary temperament suggested to him and
made him find pleasure in using. Similarly M. de Charlus, in
conversing with the tailor, made use of the same language that he
would have used to fashionable people of his own set, even
exaggerating its eccentricities, whether because the shyness which he
was striving to overcome drove him to an excess of pride or, by
preventing him from mastering himself (for we are always less at our
ease in the company of some one who is not of our station), forced him
to unveil, to lay bare his true nature, which was, in fact, arrogant
and a trifle mad, as Mme. de Guermantes had remarked. "So as not to
lose the trail," he went on, "I spring like a little usher, like a
young and good-looking doctor, into the same car as the little person
herself, of whom we speak in the feminine gender only so as to conform
with the rules of grammar (as we say, in speaking of a Prince, 'Is His
Highness enjoying her usual health'). If she changes her car, I take,
with possibly the germs of the plague, that incredible thing called a
'transfer,' a number, and one which, albeit it is presented to _me_,
is not always number one! I change 'carriages' in this way as many as
three or four times, I end up sometimes at eleven o'clock at night at
the Orleans station and have to come home. Still, if it were only the
Orleans station! Once, I must tell you, not having managed to get into
conversation sooner, I went all the way to Orleans itself, in one of
those frightful compartments where one has, to rest one's eyes upon,
between triangles of what is known as 'string-work,' photographs of
the principal architectural features of the line. There was only one
vacant seat; I had in front of me, as an historic edifice, a 'view' of
the Cathedral of Orleans, quite the ugliest in France, and as tiring a
thing to have to stare at in that way against my will as if somebody
had forced me to focus its towers in the lens of one of those optical
penholders which give one ophthalmia. I got out of the train at Les
Aubrais together with my young person, for whom alas his family (when
I had imagined him to possess every defect except that of having a
family) were waiting on the platform! My sole consolation, as I waited
for a train to take me back to Paris, was the house of Diane de
Poitiers. She may indeed have charmed one of my royal ancestors, I
should have preferred a more living beauty. That is why, as an
antidote to the boredom of returning home by myself, I should rather
like to make friends with a sleeping-car attendant or the conductor of
an omnibus. Now, don't be shocked," the Baron wound up, "it is all a
question of class. With what you call 'young gentlemen,' for instance,
I feel no desire actually to have them, but I am never satisfied until
I have touched them, I don't mean physically, but touched a responsive
chord. As soon as, instead of leaving my letters unanswered, a young
man starts writing to me incessantly, when he is morally at my
disposal, I grow calm again, or at least I should grow calm were I not
immediately caught by the attraction of another. Rather curious, ain't
it?—Speaking of 'young gentlemen,' those that come to the house here,
do you know any of them?" "No, baby. Oh, yes, I do, a dark one, very
tall, with an eye-. glass, who keeps smiling and turning round." "I
don't know who' you mean." Jupien filled in the portrait, but M. de
Charlus could not succeed in identifying its subject, not knowing that
the ex-tailor was one of those persons, more common than is generally
supposed, who never remember the colour of the hair of people they do
not know well. But to me, who was aware of this infirmity in Jupien
and substituted 'fair' for 'dark,' the portrait appeared to be an
exact description of the Duc de Châtellerault. "To return to young
men not of the lower orders," the Baron went on, "at the present
moment my head has been turned by a strange little fellow, an
intelligent little cit who shews with regard to myself a prodigious
want of civility. He has absolutely no idea of the prodigious
personage that I am, and of the microscopic animalcule that he is in
comparison. After all, what does it matter, the little ass may bray
his head off before my august bishop's mantle." "Bishop!" cried
Jupien, who had understood nothing of M. de Charlus's concluding
remarks, but was completely taken aback by the word bishop. "But that
sort of thing doesn't go with religion," he said. "I have three Popes
in my family," replied M. de Charlus, "and enjoy the right to mantle
in gules by virtue of a cardinalatial title, the niece of the
Cardinal, my great-uncle, having conveyed to my grandfather the title
of Duke which was substituted for it. I see, though, that metaphor
leaves you deaf and French history cold. Besides," he added, less
perhaps by way of conclusion than as a warning, "this attraction that
I feel towards the young people who avoid me, from fear of course, for
only their natural respect stops their mouths from crying out to me
that they love me, requires in them an outstanding social position.
And again, their feint of indifference may produce, in spite of that,
the directly opposite effect. Fatuously prolonged, it sickens me. To
take an example from a class with which you are more familiar, when
they were doing up my Hôtel, so as not to create jealousies among all
the duchesses who were vying with one another for the honour of being
able to say that they had given me a lodging, I went for a few days to
an 'hotel,' as they call inns nowadays. One of the bedroom valets I
knew, I pointed out to him an interesting little page who used to open
and shut the front door, and who remained refractory to my proposals.
Finally, losing my temper, in order to prove to him that my intentions
were pure, I made him an offer of a ridiculously high sum simply to
come upstairs and talk to me for five minutes in my room. I waited for
him in vain. I then took such a dislike to him that I used to go out
by the service door so as not to see his villainous little mug at the
other. I learned afterwards that he had never had any of my notes,
which had been intercepted, the first by the bedroom valet, who was
jealous, the next by the day porter, who was virtuous, the third by
the night porter, who was in love with the little page, and used to
couch with him at the hour when Dian rose. But my disgust persisted
none the less, and were they to bring me the page, simply like a dish
of venison on a silver platter, I should thrust him away with a
retching stomach. But there's the unfortunate part of it, we have
spoken of serious matters, and now all is over between us, there can
be no more question of what I hoped to secure. But you could render me
great services, act as my agent; why no, the mere thought of such a
thing restores my vigour, and I can see that all is by no means over."

From the beginning of this scene a revolution, in my unsealed eyes,
had occurred in M. de Charlus, as complete, as immediate as if he had
been touched by a magician's wand. Until then, because I had not
understood, I had not seen. The vice (we use the word for convenience
only), the vice of each of us accompanies him through life after the
manner of the familiar genius who was invisible to men so long as they
were unaware of his presence. Our goodness, our meanness, our name,
our social relations do not disclose themselves to the eye, we carry
them hidden within us. Even Ulysses did not at once recognise Athena.
But the gods are immediately perceptible to one another, as quickly
like to like, and so too had M. de Charlus been to Jupien. Until that
moment I had been, in the presence of M. de Charlus, in the position
of an absent-minded man who, standing before a pregnant woman whose
distended outline he has failed to remark, persists, while she
smilingly reiterates: "Yes, I am a little tired just now," in asking
her indiscreetly: "Why, what is the matter with you?" But let some one
say to him: "She is expecting a child," suddenly he catches sight of
her abdomen and ceases to see anything else. It is the explanation
that opens our eyes; the dispelling of an error gives us an additional
sense.

Those of my readers who do not care to refer, for examples of this
law, to the Messieurs de Charlus of their acquaintance, whom for long
years they had never suspected, until the day when, upon the smooth
surface of the individual just like everyone else, there suddenly
appeared, traced in an ink hitherto invisible, the characters that
compose the word dear to the ancient Greeks, have only, in order to
convince themselves that the world which surrounds them appears to
them at first naked, bare of a thousand ornaments which it offers to
the eyes of others better informed, to remind themselves how many
times in the course of their lives they have found themselves on the
point of making a blunder. Nothing upon the blank, undocumented face
of this man or that could have led them to suppose that he was
precisely the brother, or the intended husband, or the lover of a
woman of whom they were just going to remark: "What a cow!" But then,
fortunately, a word whispered to them by some one standing near
arrests the fatal expression on their lips. At once there appear, like
a _Mené, Tekel, Upharsin_, the words: "He is engaged to," or, "he is
the brother of," or "he is the lover of the woman whom we ought not to
describe, in his hearing, as a cow." And this one new conception will
bring about an entire regrouping, thrusting some back, others forward,
of the fractional conceptions, henceforward a complete whole, which we
possessed of the rest of the family. In M. de Charlus another creature
might indeed have coupled itself with him which made him as different
from other men as the horse makes the centaur, this creature might
indeed have incorporated itself in the Baron, I had never caught a
glimpse of it. Now the abstraction had become materialised, the
creature at last discerned had lost its power of remaining invisible,
and the transformation of M. de Charlus into a new person was so
complete that not only the contrasts of his face, of his voice, but,
in retrospect, the very ups and downs of his relations with myself,
everything that hitherto had seemed to my mind incoherent, became
intelligible, brought itself into evidence, just as a sentence which
presents no meaning so long as it remains broken up in letters
scattered at random upon a table, expresses, if these letters be
rearranged in the proper order, a thought which one can never
afterwards forget.

I now understood, moreover, how, earlier in the day, when I had seen
him coming away from Mme. de Villeparisis's, I had managed to arrive
at the conclusion that M. de Charlus looked like a woman: he was one!
He belonged to that race of beings, less paradoxical than they appear,
whose ideal is manly simply because their temperament is feminine and
who in their life resemble in appearance only the rest of men; there
where each of us carries, inscribed in those eyes through which he
beholds everything in the universe, a human outline engraved on the
surface of the pupil, for them it is that not of a nymph but of a
youth. Race upon which a curse weighs and which must live amid
falsehood and perjury, because it knows the world to regard as a
punishable and a scandalous, as an inadmissible thing, its desire,
that which constitutes for every human creature the greatest happiness
in life; which must deny its God, since even Christians, when at the
bar of justice they appear and are arraigned, must before Christ and
in His Name defend themselves, as from a calumny, from the charge of
what to them is life itself; sons without a mother, to whom they are
obliged to lie all her life long and even in the hour when they close
her dying eyes; friends without friendships, despite all those which
their charm, frequently recognised, inspires and their hearts, often
generous, would gladly feel; but can we describe as friendship those
relations which flourish only by virtue of a lie and from which the
first outburst of confidence and sincerity in which they might be
tempted to indulge would make them be expelled with disgust, unless
they are dealing with an impartial, that is to say a sympathetic mind,
which however in that case, misled with regard to them by a
conventional psychology, will suppose to spring from the vice
confessed the very affection that is most alien to it, just as certain
judges assume and are more inclined to pardon murder in inverts and
treason in Jews for reasons derived from original sin and racial
predestination. And lastly—according at least to the first-» theory
which I sketched in outline at the time and which we shall see
subjected to some modification in the sequel, a theory by which this
would have angered them above all things, had not the paradox been
hidden from their eyes by the very illusion that made them see and
live—lovers from whom is always precluded the possibility of that
love the hope of which gives them the strength to endure so many risks
and so much loneliness, since they fall in love with precisely that
type of man who has nothing feminine about him, who is not an invert
and consequently cannot love them in return; with the result that
their desire would be for ever insatiable did not their money procure
for them real men, and their imagination end by making them take for
real men the inverts to whom they had prostituted themselves. Their
honour precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only until the
discovery of their crime; their position unstable, like that of the
poet who one day was feasted at every table, applauded in every
theatre in London, and on the next was driven from every lodging,
unable to find a pillow upon which to lay his head, turning the mill
like Samson and saying like him: "The two sexes shall die, each in a
place apart!"; excluded even, save on the days of general disaster
when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews rallied round
Dreyfus, from the sympathy—at times from the society—of their
fellows, in whom they inspire only disgust at seeing themselves as
they are, portrayed in a mirror which, ceasing to flatter them,
accentuates every blemish that they have refused to observe in
themselves, and makes them understand that what they have been calling
their love (a thing to which, playing upon the word, they have by
association annexed all that poetry, painting, music, chivalry,
asceticism have contrived to add to love) springs not from an ideal of
beauty which they have chosen but from an incurable malady; like the
Jews again (save some who will associate only with others of their
race and have always on their lips ritual words and consecrated
pleasantries), shunning one another, seeking out those who are most
directly their opposite, who do not desire their company, pardoning
their rebuffs, moved to ecstasy by their condescension; but also
brought into the company of their own kind by the ostracism that
strikes them, the opprobrium under which they have fallen, having
finally been invested, by a persecution similar to that of Israel,
with the physical and moral characteristics of a race, sometimes
beautiful, often hideous, finding (in spite of all the mockery with
which he who, more closely blended with, better assimilated to the
opposing race, is relatively, in appearance, the least inverted, heaps
upon him who has remained more so) a relief in frequenting the society
of their kind, and even some corroboration of their own life, so much
so that, while steadfastly denying that they are a race (the name of
which is the vilest of insults), those who succeed in concealing the
fact that they belong to it they readily unmask, with a view less to
injuring them, though they have no scruple about that, than to
excusing themselves; and, going in search (as a doctor seeks cases of
appendicitis) of cases of inversion in history, taking pleasure in
recalling that Socrates was one of themselves, as the Israelites claim
that Jesus was one of them, without reflecting that there were no
abnormals when homosexuality was the norm, no anti-Christians before
Christ, that the disgrace alone makes the crime because it has allowed
to survive only those who remained obdurate to every warning, to every
example, to every punishment, by virtue of an innate disposition so
peculiar that it is more repugnant to other men (even though it may be
accompanied by exalted moral qualities) than certain other vices which
exclude those qualities, such as theft, cruelty, breach of faith,
vices better understood and so more readily excused by the generality
of men; forming a freemasonry far more extensive, more powerful and
less suspected than that of the Lodges, for it rests upon an identity
of tastes, needs, habits, dangers, apprenticeship, knowledge, traffic,
glossary, and one in which the members themselves, who intend not to
know one another, recognise one another immediately by natural or
conventional, involuntary or deliberate signs which indicate one of
his congeners to the beggar in the street, in the great nobleman whose
carriage door he is shutting, to the father in the suitor for his
daughter's hand, to him who has sought healing, absolution, defence,
in the doctor, the priest, the barrister to whom he has had recourse;
all of them obliged to protect their own secret but having their part
in a secret shared with the others, which the rest of humanity does
not suspect and which means that to them the most wildly improbable
tales of adventure seem true, for in this romantic, anachronistic life
the ambassador is a bosom friend of the felon, the prince, with a
certain independence of action with which his aristocratic breeding
has furnished him, and which the trembling little cit would lack, on
leaving the duchess's party goes off to confer in private with the
hooligan; a reprobate part of the human whole, but an important part,
suspected where it does not exist, flaunting itself, insolent and
unpunished, where its existence is never guessed; numbering its
adherents everywhere, among the people, in the army, in the church, in
the prison, on the throne; living, in short, at least to a great
extent, in a playful and perilous intimacy with the men of the other
race, provoking them, playing with them by speaking of its vice as of
something alien to it; a game that is rendered easy by the blindness
or duplicity of the others, a game that may be kept up for years until
the day of the scandal, on which these lion-tamers are devoured; until
then, obliged to make a secret of their lives, to turn away their eyes
from the things on which they would naturally fasten them, to fasten
them upon those from which they would naturally turn away, to change
the gender of many of the words in their vocabulary, a social
constraint, slight in comparison with the inward constraint which
their vice, or what is improperly so called, imposes upon them with
regard not so much now to others as to themselves, and in such a way
that to themselves it does not appear a vice. But certain among them,
more practical, busier men who have not the time to go and drive their
own bargains, or to dispense with the simplification of life and that
saving of time which may result from cooperation, have formed two
societies of which the second is composed exclusively of persons
similar to themselves.

This is noticeable in those who are poor and have come up from the
country, without friends, with nothing but their ambition to be some
day a celebrated doctor or barrister, with a mind still barren of
opinions, a person unadorned with manners, which they intend, as soon
as possible, to decorate, just as they would buy furniture for their
little attic in the Latin quarter, copying whatever they had observed
in those who had already 'arrived' in the useful and serious
profession in which they also intend to establish themselves and to
become famous; in these their special taste, unconsciously inherited
like a weakness for drawing, for music, a weakness of vision, is
perhaps the only living and despotic originality—which on certain
evenings compels them to miss some meeting, advantageous to their
career, with people whose ways, in other respect, of speaking,
thinking, dressing, parting their hair, they have adopted. In their
quarter, where otherwise they mix only with their brother students,
their teachers or some fellow-provincial who has succeeded and can
help them on, they have speedily discovered other young men whom the
same peculiar taste attracts to them, as in a small town one sees an
intimacy grow up between the assistant master and the lawyer, who are
both interested in chamber music or mediaeval ivories; applying to the
object of their distraction the same utilitarian instinct, the same
professional spirit which guides them in their career, they meet these
young men at gatherings to which no profane outsider is admitted any
more than to those that bring together collectors of old snuff-boxes,
Japanese prints or rare flowers, and at which, what with the pleasure
of gaining information, the practical value of making exchanges and
the fear of competition, there prevail simultaneously, as in a
saleroom of postage stamps, the close cooperation of the specialists
and the fierce rivalries of the collectors. No one moreover in the
café where they have their table knows what the gathering is, whether
it is that of an angling club, of an editorial staff, or of the 'Sons
of the Indre,' so correct is their attire, so cold and reserved their
manner, so modestly do they refrain from anything more than the most
covert glances at the young men of fashion, the young 'lions' who, a
few feet away, are making a great clamour about their mistresses, and
among whom those who are admiring them without venturing to raise
their eyes will learn only twenty years later, when they themselves
are on the eve of admission to the Academy, and the others are
middle-aged gentlemen in club windows, that the most seductive among
them, now a stout and grizzled Charlus, was in reality akin to
themselves, but differently, in another world, beneath other external
symbols, with foreign labels, the strangeness of which led them into
error. But these groups are at varying stages of advancement; and,
just as the 'Union of the Left' differs from the 'Socialist
Federation' or some Mendelssohnian musical club from the Schola
Cantorum, on certain evenings, at another table, there are extremists
who allow a bracelet to slip down from beneath a cuff, sometimes a
necklace to gleam in the gap of a collar, who by their persistent
stares, their cooings, their laughter, their mutual caresses, oblige a
band of students to depart in hot haste, and are served with a
civility beneath which indignation boils by a waiter who, as on the
evenings when he has to serve Dreyfusards, would find pleasure in
summoning the police did he not find profit in pocketing their
gratuities.

It is with these professional organisations that the mind contrasts
the taste of the solitaries, and in one respect without straining the
points of difference, since it is doing no more than copy the
solitaries themselves who imagine that nothing differs more widely
from organised vice than what appears to them to be a misunderstood
love, but with some strain nevertheless, for these different classes
correspond, no less than to diverse physiological types, to successive
stages in a pathological or merely social evolution. And it is, in
fact, very rarely that, one day or another, it is not in some such
organisation that the solitaries come to merge themselves, sometimes
from simple weariness, or for convenience (just as the people who have
been most strongly opposed to such innovations end by having the
telephone installed, inviting the Iénas to their parties, or dealing
with Potin). They meet there, for that matter, with none too friendly
a reception as a rule, for, in their relatively pure lives, their want
of experience, the saturation in dreams to which they have been
reduced, have branded more strongly upon them those special marks of
effeminacy which the professionals have sought to efface. And it must
be admitted that, among certain of these newcomers, the woman is not
only inwardly united to the man but hideously visible, agitated as one
sees them by a hysterical spasm, by a shrill laugh which convulses
their knees and hands, looking no more like the common run of men than
those monkeys with melancholy, shadowed eyes and prehensile feet who
dress up in dinner-jackets and black bow ties; so that these new
recruits are judged by others, less chaste for all that themselves, to
be compromising associates, and their admission is hedged with
difficulties; they are accepted, nevertheless, and they benefit then
by those facilities by which commerce, great undertakings have
transformed the lives of individuals, and have brought within their
reach commodities hitherto too costly to acquire and indeed hard to
find, which now submerge them beneath the plethora of what by
themselves they had never succeeded in discovering amid the densest
crowds. But, even with these innumerable outlets, the burden of social
constraint is still too heavy for some, recruited principally among
those who have not made a practice of self-control, and who still take
to be rarer than it actually is their way of love. Let us leave out of
consideration for the moment those who, the exceptional character of
their inclinations making them regard themselves as superior to the
other sex, look down upon women, make homosexuality the privilege of
great genius and of glorious epochs of history, and, when they seek to
communicate their taste to others, approach not so much those who seem
to them to be predisposed towards it (as the morphinomaniac does with
his morphia) as those who seem to them to be worthy of it, from
apostolic zeal, just as others preach Zionism, conscientious objection
to military service, Saint-Simonism, vegetarianism or anarchy. Here is
one who, should we intrude upon him in the morning, still in bed, will
present to our gaze an admirable female head, so general is its
expression and typical of the sex as a whole; his very hair affirms
this, so feminine is its ripple; unbrushed, it falls so naturally in
long curls over the cheek that one marvels how the young woman, the
girl, the Galatea barely awakened to life, in the unconscious mass of
this male body in which she is imprisoned, has contrived so
ingeniously by herself, without instruction from anyone, to make use
of the narrowest apertures in her prison wall to find what was
necessary to her existence. No doubt the young man who sports this
delicious head does not say: "I am a woman." Even if—for any of the
countless possible reasons—he lives with a woman, he can deny to her
that he is himself one, can swear to her that he has never had
intercourse with men. But let her look at him as we have just revealed
him, lying back in bed, in pyjamas, his arms bare, his throat and neck
bare also beneath the darkness of his hair. The pyjama jacket becomes
a woman's shift, the head that of a pretty Spanish girl. The mistress
is astounded by these confidences offered to her gaze, truer than any
spoken confidence could be, or indeed any action, which his actions,
indeed, if they have not already done so, cannot fail later on to
confirm, for every creature follows the line of his own pleasure, and
if this creature is not too vicious he will seek it in a sex
complementary to his own. And for the invert vice begins, not when he
forms relations (for there are all sorts of reasons that may enjoin
these), but when he takes his pleasure with women. The young man whom
we have been attempting to portray was so evidently a woman that the
women who looked upon him with longing were doomed (failing a special
taste on their part) to the same disappointment as those who in
Shakespeare's comedies are taken in by a girl in disguise who passes
as a youth. The deception is mutual, the invert is himself aware of
it, he guesses the disillusionment which, once the mask is removed,
the woman will experience, and feels to what an extent this mistake as
to sex is a source of poetical imaginings. Besides, even from his
exacting mistress, in vain does he keep back the admission (if she,
that is to say, be not herself a denizen of Gomorrah): "I am a woman!"
when all the time with what stratagems, what agility, what obstinacy
as of a climbing plant the unconscious but visible woman in him seeks
the masculine organ. We have only to look at that head of curling hair
on the white pillow to understand that if, in the evening, this young
man slips through his guardians' fingers, in spite of anything that
they, or he himself can do to restrain him, it will not be to go in
pursuit of women. His mistress may chastise him, may lock him up; next
day, the man-woman will have found some way of attaching himself to a
man, as the convolvulus throws out its tendrils wherever it finds a
convenient post or rake. Why, when we admire in the face of this
person a delicacy that touches our hearts, a gracefulness, a
spontaneous affability such as men do not possess, should we be
dismayed to learn that this young man runs after boxers? They are
different aspects of an identical reality. And indeed, what repels us
is the most touching thing of all, more touching than any refinement
of delicacy, for it represents an admirable though unconscious effort
on the part of nature: the recognition of his sex by itself, in spite
of the sexual deception, becomes apparent, the unconfessed attempt to
escape from itself towards what an initial error on the part of
society has segregated from it. Some, those no doubt who have been
most timid in childhood, are scarcely concerned with the material kind
of the pleasure they receive, provided that they can associate it with
a masculine face. Whereas others, whose sensuality is doubtless more
violent, imperiously restrict their material pleasure within certain
definite limitations. These live perhaps less exclusively beneath the
sway of Saturn's outrider, since for them women are not entirely
barred, as for the former sort, in whose eyes women would have no
existence apart from conversation, flirtation, loves not of the heart
but of the head. But the second sort seek out those women who love
other women; who can procure for them a young man, enhance the
pleasure which they feel on finding themselves in his company; better
still, they can, in the same fashion, enjoy with such women the same
pleasure as with a man. Whence it arises that jealousy is kindled in
those who love the first sort only by the pleasure which they may be
enjoying with a man, which alone seems to their lovers a betrayal,
since these do not participate in the love of women, have practised it
only as a habit, and, so as to reserve for themselves the possibility
of eventual marriage, representing to themselves so little the
pleasure that it is capable of giving that they cannot be distressed
by the thought that he whom they love is enjoying that pleasure;
whereas the other sort often inspire jealousy by their love-affairs
with women. For, in the relations which they have with her, they play,
for the woman who loves her own sex, the part of another woman, and
she offers them at the same time more or less what they find in other
men, so that the jealous friend suffers from the feeling that he whom
he loves is riveted to her who is to him almost a man, and at the same
time feels his beloved almost escape him because, to these women, he
is something which the lover himself cannot conceive, a sort of woman.
We need not pause here to consider those young fools who by a sort of
arrested development, to tease their friends or to shock their
families, proceed with a kind of frenzy to choose clothes that
resemble women's dress, to redden their lips and blacken their
eyelashes; we may leave them out of account, for they are those whom
we shall find later on, when they have suffered the all too cruel
penalty of their affectation, spending what remains of their lifetime
in vain attempts to repair by a sternly protestant demeanour the wrong
that they did to themselves when they were carried away by the same
demon that urges young women of the Faubourg Saint-Germain to live in
a scandalous fashion, to set every convention at defiance, to scoff at
the entreaties of their relatives, until the day when they set
themselves with perseverance but without success to reascend the slope
down which it had seemed to them that it would be so amusing to glide,
down which they had found it so amusing, or rather had not been able
to stop themselves from gliding. Finally, let us leave to a later
volume the men who have sealed a pact with Gomorrah. We shall deal
with them when M. de Charlus comes to know them. Let us leave out for
the present all those, of one sort or another, who will appear each in
his turn, and, to conclude this first sketch of the subject, let us
say a word only of those whom we began to mention just now, the
solitary class. Supposing their vice to be more exceptional than it
is, they have retired into solitude from the day on which they
discovered it, after having carried it within themselves for a long
time without knowing it, for a longer time only than certain other
men. For no one can tell at first that he is an invert or a poet or a
snob or a scoundrel. The boy who has been reading erotic poetry or
looking at indecent pictures, if he then presses his body against a
schoolfellow's, imagines himself only to be communing with him in an
identical desire for a woman. How should he suppose that he is not
like everybody else when he recognises the substance of what he feels
on reading Mme. de Lafayette, Racine, Baudelaire, Walter Scott, at a
time when he is still too little capable of observing himself to take
into account what he has added from his own store to the picture, and
that if the sentiment be the same the object differs, that what he
desires is Rob Roy, and not Diana Vernon? With many, by a defensive
prudence on the part of the instinct that precedes the clearer vision
of the intellect, the mirror and walls of their bedroom vanish beneath
a cloud of coloured prints of actresses; they compose poetry such as:

  I love but Chloe in the world,
    For Chloe is divine;
  Her golden hair is sweetly curled,
    For her my heart doth pine.

Must we on that account attribute to the opening phase of such lives a
taste which we shall never find in them later on, like those flaxen
ringlets on the heads of children which are destined to change to the
darkest brown? Who can tell whether the photographs of women are not a
first sign of hypocrisy, a first sign also of horror at other inverts?
But the solitary kind are precisely those to whom hypocrisy is
painful. Possibly even the example of the Jews, of a different type of
colony, is not strong enough to account for the frail hold that their
upbringing has upon them, or for the artfulness with which they find
their way back (perhaps not to anything so sheerly terrible as the
suicide to which maniacs, whatever precautions one may take with them,
return, and, pulled out of the river into which they have flung
themselves, take poison, procure revolvers, and so forth; but) to a
life of which the men of the other race not only do not understand,
cannot imagine, abominate the essential pleasures but would be filled
with horror by the thought of its frequent danger and everlasting
shame. Perhaps, to form a picture of these, we ought to think, if not
of the wild animals that never become domesticated, of the lion-cubs
said to be tame but lions still at heart, then at least of the Negroes
whom the comfortable existence of the white man renders desperately
unhappy and who prefer the risks of a life of savagery and its
incomprehensible joys. When the day has dawned on which they have
discovered themselves to be incapable at once of lying to others and
of lying to themselves, they go away to live in the country, shunning
the society of their own kind (whom they believe to be few in number)
from horror of the monstrosity or fear of the temptation, and that of
the rest of humanity from shame. Never having arrived at true
maturity, plunged in a constant melancholy, now and again, some Sunday
evening when there is no moon, they go for a solitary walk as far as a
crossroads where, although not a word has been said, there has come to
meet them one of their boyhood's friends who is living in a house in
the neighbourhood. And they begin again the pastimes of long ago, on
the grass, in the night, neither uttering a word. During the week,
they meet in their respective houses, talk of no matter what, without
any allusion to what has occurred between them, exactly as though they
had done nothing and were not to do anything again, save, in their
relations, a trace of coldness, of irony, of irritability and rancour,
at times of hatred. Then the neighbour sets out on a strenuous
expedition on horseback, and, on a mule, climbs mountain peaks, sleeps
in the snow; his friend, who identifies his own vice with a weakness
of temperament, the cabined and timid life, realises that vice can no
longer exist in his friend now emancipated, so many thousands of feet
above sea-level. And, sure enough, the other takes a wife. And yet the
abandoned one is not cured (in spite of the cases in which, as we
shall see, inversion is curable). He insists upon going down himself
every morning to the kitchen to receive the milk from the hands of the
dairyman's boy, and on the evenings when desire is too strong for him
will go out of his way to set a drunkard on the right road or to
"adjust the dress" of a blind man. No doubt the life of certain
inverts appears at times to change, their vice (as it is called) is no
longer apparent in their habits; but nothing is ever lost; a missing
jewel turns up again; when the quantity of a sick man's urine
decreases, it is because he is perspiring more freely, but the
excretion must invariably occur. One day this homosexual hears of the
death of a young cousin, and from his inconsolable grief we learned
that it was to this love, chaste possibly and aimed rather at
retaining esteem than at obtaining possession, that his desires have
passed by a sort of virement, as, in a budget, without any
alteration in the total, certain expenditure is carried under another
head. As is the case with invalids in whom a sudden attack of
urticaria makes their chronic ailments temporarily disappear, this
pure love for a young relative seems, in the invert, to have
momentarily replaced, by metastasis, habits that will, one day or
another, return to fill the place of the vicarious, cured malady.

Meanwhile the married neighbour of our recluse has returned; before
the beauty of the young bride and the demonstrative affection of her,
husband, on the day when their friend is obliged to invite them to
dinner, he feels ashamed of the past. Already in an interesting
condition, she must return home early, leaving her husband behind; he,
when the time has come for him to go home also, asks his host to
accompany him for part of the way; at first, no suspicion enters his
mind, but at the crossroads he finds himself thrown down on the grass,
with not a word said, by the mountaineer who is shortly to become a
father. And their meetings begin again, and continue until the day
when there comes to live not far off a cousin of the young woman, with
whom her husband is now constantly to be seen. And he, if the
twice-abandoned friend calls in the evening and endeavours to approach
him, is furious, and repulses him with indignation that the other has
not had the tact to foresee the disgust which he must henceforward
inspire. Once, however, there appears a stranger, sent to him by his
faithless friend; but being busy at the time, the abandoned one cannot
see him, and only afterwards learns with what object his visitor came.

Then the solitary languishes alone. He has no other diversion than to
go to the neighbouring watering-place to ask for some information or
other from a certain railwayman there. But the latter has obtained
promotion, has been transferred to the other end of the country; the
solitary will no longer be able to go and ask him the times of the
trains or the price of a first class ticket, and, before retiring to
dream, Griselda-like, in his tower, loiters upon the beach, a strange
Andromeda whom no Argonaut will come to free, a sterile Medusa that
must perish upon the sand, or else he stands idly, until his train
starts, upon the platform, casting over the crowd of passengers a gaze
that will seem indifferent, contemptuous or distracted to those of
another race, but, like the luminous glow with which certain insects
bedeck themselves in order to attract others of their species, or like
the nectar which certain flowers offer to attract the insects that
will fertilise them, would not deceive the almost undiscoverable
sharer of a pleasure too singular, too hard to place, which is offered
him, the colleague with whom our specialist could converse in the
half-forgotten tongue; in which last, at the most, some seedy loafer
upon the platform will put up a show of interest, but for pecuniary
gain alone, like those people who, at the Collège de France, in the
room in which the Professor of Sanskrit lectures without an audience,
attend his course but only because the room itself is heated. Medusa!
Orchid! When I followed my instinct only, the medusa used to revolt me
at Balbec; but if I had the eyes to regard it, like Michelet, from the
standpoint of natural history, and aesthetic, I saw an exquisite wheel
of azure flame. Are they not, with the transparent velvet of their
petals, as it were the mauve orchids of the sea? Like so many
creatures of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, like the plant which
would produce vanilla but, because in its structure the male organ is
divided by a partition from the female, remains sterile unless the
humming-birds or certain tiny bees convey the pollen from one to the
other, or man fertilises them by artificial means, M. de Charlus (and
here the word fertilise must be understood in a moral sense, since in
the physical sense the union of male with male is and must be sterile,
but it is no small matter that a person may encounter the sole
pleasure which he is capable of enjoying, and that every 'creature
here below' can impart to some other 'his music, or his fragrance or
his flame'), M. de Charlus was one of those men who may be called
exceptional, because however many they may be, the satisfaction, so
easy in others, of their sexual requirements depends upon the
coincidence of too many conditions, and of conditions too difficult to
ensure. For men like M. de Charlus (leaving out of account the
compromises which will appear in the course of this story and which
the reader may already have foreseen, enforced by the need of pleasure
which resigns itself to partial acceptations), mutual love, apart from
the difficulties, so great as to be almost insurmountable, which it
meets in the ordinary man, adds to these others so exceptional that
what is always extremely rare for everyone becomes in their case well
nigh impossible, and, if there should befall them an encounter which
is really fortunate, or which nature makes appear so to them, their
good fortune, far more than that of the normal lover, has about it
something extraordinary, selective, profoundly necessary. The feud of
the Capulets and Montagues was as nothing compared with the obstacles
of every sort which must have been surmounted, the special
eliminations which nature has had to submit to the hazards, already
far from common, which result in love, before a retired tailor, who
was intending to set off soberly for his office, can stand quivering
in ecstasy before a stoutish man of fifty; this Romeo and this Juliet
may believe with good reason that their love is not the caprice of a
moment but a true predestination, prepared by the harmonies of their
temperaments, and not only by their own personal temperaments but by
those of their ancestors, by their most distant strains of heredity,
so much so that the fellow creature who is conjoined with them has
belonged to them from before their birth, has attracted them by a
force comparable to that which governs the worlds on which we passed
our former lives. M. de Charlus had distracted me from looking to see
whether the bee was bringing to the orchid the pollen it had so long
been waiting to receive, and had no chance of receiving save by an
accident so unlikely that one might call it a sort of miracle. But
this was a miracle also that I had just witnessed, almost of the same
order and no less marvellous. As soon as I had considered their
meeting from this point of view, everything about it seemed to me
instinct with beauty. The most extraordinary devices that nature has
invented to compel insects to ensure the fertilisation of flowers
which without their intervention could not be fertilised because the
male flower is too far away from the female—or when, if it is the
wind that must provide for the transportation of the pollen, she makes
that pollen so much more simply detachable from the male, so much more
easily arrested in its flight by the female flower, by eliminating the
secretion of nectar which is no longer of any use since there is no
insect to be attracted, and, that the flower may be kept free for the
pollen which it needs, which can fructify only in itself, makes it
secrete a liquid which renders it immune to all other pollens—seemed
to me no more marvellous than the existence of the subvariety of
inverts destined to guarantee the pleasures of love to the invert who
is growing old: men who are attracted not by all other men, but—by a
phenomenon of correspondence and harmony similar to those that precede
the fertilisation of heterostyle trimorphous flowers like the _lythrum
salicoria_—only by men considerably older than themselves. Of this
subvariety Jupien had just furnished me with an example less striking
however than certain others, which every collector of a human herbary,
every moral botanist can observe in spite of their rarity, and which
will present to the eye a delicate youth who is waiting for the
advances of a robust and paunchy quinquagenarian, remaining as
indifferent to those of other young men as the hermaphrodite flowers
of the short-styled _primula veris_ so long as they are fertilised
only by other _primulae veris_ of short style also, whereas they
welcome with joy the pollen of the _primula veris_ with the long
styles. As for M. de Charlus's part in the transaction, I noticed
afterwards that there were for him various kinds of conjunction, some
of which, by their multiplicity, their almost invisible speed and
above all the absence of contact between the two actors, recalled
still more forcibly those flowers that in a garden are fertilised by
the pollen of a neighbouring flower which they may never touch. There
were in fact certain persons whom it was sufficient for him to make
come to his house, hold for an hour or two under the domination of his
talk, for his desire, quickened by some earlier encounter, to be
assuaged. By a simple use of words the conjunction was effected, as
simply as it can be among the infusoria. Sometimes, as had doubtless
been the case with me on the evening on which I had been summoned by
him after the Guermantes dinner-party, the relief was effected by a
violent ejaculation which the Baron made in his visitor's face, just
as certain flowers, furnished with a hidden spring, sprinkle from
within the unconsciously collaborating and disconcerted insect. M. de
Charlus, from vanquished turning victor, feeling himself purged of his
uneasiness and calmed, would send away the visitor who had at once
ceased to appear to him desirable. Finally, inasmuch as inversion
itself springs from the fact that the invert is too closely akin to
woman to be capable of having any effective relations with her, it
comes under a higher law which ordains that so many hermaphrodite
flowers shall remain unfertile, that is to say the law of the
sterility of autofecundation. It is true that inverts, in their search
for a male person, will often be found to put up with other inverts as
effeminate as themselves. But it is enough that they do not belong to
the female sex, of which they have in them an embryo which they can
put to no useful purpose, such as we find in so many hermaphrodite
flowers, and even in certain hermaphrodite animals, such as the snail,
which cannot be fertilised by themselves, but can by other
hermaphrodites. In this respect the race of inverts, who eagerly
connect themselves with Oriental antiquity or the Golden Age in
Greece, might be traced back farther still, to those experimental
epochs in which there existed neither dioecious plants nor monosexual
animals, to that initial hermaphroditism of which certain rudiments
of male organs in the anatomy of the woman and of female organs in
that of the man seem still to preserve the trace. I found the
pantomime, incomprehensible to me at first, of Jupien and M. de
Charlus as curious as those seductive gestures addressed, Darwin tells
us, to insects not only by the flowers called composite which erect
the florets of their capitals so as to be seen from a greater
distance, such as a certain heterostyle which turns back its stamens
and bends them to open the way for the insect, or offers him an
ablution, or, to take an immediate instance, the nectar-fragrance and
vivid hue of the corollae that were at that moment attracting insects
to our courtyard. From this day onwards M. de Charlus was to alter the
time of his visits to Mme. de Villeparisis, not that he could not see
Jupien elsewhere and with greater convenience, but because to him just
as much as to me the afternoon sunshine and the blossoming plant were,
no doubt, linked together in memory. Apart from this, he did not
confine himself to recommending the Jupiens to Mme. de Villeparisis,
to the Duchesse de Guermantes, to a whole brilliant list of patrons,
who were all the more assiduous in their attentions to the young
seamstress when they saw that the few ladies who had held out, or had
merely delayed their submission, were subjected to the direst
reprisals by the Baron, whether in order that they might serve as an
example, or because they had aroused his wrath and had stood out
against his attempted domination; he made Jupien's position more and
more lucrative, until he definitely engaged him as his secretary and
established him in the state in which we shall see him later on. "Ah,
now! There is a happy man, if you like, that Jupien," said Françoise,
who had a tendency to minimise or exaggerate people's generosity
according as it was bestowed on herself or on others. Not that, in
this instance, she had any need to exaggerate, nor for that matter did
she feel any jealousy, being genuinely fond of Jupien. "Oh, he's such
a good man, the Baron," she went on, "such a well-behaved, religious,
proper sort of man. If I had a daughter to marry and was one of the
rich myself, I would give her to the Baron with my eyes shut." "But,
Françoise," my mother observed gently, "she'd be well supplied with
husbands, that daughter of yours. Don't forget you've already promised
her to Jupien." "Ah! Lordy, now," replied Françoise, "there's another
of them that would make a woman happy. It doesn't matter whether
you're rich or poor, it makes no difference to your nature. The Baron
and Jupien, they're just the same sort of person."

However, I greatly exaggerated at the time, on the strength of this
first revelation, the elective character of so carefully selected a
combination. Admittedly, every man of the kind of M. de Charlus is an
extraordinary creature since, if he does not make concessions to the
possibilities of life, he seeks out essentially the love of a man of
the other race, that is to say a man who is a lover of women (and
incapable consequently of loving him); in contradiction of what I had
imagined in the courtyard, where I had seen Jupien turning towards M.
de Charlus like the orchid making overtures to the bee, these
exceptional creatures whom we commiserate are a vast crowd, as we
shall see in the course of this work, for a reason which will be
disclosed only at the end of it, and commiserate themselves for being
too many rather than too few. For the two angels who were posted at
the gates of Sodom to learn whether its inhabitants (according to
Genesis) had indeed done all the things the report of which had
ascended to the Eternal Throne must have been, and of this one can
only be glad, exceedingly ill chosen by the Lord, Who ought not to
have entrusted the task to any but a Sodomite. Such an one the
excuses: "Father of six children—I keep two mistresses," and so forth
could never have persuaded benevolently to lower his flaming sword and
to mitigate the punishment; he would have answered: "Yes, and your
wife lives in a torment of jealousy. But even when these women have
not been chosen by you from Gomorrah, you spend your nights with a
watcher of flocks upon Hebron." And he would at once have made him
retrace his steps to the city which the rain of fire and brimstone was
to destroy. On the contrary, they allowed to escape all the
shame-faced Sodomites, even if these, on catching sight of a boy,
turned their heads, like Lot's wife, though without being on that
account changed like her into pillars of salt. With the result that
they engendered a numerous posterity with whom this gesture has
continued to be habitual, like that of the dissolute women who, while
apparently studying a row of shoes displayed in a shop window, turn
their heads to keep track of a passing student. These descendants of
the Sodomites, so numerous that we may apply to them that other verse
of Genesis: "If a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy
seed also be numbered," have established themselves throughout the
entire world; they have had access to every profession and pass so
easily into the most exclusive clubs that, whenever a Sodomite fails
to secure election, the blackballs are, for the most part, cast by
other Sodomites, who are anxious to penalise sodomy, having inherited
the falsehood that enabled their ancestors to escape from the accursed
city. It is possible that they may return there one day. Certainly
they form in every land an Oriental colony, cultured, musical,
malicious, which has certain charming qualities and intolerable
defects. We shall study them with greater thoroughness in the course
of the following pages; but I have thought it as well to utter here a
provisional warning against the lamentable error of proposing (just as
people have encouraged a Zionist movement) to create a Sodomist
movement and to rebuild Sodom. For, no sooner had they arrived there
than the Sodomites would leave the town so as not to have the
appearance of belonging to it, would take wives, keep mistresses in
other cities where they would find, incidentally, every diversion that
appealed to them. They would repair to Sodom only on days of supreme
necessity, when their own town was empty, at those seasons when hunger
drives the wolf from the woods; in other words, everything would go on
very much as it does to-day in London, Berlin, Rome, Petrograd or
Paris.

Anyhow, on the day in question, before paying my call on the Duchess,
I did not look so far ahead, and I was distressed to find that I had,
by my engrossment in the Jupien-Charlus conjunction, missed perhaps an
opportunity of witnessing the fertilisation of the blossom by the bee.





PART 2.



CHAPTER I

_M. de Charlus in Society.—A physician.—Typical physiognomy of Mme.
de Vaugoubert.—Mme. d'Arpajon, the Hubert Robert fountain and the
merriment of the Grand Duke Vladimir.—Mmes. d'Amoncourt, de Citri,
de Saint-Euverte, etc.—Curious conversation between Swann and the
Prince de Guermantes.—Albertine on the telephone.—My social life in
the interval before my second and final visit to Balbec. Arrival at
Balbec.—The heart's intermissions._


AS I was in no haste to arrive at this party at the Guermantes', to
which I was not certain that I had been invited, I remained sauntering
out of doors; but the summer day seemed to be in no greater haste than
myself to stir. Albeit it was after nine o'clock, it was still the
light of day that on the Place de la Concorde was giving the Luxor
obelisk the appearance of being made of pink nougat. Then it diluted
the tint and changed the surface to a metallic substance, so that the
obelisk not only became more precious but seemed to have grown more
slender and almost flexible. You imagined that you might have twisted
it in your fingers, had perhaps already slightly distorted its
outline. The moon was now in the sky like a section of orange
delicately peeled although slightly bruised. But presently she was to
be fashioned of the most enduring gold. Sheltering alone behind her, a
poor little star was to serve as sole companion to the lonely moon,
while she, keeping her friend protected, but bolder and striding
ahead, would brandish like an irresistible weapon, like an Oriental
symbol, her broad and marvellous crescent of gold.

Outside the mansion of the Princesse de Guermantes, I met the Duc de
Châtellerault; I no longer remembered that half an hour earlier I had
still been persecuted by the fear—which, for that matter, was
speedily to grip me again—that I might be entering the house
uninvited. We grow uneasy, and it is sometimes long after the hour of
danger, which a subsequent distraction has made us forget, that we
remember our uneasiness. I greeted the young Duke and made my way into
the house. But here I must first of all record a trifling incident,
which will enable us to understand something that was presently to
occur.

There was one person who, on that evening as on the previous evenings,
had been thinking a great deal about the Duc de Châtellerault, without
however suspecting who he was: this was the usher (styled at that time
the _aboyeur_) of Mme. de Guermantes. M. de Châtellerault, so far from
being one of the Princess's intimate friends, albeit he was one of her
cousins, had been invited to her house for the first time. His
parents, who had not been on speaking terms with her for the last ten
years, had been reconciled to her within the last fortnight, and,
obliged to be out of Paris that evening, had requested their son to
fill their place. Now, a few days earlier, the Princess's usher had
met in the Champs-Elysées a young man whom he had found charming but
whose identity he had been unable to establish. Not that the young
man had not shewn himself as obliging as he had been generous. All the
favours that the usher had supposed that he would have to bestow upon
so young a gentleman, he had on the contrary received. But M. de
Châtellerault was as reticent as he was rash; he was all the more
determined not to disclose his incognito since he did not know with
what sort of person he was dealing; his fear would have been far
greater, although quite unfounded, if he had known. He had confined
himself to posing as an Englishman, and to all the passionate
questions with which he was plied by the usher, desirous to meet again
a person to whom he was indebted for so much pleasure and so ample a
gratuity, the Duke had merely replied, from one end of the Avenue
Gabriel to the other: "I do not speak French."

Albeit, in spite of everything—remembering his cousin Gilbert's
maternal ancestry—the Duc de Guermantes pretended to find a touch of
Courvoisier in the drawing-room of the Princesse de
Guermantes-Bavière, the general estimate of that lady's initiative
spirit and intellectual superiority was based upon an innovation that
was to be found nowhere else in her set. After dinner, however
important the party that was to follow, the chairs, at the Princesse
de Guermantes's, were arranged in such a way as to form little groups,
in which people might have to turn their backs upon one another. The
Princess then displayed her social sense by going to sit down, as
though by preference, in one of these. Not that she was afraid to pick
out and attract to herself a member of another group. If, for
instance, she had remarked to M. Detaille, who naturally agreed with
her, on the beauty of Mme. de Villemur's neck, of which that lady's
position in another group made her present a back view, the Princess
did not hesitate to raise her voice: "Madame de Villemur, M. Detaille,
with his wonderful painter's eye, has just been admiring your neck."
Mme. de Villemur interpreted this as a direct invitation to join in
the conversation; with the agility of a practised horsewoman, she made
her chair rotate slowly through three quadrants of a circle, and,
without in the least disturbing her neighbours, came to rest almost
facing the Princess. "You don't know M. Detaille?" exclaimed their
hostess, for whom her guest's nimble and modest tergiversation was not
sufficient. "I do not know him, but I know his work," replied Mme. de
Villemur, with a respectful, engaging air, and a promptitude which
many of the onlookers envied her, addressing the while to the
celebrated painter whom this invocation had not been sufficient to
introduce to her in a formal manner, an imperceptible bow. "Come,
Monsieur Detaille," said the Princess, "let me introduce you to Mme.
de Villemur." That lady thereupon shewed as great ingenuity in making
room for the creator of the _Dream_ as she had shewn a moment earlier
in wheeling round to face him. And the Princess drew forward a chair
for herself; she had indeed invoked Mme. de Villemur only to have an
excuse for quitting the first group, in which she had spent the
statutory ten minutes, and bestowing a similar allowance of her time
upon the second. In three quarters of an hour, all the groups had
received a visit from her, which seemed to have been determined in
each instance by impulse and predilection, but had the paramount
object of making it apparent how naturally "a great lady knows how to
entertain." But now the guests for the party were beginning to arrive,
and the lady of the house was seated not far from the door—erect and
proud in her semi-regal majesty, her eyes ablaze with their own
incandescence—between two unattractive Royalties and the Spanish
Ambassadress.

I stood waiting behind a number of guests who had arrived before me.
Facing me was the Princess, whose beauty is probably not the only
thing, where there were so many beauties, that reminds me of this
party. But the face of my hostess was so perfect; stamped like so
beautiful a medal, that it has retained a commemorative force in my
mind. The Princess was in the habit of saying to her guests when she
met them a day or two before one of her parties: "You will come, won't
you?" as though she felt a great desire to talk to them. But as, on
the contrary, she had nothing to talk to them about, when they entered
her presence she contented herself, without rising, with breaking off
for an instant her vapid conversation with the two Royalties and the
Ambassadress and thanking them with: "How good of you to have come,"
not that she thought that the guest had shewn his goodness by coming,
but to enhance her own; then, at once dropping him back into the
stream, she would add: "You will find M. de Guermantes by the garden
door," so that the guest proceeded on his way and ceased to bother
her. To some indeed she said nothing, contenting herself with shewing
them her admirable onyx eyes, as though they had come merely to visit
an exhibition of precious stones.

The person immediately in front of me was the Duc de Châtellerault.

Having to respond to all the smiles, all the greetings waved to him
from inside the drawing-room, he had not noticed the usher. But from
the first moment the usher had recognised him. The identity of this
stranger, which he had so ardently desired to learn, in another minute
he would know. When he asked his 'Englishman' of the other evening
what name he was to announce, the usher was not merely stirred, he
considered that he was being indiscreet, indelicate. He felt that he
was about to reveal to the whole world (which would, however, suspect
nothing) a secret which it was criminal of him to force like this and
to proclaim in public. Upon hearing the guest's reply: "Le duc de
Châtellerault," he felt such a burst of pride that he remained for a
moment speechless. The Duke looked at him, recognised him, saw himself
ruined, while the servant, who had recovered his composure and was
sufficiently versed in heraldry to complete for himself an appellation
that was too modest, shouted with a professional vehemence softened by
an emotional tenderness: "Son Altesse Monseigneur le duc de
Châtellerault!" But it was now my turn to be announced. Absorbed in
contemplation of my hostess, who had not yet seen me, I had not
thought of the function—terrible to me, although not in the same
sense as to M. de Châtellerault—of this usher garbed in black like a
headsman, surrounded by a group of lackeys in the most cheerful
livery, lusty fellows ready to seize hold of an intruder and cast him
out of doors. The usher asked me my name, I told him it as
mechanically as the condemned man allows himself to be strapped to the
block. At once he lifted his head majestically and, before I could beg
him to announce me in a lowered tone so as to spare my own feelings if
I were not invited and those of the Princesse de Guermantes if I were,
shouted the disturbing syllables with a force capable of bringing down
the roof.

The famous Huxley (whose grandson occupies an unassailable position in
the English literary world of to-day) relates that one of his patients
dared not continue to go into society because often, on the actual
chair that was pointed out to her with a courteous gesture, she saw an
old gentleman already seated. She could be quite certain that either
the gesture of invitation or the old gentleman's presence was a
hallucination, for her hostess would not have offered her a chair that
was already occupied. And when Huxley, to cure her, forced her to
reappear in society, she felt a moment of painful hesitation when she
asked herself whether the friendly sign that was being made to her was
the real thing, or, in obedience to a non-existent vision, she was
about to sit down in public upon the knees of a gentleman in flesh and
blood. Her brief uncertainty was agonising. Less so perhaps than mine.
From the moment at which I had taken in the sound of my name, like the
rumble that warns us of a possible cataclysm, I was bound, to plead my
own good faith in either event, and as though I were not tormented by
any doubt, to advance towards the Princess with a resolute air.

She caught sight of me when I was still a few feet away and (to leave
me in no doubt that I was the victim of a conspiracy), instead of
remaining seated, as she had done for her other guests, rose and came
towards me. A moment later, I was able to heave the sigh of relief of
Huxley's patient, when, having made up her mind to sit down on the
chair, she found it vacant and realised that it was the old gentleman
that was a hallucination. The Princess had just held out her hand to
me with a smile. She remained standing for some moments with the kind
of charm enshrined in the verse of Malherbe which ends:

  "To do them honour all the angels rise."

She apologised because the Duchess had not yet come, as though I must
be bored there without her. In order to give me this greeting, she
wheeled round me, holding me by the hand, in a graceful revolution by
the whirl of which I felt myself carried off my feet. I almost
expected that she would next offer me, like the leader of a cotillon,
an ivory-headed cane or a watch-bracelet. She did not, however, give
me anything of the sort, and as though, instead of dancing the boston,
she had been listening to a sacred quartet by Beethoven the sublime
strains of which she was afraid of interrupting, she cut short the
conversation there and then, or rather did not begin it, and, still
radiant at having seen me come in, merely informed me where the Prince
was to be found.

I moved away from her and did not venture to approach her again,
feeling that she had absolutely nothing to say to me and that, in her
vast kindness, this woman marvellously tall and handsome, noble as
were so many great ladies who stepped so proudly upon the scaffold,
could only, short of offering me a draught of honeydew, repeat what
she had already said to me twice: "You will find the Prince in the
garden." Now, to go in search of the Prince was to feel my doubts
revive in a fresh form.

In any case I should have to find somebody to introduce me. One could
hear, above all the din of conversation, the interminable chatter of
M. de Charlus, talking to H. E. the Duke of Sidonia, whose
acquaintance he had just made. Members of the same profession find one
another out, and so it is with a common vice. M. de Charlus and M. de
Sidonia had each of them immediately detected the other's vice, which
was in both cases that of soliloquising in society, to the extent of
not being able to stand any interruption. Having decided at once
that, in the words of a famous sonnet, there was 'no help,' they had
made up their minds not to be silent but each to go on talking without
any regard to what the other might say. This had resulted in the
confused babble produced in Molière's comedies by a number of people
saying different things simultaneously. The Baron, with his deafening
voice, was moreover certain of keeping the upper hand, of drowning the
feeble voice of M. de Sidonia; without however discouraging him, for,
whenever M. de Charlus paused for a moment to breathe, the interval
was filled by the murmurs of the Grandee of Spain who had
imperturbably continued his discourse. I could easily have asked M. de
Charlus to introduce me to the Prince de Guermantes, but I feared (and
with good reason) that he might be cross with me. I had treated him in
the most ungrateful fashion by letting his offer pass unheeded for the
second time and by never giving him a sign of my existence since the
evening when he had so affectionately escorted me home. And yet I
could not plead the excuse of having anticipated the scene which I had
just witnessed, that very afternoon, enacted by himself and Jupien. I
suspected nothing of the sort. It is true that shortly before this,
when my parents reproached me with my laziness and with not having
taken the trouble to write a line to M. de Charlus, I had violently
reproached them with wishing me to accept a degrading proposal. But
anger alone, and the desire to hit upon the expression that would be
most offensive to them had dictated this mendacious retort. In
reality, I had imagined nothing sensual, nothing sentimental even,
underlying the Baron's offers. I had said this to my parents with
entire irresponsibility. But sometimes the future is latent in us
without our knowledge, and our words which we suppose to be false
forecast an imminent reality.

M. de Charlus would doubtless have forgiven me my want of gratitude.
But what made him furious was that my presence this evening at the
Princesse de Guermantes's, as for some time past at her cousin's,
seemed to be a defiance of his solemn declaration: "There is no
admission to those houses save through me." A grave fault, a crime
that was perhaps inexpiable, I had not followed the conventional path.
M. de Charlus knew well that the thunderbolts which he hurled at those
who did not comply with his orders, or to whom he had taken a dislike,
were beginning to be regarded by many people, however furiously he
might brandish them, as mere pasteboard, and had no longer the force
to banish anybody from anywhere. But he believed perhaps that his
diminished power, still considerable, remained intact in the eyes of
novices like myself. And so I did not consider it well advised to ask
a favour of him at a party at which the mere fact of my presence
seemed an ironical denial of his pretensions.

I was buttonholed at that moment by a man of a distinctly common type,
Professor E——. He had been surprised to see me at the Guermantes'. I
was no less surprised to see him there, for nobody had ever seen
before or was ever to see again a person of his sort at one of the
Princess's parties. He had just succeeded in curing the Prince, after
the last rites had been administered, of a septic pneumonia, and the
special gratitude that Mme. de Guermantes felt towards him was the
reason for her thus departing from custom and inviting him to her
house. As he knew absolutely nobody in the rooms, and could not wander
about there indefinitely by himself, like a minister of death, having
recognised me, he had discovered, for the first time in his life, that
he had an infinite number of things to say to me, which enabled him to
assume an air of composure, and this was one of the reasons for his
advancing upon me. There was also another. He attached great
importance to his never being mistaken in his diagnoses. Now his
correspondence was so numerous that he could not always bear in mind,
when he had seen a patient once only, whether the disease had really
followed the course that he had traced for it. The reader may perhaps
remember that, immediately after my grandmother's stroke, I had taken
her to see him, on the afternoon when he was having all his
decorations stitched to his coat. After so long an interval, he no
longer remembered the formal announcement which had been sent to him
at the time. "Your grandmother is dead, isn't she?" he said to me in a
voice in which a semi-certainty calmed a slight apprehension. "Ah!
Indeed! Well, from the moment I saw her my prognosis was extremely
grave, I remember it quite well."

It was thus that Professor E—— learned or recalled the death of my
grandmother, and (I must say this to his credit, which is that of the
medical profession as a whole), without displaying, without perhaps
feeling, any satisfaction. The mistakes made by doctors are
innumerable. They err habitually on the side of optimism as to
treatment, of pessimism as to the outcome. "Wine? In moderation, it
can do you no harm, it is always a tonic.... Sexual enjoyment? After
all it is a natural function. I allow you to use, but not to abuse it,
you understand. Excess in anything is wrong." At once, what a
temptation to the patient to renounce those two life-givers, water and
chastity. If, on the other hand, he has any trouble with his heart,
albumen, and so forth, it never lasts for long. Disorders that are
grave but purely functional are at once ascribed to an imaginary
cancer. It is useless to continue visits which are powerless to
eradicate an incurable malady. Let the patient, left to his own
devices, thereupon subject himself to an implacable regime, and in
time recover, or merely survive, and the doctor, to whom he touches
his hat in the Avenue de l'Opéra, when he supposed him to have long
been lying in Père Lachaise, will interpret the gesture as an act of
insolent defiance. An innocent stroll, taken beneath his nose and
venerable beard, would arouse no greater wrath in the Assize Judge
who, two years earlier, had sentenced the rascal, now passing him with
apparent impunity, to death. Doctors (we do not here include them all,
of course, and make a mental reservation of certain admirable
exceptions), are in general more displeased, more irritated by the
quashing of their sentence than pleased by its execution. This
explains why Professor E——, despite the intellectual satisfaction
that he doubtless felt at finding that he had not been mistaken, was
able to speak to me only with regret of the blow that had fallen upon
us. He was in no hurry to cut short the conversation, which kept him
in countenance and gave him a reason for remaining. He spoke to me of
the great heat through which we were passing, but, albeit he was a
well-read man and capable of expressing himself in good French, said
to me: "You are none the worse for this hyperthermia?" The fact is
that medicine has made some slight advance in knowledge since
Molière's days, but none in its vocabulary. My companion went on: "The
great thing is to avoid the sudations that are caused by weather like
this, especially in superheated rooms. You can remedy them, when you
go home and feel thirsty, by the application of heat" (by which he
apparently meant hot drinks).

Owing to the circumstances of my grandmother's death, the subject
interested me, and I had recently read in a book by a great specialist
that perspiration was injurious to the kidneys, by making moisture
pass through the skin when its proper outlet was elsewhere. I thought
with regret of those dog-days at the time of my grandmother's death,
and was inclined to blame them for it. I did not mention this to Dr.
E——, but of his own accord he said to me: "The advantage of this
very hot weather in which perspiration is abundant is that the kidney
is correspondingly relieved." Medicine is not an exact science.

Keeping me engaged in talk, Professor E—— asked only not to be
forced to leave me. But I had just seen, making a series of sweeping
bows to right and left of the Princesse de Guermantes, stepping back a
pace first, the Marquis de Vaugoubert. M. de Norpois had recently
introduced me to him and I hoped that I might find in him a person
capable of introducing me to our host. The proportions of this work do
not permit me to explain here in consequence of what incidents in his
youth M. de Vaugoubert was one of the few men (possibly the only man)
in society who happened to be in what is called at Sodom the
"confidence" of M. de Charlus. But, if our Minister to the Court of
King Theodosius had certain defects in common with the Baron, they
were only a very pale reflexion. It was merely in an infinitely
softened, sentimental and simple form that he displayed those
alternations of affection and hatred through which the desire to
attract, and then the fear—equally imaginary—of being, if not
scorned, at any rate unmasked, made the Baron pass. Made ridiculous by
a chastity, a 'platonicism' (to which as a man of keen ambition he
had, from the moment of passing his examination, sacrificed all
pleasure), above all by his intellectual nullity, these alternations
M. de Vaugoubert did, nevertheless, display. But whereas in M. de
Charlus the immoderate praises were proclaimed with a positive burst
of eloquence, and seasoned with the subtlest, the most mordant banter
which marked a man for ever, by M. de Vaugoubert, on the other hand,
the affection was expressed with the banality of a man of the lowest
intelligence, and of a public official, the grievances (worked up
generally into a complete indictment, as with the Baron) by a
malevolence which, though relentless, was at the same time spiritless,
and was all the more startling inasmuch as it was invariably a direct
contradiction of what the Minister had said six months earlier and
might soon perhaps be saying again: a regularity of change which gave
an almost astronomic poetry to the various phases of M. de
Vaugoubert's life, albeit apart from this nobody was ever less
suggestive of a star.

The greeting that he gave me had nothing in common with that which I
should have received from M. de Charlus. To this greeting M. de
Vaugoubert, apart from the thousand mannerisms which he supposed to
be indicative of good breeding and diplomacy, imparted a cavalier,
brisk, smiling air, which should make him seem on the one hand to be
rejoicing at being alive—at a time when he was inwardly chewing the
mortification of a career with no prospect of advancement and with the
threat of enforced retirement—and on the other hand young, virile and
charming, when he could see and no longer ventured to go and examine
in the glass the lines gathering upon a face which he would have
wished to keep full of seduction. Not that he would have hoped for
effective conquests, the mere thought of which filled him with terror
on account of what people would say, scandals, blackmail. Having
passed from an almost infantile corruption to an absolute continence
dating from the day on which his thoughts had turned to the Quai
d'Orsay and he had begun to plan a great career for himself, he had
the air of a caged animal, casting in every direction glances
expressive of fear, appetite and stupidity. This last was so dense
that he did not reflect that the street-arabs of his adolescence were
boys no longer, and when a newsvendor bawled in his face: "_La
Presse_!" even more than with longing he shuddered with terror,
imagining himself recognised and denounced.

But in default of the pleasures sacrificed to the ingratitude of the
Quai d'Orsay, M. de Vaugoubert—and it was for this that he was
anxious still to attract—was liable to sudden stirrings of the heart.
Heaven knows with how many letters he would overwhelm the Ministry
(what personal ruses he would employ, the drafts that he made upon the
credit of Mme. de Vaugoubert, who, on account of her corpulence, her
exalted birth, her masculine air, and above all the mediocrity of her
husband, was reputed to be endowed with eminent capacities and to be
herself for all practical purposes the Minister), to introduce without
any valid reason a young man destitute of all merit into the staff of
the Legation. It is true that a few months, a few years later, the
insignificant attaché had only to appear, without the least trace of
any hostile intention, to have shown signs of coldness towards his
chief for the latter, supposing himself scorned or betrayed, to devote
the same hysterical ardour to punishing him with which he had showered
favours upon him in the past. He would move heaven and earth to have
him recalled and the Director of Political Affairs would receive a
letter daily: "Why don't you hurry up and rid me of that lascar. Give
him a dressing down in his own interest. What he needs is a slice of
humble pie." The post of attaché at the court of King Theodosius was
on this account far from enjoyable. But in all other respects, thanks
to his perfect common sense as a man of the world, M. de Vaugoubert
was one of the best representatives of the French Government abroad.
When a man who was reckoned a superior person, a Jacobin, with an
expert knowledge of all subjects, replaced him later on, it was not
long before war broke out between France and the country over which
that monarch reigned.

M. de Vaugoubert, like M. de Charlus, did not care to be the first to
give a greeting. Each of them preferred to 'respond,' being constantly
afraid of the gossip which the person to whom otherwise they might
have offered their hand might have heard about them since their last
meeting. In my case, M. de Vaugoubert had no need to ask himself this
question, I had as a matter of fact gone up of my own accord to greet
him, if only because of the difference in our ages. He replied with an
air of wonder and delight, his eyes continuing to stray as though
there had been a patch of clover on either side of me upon which he
was forbidden to graze. I felt that it would be more becoming to ask
him to introduce me to Mme. de Vaugoubert, before effecting that
introduction to the Prince which I decided not to mention to him until
afterwards. The idea of making me acquainted with his wife seemed to
fill him with joy, for his own sake as well as for hers, and he led me
at a solemn pace towards the Marquise. Arriving in front of her, and
indicating me with his hand and eyes, with every conceivable mark of
consideration, he nevertheless remained silent and withdrew after a
few moments, in a sidelong fashion, leaving me alone with his wife.
She had at once given me her hand, but without knowing to whom this
token of friendship was addressed, for I realised that M. de
Vaugoubert had forgotten my name, perhaps even had failed to recognise
me, and being unwilling, from politeness, to confess his ignorance had
made the introduction consist in a mere dumb show. And so I was no
further advanced; how was I to get myself introduced to my host by a
woman who did not know my name? Worse still, I found myself obliged to
remain for some moments talking to Mme. de Vaugoubert. And this
annoyed me for two reasons. I had no wish to remain all night at this
party, for I had arranged with Albertine (I had given her a box for
_Phèdre_) that she was to pay me a visit shortly before midnight.
Certainly I was not in the least in love with her; I was yielding, in
making her come this evening, to a wholly sensual desire, albeit we
were at that torrid period of the year when sensuality, evaporating,
visits more readily the organ of taste, seeks above all things
coolness. More than for the kiss of a girl, it thirsts for orangeade,
for a cold bath, or even to gaze at that peeled and juicy moon which
was quenching the thirst of heaven. I counted however upon ridding
myself, in Albertine's company—which, moreover, reminded me of the
coolness of the sea—of the regret that I should not fail to feel for
many charming faces (for it was a party quite as much for girls as for
married women that the Princess was giving. On the other hand, the
face of the imposing Mme. de Vaugoubert, Bourbonian and morose, was in
no way attractive).

People said at the Ministry, without any suggestion of malice, that in
their household it was the husband who wore the petticoats and the
wife the trousers. Now there was more truth in this saying than was
supposed. Mme. de Vaugoubert was really a man. Whether she had always
been one, or had grown to be as I saw her, matters little, for in
either case we have to deal with one of the most touching miracles of
nature which, in the latter alternative especially, makes the human
kingdom resemble the kingdom of flowers. On the former hypothesis—if
the future Mme. de Vaugoubert had always been so clumsily
manlike—nature, by a fiendish and beneficent ruse, bestows on the
girl the deceiving aspect of a man. And the youth who has no love for
women and is seeking to be cured greets with joy this subterfuge of
discovering a bride who figures in his eyes as a market porter. In
the alternative case, if the woman has not originally these masculine
characteristics, she adopts them by degrees, to please her husband,
and even unconsciously, by that sort of mimicry which makes certain
flowers assume the appearance of the insects which they seek to
attract. Her regret that she is not loved, that she is not a man,
virilises her. Indeed, quite apart from the case that we are now
considering, who has not remarked how often the most normal couples
end by resembling each other, at times even by an exchange of
qualities? A former German Chancellor, Prince von Bülow, married an
Italian. In the course of time, on the Pincio, it was remarked how
much the Teutonic husband had absorbed of Italian delicacy, and the
Italian Princess of German coarseness. To turn aside to a point
without the province of the laws which we are now tracing, everyone
knows an eminent French diplomat, whose origin was at first suggested
only by his name, one of the most illustrious in the East. As he
matured, as he grew old, there was revealed in him the Oriental whom
no one had ever suspected, and now when we see him we regret the
absence of the fez that would complete the picture.

To revert to habits completely unknown to the ambassador whose
profile, coarsened by heredity, we have just recalled, Mme. de
Vaugoubert realised the acquired or predestined type, the immortal
example of which is the Princess Palatine, never out of a riding
habit, who, having borrowed from her husband more than his virility,
championing the defects of the men who do not care for women, reports
in her familiar correspondence the mutual relations of all the great
noblemen of the court of Louis XIV. One of the reasons which enhance
still farther the masculine air of women like Mme. de Vaugoubert is
that the neglect which they receive from their husbands, the shame
that they feel at such neglect, destroy in them by degrees everything
that is womanly. They end by acquiring both the good and the bad
qualities which their husbands lack. The more frivolous, effeminate,
indiscreet their husbands are, the more they grow into the effigy,
devoid of charm, of the virtues which their husbands ought to
practise.

Traces of abasement, boredom, indignation, marred the regular features
of Mme. de Vaugoubert. Alas, I felt that she was regarding me with
interest and curiosity as one of those young men who appealed to M. de
Vaugoubert, and one of whom she herself would so much have liked to
be, now that her husband, growing old, shewed a preference for youth.
She was gazing at me with the close attention shewn by provincial
ladies who from an illustrated catalogue copy the tailor-made dress so
becoming to the charming person in the picture (actually, the same
person on every page, but deceptively multiplied into different
creatures, thanks to the differences of pose and the variety of
attire). The instinctive attraction which urged Mme. de Vaugoubert
towards me was so strong that she went the length of seizing my arm,
so that I might take her to get a glass of orangeade. But I released
myself, alleging that I must presently be going, and had not yet been
introduced to our host.

This distance between me and the garden door where he stood talking to
a group of people was not very great. But it alarmed me more than if,
in order to cross it, I should have to expose myself to a continuous
hail of fire.

A number of women from whom I felt that I might be able to secure an
introduction were in the garden, where, while feigning an ecstatic
admiration, they were at a loss for an occupation. Parties of this
sort are as a rule premature. They have little reality until the
following day, when they occupy the attention of the people who were
not invited. A real author, devoid of the foolish self-esteem of so
many literary people, if, when he reads an article by a critic who has
always expressed the greatest admiration for his works, he sees the
names of various inferior writers mentioned, but not his own, has no
time to stop and consider what might be to him a matter for
astonishment: his books are calling him. But a society woman has
nothing to do and, on seeing in the _Figaro_: "Last night the Prince
and Princesse de Guermantes gave a large party," etc., exclaims:
"What! Only three days ago I talked to Marie-Gilbert for an hour, and
she never said a word about it!" and racks her brains to discover how
she can have offended the Guermantes. It must be said that, so far as
the Princess's parties were concerned, the astonishment was sometimes
as great among those who were invited as among those who were not. For
they would burst forth at the moment when one least expected them, and
summoned in people whose existence Mme. de Guermantes had forgotten
for years. And almost all the people in society are so insignificant
that others of their sort adopt, in judging them, only the measure of
their social success, cherish them if they are invited, if they are
omitted detest them. As to the latter, if it was the fact that the
Princess often, even when they were her friends, did not invite them,
that was often due to her fear of annoying 'Palamède,' who had
excommunicated them. And so I might be certain that she had not spoken
of me to M. de Charlus, for otherwise I should not have found myself
there. He meanwhile was posted between the house and the garden, by
the side of the German Ambassador, leaning upon the balustrade of the
great staircase which led from the garden to the house, so that the
other guests, in spite of the three or four feminine admirers who were
grouped round the Baron and almost concealed him, were obliged to
greet him as they passed. He responded by naming each of them in turn.
And one heard an incessant: "Good evening, Monsieur du Hazay, good
evening, Madame de la Tour du Pin-Verclause, good evening, Madame de
la Tour du Pin-Gouvernet, good evening, Philibert, good evening, my
dear Ambassadress," and so on. This created a continuous barking
sound, interspersed with benevolent suggestions or inquiries (to the
answers to which he paid no attention), which M. de Charlus addressed
to them in a tone softened, artificial to shew his indifference, and
benign: "Take care the child doesn't catch cold, it is always rather
damp in the gardens. Good evening, Madame de Brantes. Good evening,
Madame de Mecklembourg. Have you brought your daughter? Is she
wearing that delicious pink frock? Good evening, Saint-Géran."
Certainly there was an element of pride in this attitude, for M. de
Charlus was aware that he was a Guermantes, and that he occupied a
supreme place at this party. But there was more in it than pride, and
the very word _fête_ suggested, to the man with aesthetic gifts, the
luxurious, curious sense that it might bear if this party were being
given not by people in contemporary society but in a painting by
Carpaccio or Veronese. It is indeed highly probable that the German
Prince that M. de Charlus was must rather have been picturing to
himself the reception that occurs in _Tannhäuser_, and himself as the
Margrave, standing at the entrance to the Warburg with a kind word of
condescension for each of his guests, while their procession into the
castle or the park is greeted by the long phrase, a hundred times
renewed, of the famous March.

I must, however, make up my mind. I could distinguish beneath the
trees various women with whom I was more or less closely acquainted,
but they seemed transformed because they were at the Princess's and
not at her cousin's, and because I saw them seated not in front of
Dresden china plates but beneath the boughs of a chestnut. The
refinement of their setting mattered nothing. Had it been infinitely
less refined than at Oriane's, I should have felt the same uneasiness.
When the electric light in our drawing-room fails, and we are obliged
to replace it with oil lamps, everything seems altered. I was recalled
from my uncertainty by Mme. de Souvré. "Good evening," she said as
she approached me. "Have you seen the Duchesse de Guermantes lately?"
She excelled in giving to speeches of this sort an intonation which
proved that she was not uttering them from sheer silliness, like
people who, not knowing what to talk about, come up to you a thousand
times over to mention some bond of common acquaintance, often
extremely slight. She had on the contrary a fine conducting wire in
her glance which signified: "Don't suppose for a moment that I haven't
recognised you. You are the young man I met at the Duchesse de
Guermantes. I remember quite well." Unfortunately, this protection,
extended over me by this phrase, stupid in appearance but delicate in
intention, was extremely fragile, and vanished as soon as I tried to
make use of it. Madame de Souvré had the art, if called upon to convey
a request to some influential person, of appearing at the same time,
in the petitioner's eyes, to be recommending him, and in those of the
influential person not to be recommending the petitioner, so that her
ambiguous gesture opened a credit balance of gratitude to her with the
latter without placing her in any way in debt to the former.
Encouraged by this lady's civilities to ask her to introduce me to M.
de Guermantes, I found that she took advantage of a moment when our
host was not looking in our direction, laid a motherly hand on my
shoulder, and, smiling at the averted face of the Prince who was
unable to see her, thrust me towards him with a gesture of feigned
protection, but deliberately ineffective, which left me stranded
almost at my starting point. Such is the cowardice of people in
society.

That of a lady who came to greet me, addressing me by my name, was
greater still. I tried to recall her own name as I talked to her; I
remembered quite well having met her at dinner, I could remember
things that she had said. But my attention, concentrated upon the
inward region in which these memories of her lingered, was unable to
discover her name there. It was there, nevertheless. My thoughts began
playing a sort of game with it to grasp its outlines, its initial
letter, and so finally to bring the whole name to light. It was labour
in vain, I could more or less estimate its mass, its weight, but as
for its forms, confronting them with the shadowy captive lurking in
the inward night, I said to myself: "It is not that." Certainly my
mind would have been capable of creating the most difficult names.
Unfortunately, it had not to create but to reproduce. All action by
the mind is easy, if it is not subjected to the test of reality. Here,
I was forced to own myself beaten. Finally, in a flash, the name came
back to me as a whole: 'Madame d'Arpajon.' I am wrong in saying that
it came, for it did not, I think, appear to me by a spontaneous
propulsion. I do not think either that the many slight memories which
associated me with the lady, and to which I did not cease to appeal
for help (by such exhortations as: "Come now, it is the lady who is a
friend of Mme. de Souvré, who feels for Victor Hugo so artless an
admiration, mingled with so much alarm and horror,")—I do not believe
that all these memories, hovering between me and her name, served in
any way to bring it to light. In that great game of hide and seek
which is played in our memory when we seek to recapture a name, there
is not any series of gradual approximations. We see nothing, then
suddenly the name appears in its exact form and very different from
what we thought we could make out. It is not the name that has come to
us. No, I believe rather that, as we go on living, we pass our time in
keeping away from the zone in which a name is distinct, and it was by
an exercise of my will and attention which increased the acuteness of
my inward vision that all of a sudden I had pierced the semi-darkness
and seen daylight. In any case, if there are transitions between
oblivion and memory, then, these transitions are unconscious. For the
intermediate names through which we pass, before finding the real
name, are themselves false, and bring us nowhere nearer to it. They
are not even, properly speaking, names at all, but often mere
consonants which are nol to be found in the recaptured name. And yet,
this operation of the mind passing from a blank to reality is so
mysterious, that it is possible after all that these false consonants
are really handles, awkwardly held out to enable us to seize hold of
the correct name. "All this," the reader will remark, "tells us
nothing as to the lady's failure to oblige; but since you have made so
long a digression, allow me, gentle author, to waste another moment of
your time in telling you that it is a pity that, young as you were (or
as your hero was, if he be not yourself), you had already so feeble a
memory that you could not recall the name of a lady whom you knew
quite well." It is indeed a pity, gentle reader. And sadder than you
think when one feels the time approaching when names and words will
vanish from the clear zone of consciousness, and when one must for
ever cease to name to oneself the people whom one has known most
intimately. It is indeed a pity that one should require this effort,
when one is still young, to recapture names which one knows quite
well. But if this infirmity occurred only in the case of names barely
known, quite naturally forgotten, names which one would not take the
trouble to remember, the infirmity would not be without its
advantages. "And what are they, may I ask?" Well, Sir, that the malady
alone makes us remark and apprehend, and allows us to dissect the
mechanism of which otherwise we should know nothing. A man who, night
after night, falls like a lump of lead upon his bed, and ceases to
live until the moment when he wakes and rises, will such a man ever
dream of making, I do not say great discoveries, but even minute
observations upon sleep? He barely knows that he does sleep. A little
insomnia is not without its value in making us appreciate sleep, in
throwing a ray of light upon that darkness. A memory without fault is
not a very powerful incentive to studying the phenomena of memory. "In
a word, did Mme. d'Arpajon introduce you to the Prince?" No, but be
quiet and let me go on with my story.

Mme. d'Arpajon was even more cowardly than Mme. de Souvré, but there
was more excuse for her cowardice. She knew that she had always had
very little influence in society. This influence, such as it was, had
been reduced still farther by her connexion with the Duc de
Guermantes; his desertion of her dealt it the final blow. The
resentment which she felt at my request that she should introduce me
to the Prince produced a silence which, she was artless enough to
suppose, conveyed the impression that she had not heard what I said.
She was not even aware that she was knitting her brows with anger.
Perhaps, on the other hand, she was aware of it, did not bother about
the inconsistency, and made use of it for the lesson which she was
thus able to teach me without undue rudeness; I mean a silent lesson,
but none the less eloquent for that.

Apart from this, Mme. d'Arpajon was extremely annoyed; many eyes were
raised in the direction of a renaissance balcony at the corner of
which, instead of one of those monumental statues which were so often
used as ornaments at that period, there leaned, no less sculptural
than they, the magnificent Marquise de Surgis-le-Duc, who had recently
succeeded Mme. d'Arpajon in the heart of Basin de Guermantes. Beneath
the flimsy white tulle which protected her from the cool night air,
one saw the supple form of a winged victory. I had no recourse left
save to M. de Charlus, who had withdrawn to a room downstairs which
opened on the garden. I had plenty of time (as he was pretending to be
absorbed in a fictitious game of whist which enabled him to appear not
to notice people) to admire the deliberate, artistic simplicity of his
evening coat which, by the merest trifles which only a tailor's eye
could have picked out, had the air of a 'Harmony in Black and White'
by Whistler; black, white and red, rather, for M. de Charlus was
wearing, hanging from a broad ribbon pinned to the lapel of his coat,
the Cross, in white, black and red enamel, of a Knight of the
religious Order of Malta. At that moment the Baron's game was
interrupted by Mme. de Gallardon, leading her nephew, the Vicomte de
Courvoisier, a young man with an attractive face and an impertinent
air. "Cousin," said Mme. de Gallardon, "allow me to introduce my
nephew Adalbert. Adalbert, you remember the famous Palamède of whom
you have heard so much." "Good evening, Madame de Gallardon," M. de
Charlus replied. And he added, without so much as a glance at the
young man: "Good evening, Sir," with a truculent air and in a tone so
violently discourteous that everyone in the room was stupefied.
Perhaps M. de Charlus, knowing that Mme. de Gallardon had her doubts
as to his morals and guessing that she had not been able to resist,
for once in a way, the temptation to allude to them, was determined to
nip in the bud any scandal that she might have embroidered upon a
friendly reception of her nephew, making at the same time a resounding
profession of indifference with regard to young men in general;
perhaps he had not considered that the said Adalbert had responded to
his aunt's speech with a sufficiently respectful air; perhaps,
desirous of making headway in time to come with so attractive a
cousin, he chose to give himself the advantage of a preliminary
assault, like those sovereigns who, before engaging upon diplomatic
action, strengthen it by an act of war.

It was not so difficult as I supposed to secure M. de Charlus's
consent to my request that he should introduce me to the Prince de
Guermantes. For one thing, in the course of the last twenty years,
this Don Quixote had tilted against so many windmills (often relatives
who, he imagined, had behaved badly to him), he had so frequently
banned people as being 'impossible to have in the house' from being
invited by various male or female Guermantes, that these were
beginning to be afraid of quarrelling with all the people they knew
and liked, of condemning themselves to a lifelong deprivation of the
society of certain newcomers whom they were curious to meet, by
espousing the thunderous but unexplained rancours of a brother-in-law
or cousin who expected them to abandon for his sake, wife, brother,
children. More intelligent than the other Guermantes, M. de Charlus
realised that people were ceasing to pay any attention, save once in a
while, to his veto, and, looking to the future, fearing lest one day
it might be with his society that they would dispense, he had begun to
make allowances, to reduce, as the saying is, his terms. Furthermore,
if he had the faculty of ascribing for months, for years on end, an
identical life to a detested person—to such an one he would not have
tolerated their sending an invitation, and would have fought, rather,
like a trooper, against a queen, the status of the person who stood in
his way ceasing to count for anything in his eyes; on the other hand,
his explosions of wrath were too frequent not to be somewhat
fragmentary. "The imbecile, the rascal! We shall have to put him in
his place, sweep him into the gutter, where unfortunately he will not
be innocuous to the health of the town," he would scream, even when he
was alone in his own room, while reading a letter that he considered
irreverent, or upon recalling some remark that had been repeated to
him. But a fresh outburst against a second imbecile cancelled the
first, and the former victim had only to shew due deference for the
crisis that he had occasioned to be forgotten, it not having lasted
long enough to establish a foundation of hatred upon which to build.
And so, I might perhaps—despite his ill-humour towards me—have been
successful when I asked him to introduce me to the Prince, had I not
been so ill-inspired as to add, from a scruple of conscience, and so
that he might not suppose me guilty of the indelicacy of entering the
house at a venture, counting upon him to enable me to remain there:
"You are aware that I know them quite well, the Princess has been very
kind to me." "Very well, if you know them, why do you need me to
introduce you?" he replied in a sharp tone, and, turning his back,
resumed his make-believe game with the Nuncio, the German Ambassador
and another personage whom I did not know by sight.

Then, from the depths of those gardens where in days past the Duc
d'Aiguillon used to breed rare animals, there came to my ears, through
the great, open doors, the sound of a sniffing nose that was savouring
all those refinements and determined to miss none of them. The sound
approached, I moved at a venture in its direction, with the result
that the words _good evening_ were murmured in my ear by M. de
Bréauté, not like the rusty metallic-sound of a knife being sharpened
on a grindstone, even less like the cry of the wild boar, devastator
of tilled fields, but like the voice of a possible saviour.

Less influential than Mme. de Souvré, but less deeply ingrained than
she with the incapacity to oblige, far more at his ease with the
Prince than was Mme. d'Arpajon, entertaining some illusion perhaps as
to my position in the Guermantes set, or perhaps knowing more about it
than myself, I had nevertheless for the first few moments some
difficulty in arresting his attention, for, with fluttering, distended
nostrils, he was turning in every direction, inquisitively protruding
his monocle, as though he found himself face to face with five hundred
matchless works of art. But, having heard my request, he received it
with satisfaction, led me towards the Prince and presented me to him
with a relishing, ceremonious, vulgar air, as though he had been
handing him, with a word of commendation, a plate of cakes. Just as
the greeting of the Duc de Guermantes was, when he chose, friendly,
instinct with good fellowship, cordial and familiar, so I found that
of the Prince stiff, solemn, haughty. He barely smiled at me,
addressed me gravely as 'Sir.' I had often heard the Duke make fun of
his cousin's stiffness. But from the first words that he addressed to
me, which by their cold and serious tone formed the most entire
contrast with the language of Basin, I realised at once that the
fundamentally disdainful man was the Duke, who spoke to you at your
first meeting with him as 'man to man,' and that, of the two cousins,
the one who was really simple was the Prince. I found in his reserve a
stronger feeling, I do not say of equality, for that would have been
inconceivable to him, but at least of the consideration which one may
shew for an inferior, such as may be found in all strongly
hierarchical societies; in the Law Courts, for instance, in a Faculty,
where a public prosecutor or dean, conscious of their high charge,
conceal perhaps more genuine simplicity, and, when you come to know
them better, more kindness, true simplicity, cordiality, beneath their
traditional aloofness than the more modern brethren beneath their
jocular affectation of comradeship. "Do you intend to follow the
career of Monsieur, your father?" he said to me with a distant but
interested air. I answered his question briefly, realising that he had
asked it only out of politeness, and moved away to allow him to greet
the fresh arrivals.

I caught sight of Swann, and meant to speak to him, but at that moment
I saw that the Prince de Guermantes, instead of waiting where he was
to receive the greeting of—Odette's husband, had immediately, with
the force of a suction pump, carried him off to the farther end of the
garden, in order, as some said, 'to shew him the door.'

So entirely absorbed in the company that I did not learn until two
days later, from the newspapers, that a Czech orchestra had been
playing throughout the evening, and that Bengal lights had been
burning in constant succession, I recovered some power of attention
with the idea of going to look at the celebrated fountain of Hubert
Robert.

In a clearing surrounded by fine trees several of which were as old as
itself, set in a place apart, one could see it in the distance,
slender, immobile, stiffened, allowing the breeze to stir only the
lighter fall of its pale and quivering plume. The eighteenth century
had refined the elegance of its lines, but, by fixing the style of the
jet, seemed to have arrested its life; at this distance one had the
impression of a work of art rather than the sensation of water. The
moist cloud itself that was perpetually gathering at its crest
preserved the character of the period like those that in the sky
assemble round the palaces of Versailles. But from a closer view one
realised that, while it respected, like the stones of an ancient
palace, the design traced for it beforehand, it was a constantly
changing stream of water that, springing upwards and seeking to obey
the architect's traditional orders, performed them to the letter only
by seeming to infringe them, its thousand separate bursts succeeding
only at a distance in giving the impression of a single flow. This was
in reality as often interrupted as the scattering of the fall, whereas
from a distance it had appeared to me unyielding, solid, unbroken in
its continuity. From a little nearer, one saw that this continuity,
apparently complete, was assured, at every point in the ascent of the
jet, wherever it must otherwise have been broken, by the entering into
line, by the lateral incorporation of a parallel jet which mounted
higher than the first and was itself, at an altitude greater but
already a strain upon its endurance, relieved by a third. Seen close
at hand, drops without strength fell back from the column of water
crossing on their way their climbing sisters and, at times, torn,
caught in an eddy of the night air, disturbed by this ceaseless flow,
floated awhile before being drowned in the basin. They teased with
their hesitations, with their passage in the opposite direction, and
blurred with their soft vapour the vertical tension of that stem,
bearing aloft an oblong cloud composed of a thousand tiny drops, but
apparently painted in an unchanging, golden brown which rose,
unbreakable, constant, urgent, swift, to mingle with the clouds in the
sky. Unfortunately, a gust of wind was enough to scatter it obliquely
on the ground; at times indeed a single jet, disobeying its orders,
swerved and, had they not kept a respectful distance, would have
drenched to their skins the incautious crowd of gazers.

One of these little accidents, which could scarcely occur save when
the breeze freshened for a moment, was distinctly unpleasant. Somebody
had told Mme. d'Arpajon that the Duc de Guermantes, who as a matter of
fact had not yet arrived, was with Mme. de Surgis in one of the
galleries of pink marble to which one ascended by the double
colonnade, hollowed out of the wall, which rose from the brink of the
fountain. Now, just as Mme. d'Arpajon was making for one of these
staircases, a strong gust of warm air made the jet of water swerve and
inundated the fair lady so completely that, the water streaming down
from her open bosom inside her dress, she was soaked as if she had
been plunged into a bath. Whereupon, a few feet away, a rhythmical
roar resounded, loud enough to be heard by a whole army, and at the
same time protracted in periods as though it were being addressed not
to the army as a whole but to each unit in turn; it was the Grand Duke
Vladimir, who was laughing wholeheartedly upon seeing the immersion of
Mme. d'Arpajon, one of the funniest sights, as he was never tired of
repeating afterwards, that he had ever seen in his life. Some
charitable persons having suggested to the Muscovite that a word of
sympathy from himself was perhaps deserved and would give pleasure to
the lady who, notwithstanding her tale of forty winters fully told,
wiping herself with her scarf, without appealing to anyone for help,
was stepping clear in spite of the water that was maliciously spilling
over the edge of the basin, the Grand Duke, who had a kind heart, felt
that he must say a word in season, and, before the last military
tattoo of his laughter had altogether subsided, one heard a fresh
roar, more vociferous even than the last. "Bravo, old girl!" he cried,
clapping his hands as though at the theatre. Mme. d'Arpajon was not at
all pleased that her dexterity should be commended at the expense of
her youth. And when some one remarked to her, in a voice drowned by
the roar of the water, over which nevertheless rose the princely
thunder: "I think His Imperial Highness said something to you." "No!
It was to Mme. de Souvré," was her reply.

I passed through the gardens and returned by the stair, upon which the
absence of the Prince, who had vanished with Swann, enlarged the crowd
of guests round M. de Charlus, just as, when Louis XIV was not at
Versailles, there was a more numerous attendance upon Monsieur, his
brother. I was stopped on my way by the Baron, while behind me two
ladies and a young man came up to greet him.

"It is nice to see you here," he said to me, as he held out his hand.
"Good evening, Madame de la Trémoïlle, good evening, my dear
Herminie." But doubtless the memory of what he had said to me as to
his own supreme position in the Hôtel Guermantes made him wish to
appear to be feeling, with regard to a matter which annoyed him but
which he had been unable to prevent, a satisfaction which his
high-and-mighty impertinence and his hysterical excitement immediately
invested in a cloak of exaggerated irony. "It is nice," he repeated,
"but it is, really, very odd." And he broke into peals of laughter
which appeared to be indicative at once of his joy and of the
inadequacy of human speech to express it. Certain persons, meanwhile,
who knew both how difficult he was of access and how prone to insolent
retorts, had been drawn towards us by curiosity, and, with an almost
indecent haste, took to their heels. "Come, now, don't be cross," he
said to me, patting me gently on the shoulder, "you know that I am
your friend. Good evening, Antioche, good evening, Louis-René. Have
you been to look at the fountain?" he asked me in a tone that was
affirmative rather than questioning. "It is quite pretty, ain't it? It
is marvellous. It might be made better still, naturally, if certain
things were removed, and then there would be nothing like it in
France. But even as it stands, it is quite one of the best things.
Bréauté will tell you that it was a mistake to put lamps round it, to
try and make people forget that it was he who was responsible for that
absurd idea. But after all he has only managed to spoil it a very
little. It is far more difficult to deface a great work of art than to
create one. Not that we had not a vague suspicion all the time that
Bréauté was not quite a match for Hubert Robert."

I drifted back into the stream of guests who were entering the house.
"Have you seen my delicious cousin Oriane lately?" I was asked by the
Princess who had now deserted her post by the door and with whom I was
making my way back to the rooms. "She's sure to be here to-night, I
saw her this afternoon," my hostess added. "She promised me to come. I
believe too that you will be dining with us both to meet the Queen of
Italy, at the Embassy, on Thursday. There are to be all the Royalties
imaginable, it will be most alarming." They could not in any way alarm
the Princesse de Guermantes, whose rooms swarmed with them, and who
would say: 'My little Coburgs' as she might have said 'my little
dogs.' And so Mme. de Guermantes said: "It will be most alarming,"
out of sheer silliness, which, among people in society, overrides even
their vanity. With regard to her own pedigree, she knew less than a
passman in history. As for the people of her circle, she liked to shew
that she knew the nicknames with which they had been labelled. Having
asked me whether I was dining, the week after, with the Marquise de la
Pommelière, who was often called 'la Pomme,' the Princess, having
elicited a reply in the negative, remained silent for some moments.
Then, without any other motive than a deliberate display of
instinctive erudition, banality, and conformity to the prevailing
spirit, she added: "She's not a bad sort, the Pomme!"

While the Princess was talking to me, it so happened that the Duc and
Duchesse de Guermantes made their entrance. But I could not go at once
to greet them, for I was waylaid by the Turkish Ambassadress, who,
pointing to our hostess whom I had just left, exclaimed as she seized
me by the arm: "Ah! What a delicious woman the Princess is! What a
superior being! I feel sure that, if I were a man," she went on, with
a trace of Oriental servility and sensuality, "I would give my life
for that heavenly creature." I replied that I did indeed find her
charming, but that I knew her cousin, the Duchess, better. "But there
is no comparison," said the Ambassadress. "Oriane is a charming
society woman who gets her wit from Mémé and Babal, whereas
Marie-Gilbert is _somebody_."

I never much like to be told like this, without a chance to reply,
what I ought to think about people whom I know. And there was no
reason why the Turkish Ambassadress should be in any way better
qualified than myself to judge of the worth of the Duchesse de
Guermantes.

On the other hand (and this explained also my annoyance with the
Ambassadress), the defects of a mere acquaintance, and even of a
friend, are to us real poisons, against which we are fortunately
'mithridated.'

But, without applying any standard of scientific comparison and
talking of anaphylaxis, let us say that, at the heart of our friendly
or purely social relations, there lurks a hostility momentarily cured
but recurring by fits and starts. As a rule, we suffer little from
these poisons, so long as people are 'natural.' By saying 'Babal' and
'Mémé' to indicate people with whom she was not acquainted, the
Turkish Ambassadress suspended the effects of the 'mithridatism'
which, as a rule, made me find her tolerable. She annoyed me, which
was all the more unfair, inasmuch as she did not speak like this to
make me think that she was an intimate friend of 'Mémé,' but owing to
a too rapid education which made her name these noble lords according
to what she believed to be the custom of the country. She had crowded
her course into a few months, and had not picked up the rules. But,
on thinking it over, I found another reason for my disinclination to
remain in the Ambassadress's company. It was not so very long since,
at Oriane's, this same diplomatic personage had said to me, with a
purposeful and serious air, that she found the Princesse de Guermantes
frankly antipathetic. I felt that I need not stop to consider this
change of front: the invitation to the party this evening had brought
it about. The Ambassadress was perfectly sincere when she told me that
the Princesse de Guermantes was a sublime creature. She had always
thought so. But, having never before been invited to the Princess's
house, she had felt herself bound to give this non-invitation the
appearance of a deliberate abstention on principle. Now that she had
been asked, and would presumably continue to be asked in the future,
she could give free expression to her feelings. There is no need, in
accounting for three out of four of the opinions that we hold about
other people, to go so far as crossed love or exclusion from public
office. Our judgment remains uncertain: the withholding or bestowal of
an invitation determines it. Anyhow, the Turkish Ambassadress, as the
Baronne de Guermantes remarked while making a tour of inspection
through the rooms with me, 'was all right.' She was, above all,
extremely useful. The real stars of society are tired of appearing
there. He who is curious to gaze at them must often migrate to another
hemisphere, where they are more or less alone. But women like the
Ottoman Ambassadress, of quite recent admission to society, are never
weary of shining there, and, so to speak, everywhere at once. They are
of value at entertainments of the sort known as _soirée_ or _rout_, to
which they would let themselves be dragged from their deathbeds rather
than miss one. They are the supers upon whom a hostess can always
count, determined never to miss a party. And so, the foolish young
men, unaware that they are false stars, take them for the queens of
fashion, whereas it would require a formal lecture to explain to them
by virtue of what reasons Mme. Standish, who, her existence unknown to
them, lives remote from the world, painting cushions, is at least as
great a lady as the Duchesse de Doudeauville.

In the ordinary course of life, the eyes of the Duchesse de Guermantes
were absent and slightly melancholy, she made them sparkle with a.
flame of wit only when she had to say how-d'ye-do to a friend;
precisely as though the said friend had been some witty remark, some
charming touch, some titbit for delicate palates, the savour of which
has set on the face of the connoisseur an expression of refined joy.
But upon big evenings, as she had too many greetings to bestow, she
decided that it would be tiring to have to switch off the light after
each. Just as an ardent reader, when he goes to the theatre to see a
new piece by one of the masters of the stage, testifies to his
certainty that he is not going to spend a dull evening by having,
while he hands his hat and coat to the attendant, his lip adjusted in
readiness for a sapient smile, his eye kindled for a sardonic
approval; similarly it was at the moment of her arrival that the
Duchess lighted up for the whole evening. And while she was handing
over her evening cloak, of a magnificent Tiepolo red, exposing a huge
collar of rubies round her neck, having cast over her gown that final
rapid, minute and exhaustive dressmaker's glance which is also that of
a woman of the world, Oriane made sure that her eyes, just as much as
her other jewels, were sparkling. In vain might sundry 'kind friends'
such as M. de Janville fling themselves upon the Duke to keep him from
entering: "But don't you know that poor Mama is at his last gasp? He
had had the Sacraments." "I know, I know," answered M. de Guermantes,
thrusting the tiresome fellow aside in order to enter the room. "The
viaticum has acted splendidly," he added, with a smile of pleasure at
the thought of the ball which he was determined not to miss after the
Prince's party. "We did not want people to know that we had come
back," the Duchess said to me. She never suspected that the Princess
had already disproved this statement by telling me that she had seen
her cousin for a moment, who had promised to come. The Duke, after a
protracted stare with which he proceeded to crush his wife for the
space of five minutes, observed: "I told Oriane about your
misgivings." Now that she saw that they were unfounded, and that she
herself need take no action in the attempt to dispel them, she
pronounced them absurd, and continued to chaff me about them. "The
idea of supposing that you were not invited! Besides, wasn't I there?
Do you suppose that I should be unable to get you an invitation to my
cousin's house?" I must admit that frequently, after this, she did
things for me that were far more difficult; nevertheless, I took care
not to interpret her words in the sense that I had been too modest. I
was beginning to learn the exact value of the language, spoken or
mute, of aristocratic affability, an affability that is happy to shed
balm upon the sense of inferiority in those persons towards whom it is
directed, though not to the point of dispelling that sense, for in
that case it would no longer have any reason to exist. "But you are
our equal, if not our superior," the Guermantes seemed, in all their
actions, to be saying; and they said it in the most courteous fashion
imaginable, to be loved, admired, but not to be believed; that one
should discern the fictitious character of this affability was what
they called being well-bred; to suppose it to be genuine, a sign of
ill-breeding. I was to receive, as it happened, shortly after this, a
lesson which gave me a full and perfect understanding of the extent
and limitations of certain forms of aristocratic affability. It was at
an afternoon party given by the Duchesse de Montmorency to meet the
Queen of England; there was a sort of royal procession to the buffet,
at the head of which walked Her Majesty on the arm of the Duc de
Guermantes. I happened to arrive at that moment. With his disengaged
hand the Duke conveyed to me, from a distance of nearly fifty yards, a
thousand signs of friendly invitation, which appeared to mean that I
need not be afraid to approach, that I should not be devoured alive
instead of the sandwiches. But I, who was becoming word-perfect in the
language of the court, instead of going even one step nearer, keeping
my fifty yards' interval, made a deep how, but without smiling, the
sort of bow that I should have made to some one whom I scarcely knew,
then proceeded in the opposite direction. Had I written a masterpiece,
the Guermantes would have given me less credit for it than I earned by
that bow. Not only did it not pass unperceived by the Duke, albeit he
had that day to acknowledge the greetings of more than five hundred
people, it caught the eye of the Duchess, who, happening to meet my
mother, told her of it, and, so far from suggesting that I had done
wrong, that I ought to have gone up to him, said that her husband had
been lost in admiration of my bow, that it would have been impossible
for anyone to put more into it. They never ceased to find in that bow
every possible merit, without however mentioning that which had seemed
the most priceless of all, to wit that it had been discreet, nor did
they cease either to pay me compliments which I understood to be even
less a reward for the past than a hint for the future, after the
fashion of the hint delicately conveyed to his pupils by the
headmaster of a school: "Do not forget, my boys, that these prizes are
intended not so much for you as for your parents, so that they may
send you back next term." So it was that Mme. de Marsantes, when some
one from a different world entered her circle, would praise in his
hearing the discreet people whom "you find at home when you go to see
them, and who at other times let you forget their existence," as one
warns by an indirect allusion a servant who has an unpleasant smell,
that the practice of taking a bath is beneficial to the health.

While, before she had even left the entrance hall, I was talking to
Mme. de Guermantes, I could hear a voice of a sort which, for the
future, I was to be able to classify without the possibility of error.
It was, in this particular instance, the voice of M. de Vaugoubert
talking to M. de Charlus. A skilled physician need not even make his
patient unbutton his shirt, nor listen to his breathing, the sound of
his voice is enough. How often, in time to come, was my ear to be
caught in a drawing-room by the intonation or laughter of some man,
who, for all that, was copying exactly the language of his profession
or the manners of his class, affecting a stern aloofness or a coarse
familiarity, but whose artificial voice was enough to indicate: 'He is
a Charlus' to my trained ear, like the note of a tuning fork. At that
moment the entire staff of one of the Embassies went past, pausing to
greet M. de Charlus. For all that my discovery of the sort of malady
in question dated only from that afternoon (when I had surprised M. de
Charlus with Jupien) I should have had no need, before giving a
diagnosis, to put questions, to auscultate. But M. de Vaugoubert, when
talking to M. de Charlus, appeared uncertain. And yet he must have
known what was in the air after the doubts of his adolescence. The
invert believes himself to be the only one of his kind in the
universe; it is only in later years that he imagines—another
exaggeration—that the unique exception is the normal man. But,
ambitious and timorous, M. de Vaugoubert had not for many years past
surrendered himself to what would to him have meant pleasure. The
career of diplomacy had had the same effect upon his life as a
monastic profession. Combined with his assiduous frequentation of the
School of Political Sciences, it had vowed him from his twentieth year
to the chastity of a professing Christian. And so, as each of our
senses loses its strength and vivacity, becomes atrophied when it is
no longer exercised, M. de Vaugoubert, just as the civilised man is no
longer capable of the feats of strength, of the acuteness of hearing
of the cave-dweller, had lost that special perspicacity which was rarely
at fault in M. de Charlus; and at official banquets, whether in Paris
or abroad, the Minister Plenipotentiary was no longer capable of
identifying those who, beneath the disguise of their uniform, were at
heart his congeners. Certain names mentioned by M. de Charlus,
indignant if he himself was cited for his peculiarities, but always
delighted to give away those of other people, caused M. de Vaugoubert
an exquisite surprise. Not that, after all these years, he dreamed of
profiting by any windfall. But these rapid revelations, similar to
those which in Racine's tragedies inform Athalie and Abner that Joas
is of the House of David, that Esther, enthroned in the purple, comes
of a Yiddish stock, changing the aspect of the X—— Legation, or of
one or another department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rendered
those palaces as mysterious, in retrospect, as the Temple of Jerusalem
or the Throne-room at Susa. At the sight of the youthful staff of this
Embassy advancing in a body to shake hands with M. de Charlus, M. de
Vaugoubert assumed the astonished air of Elise exclaiming, in
_Esther_: "Great heavens! What a swarm of innocent beauties issuing
from all sides presents itself to my gaze! How charming a modesty is
depicted on their faces!" Then, athirst for more definite information,
he cast at M. de Charlus a smiling glance fatuously interrogative and
concupiscent. "Why, of course they are," said M. de Charlus with the
knowing air of a learned man speaking to an ignoramus. From that
instant M. de Vaugoubert (greatly to the annoyance of M. de Charlus)
could not tear his eyes from these young secretaries whom the
X—— Ambassador to France, an old stager, had not chosen blindfold.
M. de Vaugoubert remained silent, I could only watch his eyes. But,
being accustomed from my childhood to apply, even to what is
voiceless, the language of the classics, I made M. de Vaugoubert's
eyes repeat the lines in which Esther explains to Elise that
Mardochée, in his zeal for his religion, has made it a rule that only
those maidens who profess it shall be employed about the Queen's
person. "And now his love for our nation has peopled this palace with
daughters of Sion, young and tender flowers wafted by fate,
transplanted like myself beneath a foreign sky. In a place set apart
from profane eyes, he" (the worthy Ambassador) "devotes his skill and
labour to shaping them."

At length M. de Vaugoubert spoke, otherwise than with his eyes. "Who
knows," he said sadly, "that in the country where I live the same
thing does not exist also?" "It is probable," replied M. de Charlus,
"starting with King Theodosius, not that I know anything definite
about him." "Oh, dear, no! Nothing of that sort!" "Then he has no
right to look it so completely. Besides, he has all the little
tricks. He had that 'my dear' manner, which I detest more than
anything in the world. I should never dare to be seen walking in the
street with him. Anyhow, you must know what he is, they all call him
the White Wolf." "You are entirely mistaken about him. He is quite
charming, all the same. The day on which the agreement with France was
signed, the King kissed me. I have never been so moved." "That was the
moment to tell him what you wanted." "Oh, good heavens! What an idea!
If he were even to suspect such a thing! But I have no fear in that
direction." A conversation which I could hear, for I was standing
close by, and which made me repeat to myself: "The King unto this day
knows not who I am, and this secret keeps my tongue still enchained."

This dialogue, half mute, half spoken, had lasted but a few moments,
and I had barely entered the first of the drawing-rooms with the
Duchesse de Guermantes when a little dark lady, extremely pretty,
stopped her.

"I've been looking for you everywhere. D'Annunzio saw you from a box
in the theatre, he has written the Princesse de T—— a letter in
which he says that he never saw anything so lovely. He would give his
life for ten minutes' conversation with you. In any case, even if you
can't or won't, the letter is in my possession. You must fix a day to
come and see me. There are some secrets which I cannot tell you here.
I see you don't remember me," she added, turning to myself; "I met you
at the Princesse de Parme's" (where I had never been). "The Emperor of
Russia is anxious for your father to be sent to Petersburg. If you
could come in on Monday, Isvolski himself will be there, he will talk
to you about it. I have a present for you, by dear," she went on,
returning to the Duchess, "which I should not dream of giving to
anyone but you. The manuscripts of three of Ibsen's plays, which he
sent to me by his old attendant. I shall keep one and give you the
other two."

The Duc de Guermantes was not overpleased by these offers. Uncertain
whether Ibsen and D'Annunzio were dead or alive, he could see in his
mind's eye a tribe of authors, playwrights, coming to call upon his
wife and putting her in their works. People in society are too apt to
think of a book as a sort of cube one side of which has been removed,
so that the author can at once 'put in' the people he meets. This is
obviously disloyal, and authors are a pretty low class. Certainly, it
would not be a bad thing to meet them once in a way, for thanks to
them, when one reads a book or an article, one can 'read between the
lines,' 'unmask' the characters. After all, though, the wisest thing
is to stick to dead authors. M. de Guermantes considered 'quite all
right' only the gentleman who did the funeral notices in the
_Gaulois_. He, at any rate, confined himself to including M. de
Guermantes among the people 'conspicuous by their presence' at
funerals at which the Duke had given his name. When he preferred that
his name should not appear, instead of giving it, he sent a letter of
condolence to the relatives of the deceased, assuring them of his deep
and heartfelt sympathy. If, then, the family sent to the paper "among
the letters received, we may mention one from the Duc de Guermantes,"
etc., this was the fault not of the ink-slinger but of the son,
brother, father of the deceased whom the Duke thereupon described as
upstarts, and with whom he decided for the future to have no further
dealings (what he called, not being very well up in the meaning of
such expressions, 'having a crow to pick'). In any event, the names of
Ibsen and D'Annunzio, and his uncertainty as to their survival,
brought a frown to the brows of the Duke, who was not far enough away
from us to escape hearing the various blandishments of Mme. Timoléon
d'Amoncourt. This was a charming woman, her wit, like her beauty, so
entrancing that either of them by itself would have made her shine.
But, born outside the world in which she now lived, having aspired at
first merely to a literary salon, the friend successively—and nothing
more than a friend, for her morals were above reproach—and
exclusively of every great writer, who gave her all his manuscripts,
wrote books for her, chance having once introduced her into the
Faubourg Saint-Germain, these literary privileges were of service to
her there. She had now an established position, and no longer needed
to dispense other graces than those that were shed by her presence.
But, accustomed in times past to act as go-between, to render
services, she persevered in them even when they were no longer
necessary. She had always a state secret to reveal to you, a potentate
whom you must meet, a water colour by a master to present to you.
There was indeed in all these superfluous attractions a trace of
falsehood, but they made her life a comedy that scintillated with
complications, and it was no exaggeration to say that she appointed
prefects and generals.

As she strolled by my side, the Duchesse de Guermantes allowed the
azure light of her eyes to float in front of her, but vaguely, so as
to avoid the people with whom she did not wish to enter into
relations, whose presence she discerned at times, like a menacing reef
in the distance. We advanced between a double hedge of guests, who,
conscious that they would never come to know 'Oriane,' were anxious at
least to point her out, as a curiosity, to their wives: "Quick,
Ursule, come and look at Madame de Guermantes talking to that young
man." And one felt that in another moment they would be clambering
upon the chairs, for a better view, as at the Military Review on the
14th of July, or the Grand Prix. Not that the Duchesse de Guermantes
had a more aristocratic salon than her cousin. The former's was
frequented by people whom the latter would never have been willing to
invite, principally on account of her husband. She would never have
been at home to Mme. Alphonse de Rothschild, who, an intimate friend
of Mme. de la Trémoïlle and of Mme. de Sagan, as was Oriane herself,
was constantly to be seen in the house of the last-named. It was the
same with Baron Hirsch, whom the Prince of Wales had brought to see
her, but not to the Princess, who would not have approved of him, and
also with certain outstandingly notorious Bonapartists or even
Republicans, whom the Duchess found interesting but whom the Prince, a
convinced Royalist, would not have allowed inside his house. His
anti-semitism also being founded on principle did not yield before any
social distinction, however strongly accredited, and if he was at home
to Swann, whose friend he had been since their boyhood, being,
however, the only one of the Guermantes who addressed him as Swann and
not as Charles, this was because, knowing that Swann's grandmother, a
Protestant married to a Jew, had been the Duc de Berri's mistress, he
endeavoured, from time to time, to believe in the legend which made
out Swann's father to be a natural son of that Prince. By this
hypothesis, which incidentally was false, Swann, the son of a Catholic
father, himself the son of a Bourbon by a Catholic mother, was a
Christian to his finger-tips.

"What, you don't know these glories?" said the Duchess, referring to
the rooms through which we were moving. But, having given its due meed
of praise to her cousin's 'palace,' she hastened to add that she a
thousand times preferred her own 'humble den.' "This is an admirable
house to visit. But I should die of misery if I had to stay behind and
sleep in rooms that have witnessed so many historic events. It would
give me the feeling of having been left after closing-time, forgotten,
in the Château of Blois, or Fontainebleau, or even the Louvre, with no
antidote to my depression except to tell myself that I was in the room
in which Monaldeschi was murdered. As a sedative, that is not good
enough. Why, here comes Mme. de Saint-Euverte. We've just been dining
with her. As she is giving her great annual beanfeast to-morrow, I
supposed she would be going straight to bed. But she can never miss a
party. If this one had been in the country, she would have jumped on a
lorry rather than not go to it."

As a matter of fact, Mme. de Saint-Euverte had come this evening, less
for the pleasure of not missing another person's party than in order
to ensure the success of her own, recruit the latest additions to her
list, and, so to speak, hold an eleventh hour review of the troops who
were on the morrow to perform such brilliant evolutions at her garden
party. For, in the long course of years, the guests at the
Saint-Euverte parties had almost entirely changed. The female
celebrities of the Guermantes world, formerly so sparsely scattered,
had—loaded with attentions by their hostess—begun gradually to bring
their friends. At the same time, by an enterprise equally progressive,
but in the opposite direction, Mme. de Saint-Euverte had, year by
year, reduced the number of persons unknown to the world of fashion.
You had ceased to see first one of them, then another. For some time
the 'batch' system was in operation, which enabled her, thanks to
parties over which a veil of silence was drawn, to summon the
ineligibles separately to entertain one another, which dispensed her
from having to invite them with the nice people. What cause had they
for complaint? Were they not given (_panem et circenses_) light
refreshments and a select musical programme? And so, in a kind of
symmetry with the two exiled duchesses whom, in years past, when the
Saint-Euverte salon was only starting, one used to see holding up,
like a pair of Caryatides, its unstable crest, in these later years
one could distinguish, mingling with the fashionable throng, only two
heterogeneous persons, old Mme. de Cambremer and the architect's wife
with a fine voice who was always having to be asked to sing. But, no
longer knowing anybody at Mme. de Saint-Euverte's, bewailing their
lost comrades, feeling that they were in the way, they stood about
with a frozen-to-death air, like two swallows that have not migrated
in time. And so, the following year, they were not invited; Mme. de
Fran-quetot made an attempt on behalf of her cousin, who was so fond
of music. But as she could obtain for her no more explicit reply than
the words: "Why, people can always come in and listen to music, if
they like; there is nothing criminal about that!" Mme. de Cambremer
did not find the invitation sufficiently pressing, and abstained.

Such a transformation having been effected by Mme. de Saint-Euverte,
from a leper hospice to a gathering of great ladies (the latest form,
apparently in the height of fashion, that it had assumed), it might
seem odd that the person who on the following day was to give the most
brilliant party of the season should need to appear overnight to
address a last word of command to her troops. But the fact was that
the pre-eminence of Mme. de Saint-Euverte's drawing-room existed only
for those whose social life consists entirely in reading the accounts
of afternoon and evening parties in the _Gaulois_ or _Figaro_, without
ever having been present at one. To these worldlings who see the world
only as reflected in the newspapers, the enumeration of the British,
Austrian, etc., Ambassadresses, of the Duchesses d'Uzès, de la
Trémoïlle, etc., etc., was sufficient to make them instinctively
imagine the Saint-Euverte drawing-room to be the first in Paris,
whereas it was among the last. Not that the reports were mendacious.
The majority of the persons mentioned had indeed been present. But
each of them had come in response to entreaties, civilities, services,
and with the sense of doing infinite honour to Mme. de Saint-Euverte.
Such drawing-rooms, shunned rather than sought after, to which people
are so to speak roped in, deceive no one but the fair readers of the
'Society' column. They pass over a really fashionable party, the sort
at which the hostess, who could have had all the duchesses in
existence, they being athirst to be 'numbered among the elect,'
invites only two or three and does not send any list of her guests to
the papers. And so these hostesses, ignorant or contemptuous of the
power that publicity has acquired to-day, are considered fashionable
by the Queen of Spain but are overlooked by the crowd, because the
former knows and the latter does not know who they are.

Mme. de Saint-Euverte was not one of these women, and, with an eye to
the main chance, had come to gather up for the morrow everyone who had
been invited. M. de Charlus was not among these, he had always refused
to go to her house. But he had quarrelled with so many people that
Mme. de Saint-Euverte might put this down to his peculiar nature.

Assuredly, if it had been only Oriane, Mme. de Saint-Euverte need not
have put herself to the trouble, for the invitation had been given by
word of mouth, and, what was more, accepted with that charming,
deceiving grace in the exercise of which those Academicians are
unsurpassed from whose door the candidate emerges with a melting
heart, never doubting that he can count upon their support. But there
were others as well. The Prince d'Agrigente, would he come? And Mme.
de Durfort? And so, with an eye to business, Mme. de Saint-Euverte had
thought it expedient to appear on the scene in person. Insinuating
with some, imperative with others, to all alike she hinted in veiled
words at inconceivable attractions which could never be seen anywhere
again, and promised each that he should find at her party the person
he most wished, or the personage he most wanted to meet. And this sort
of function with which she was invested on one day in the year—like
certain public offices in the ancient world—of the person who is to
give on the morrow the biggest garden-party of the season conferred
upon her a momentary authority. Her lists were made up and closed, so
that while she wandered slowly through the Princess's rooms to drop
into one ear after another: "You won't forget about me to-morrow," she
had the ephemeral glory of turning away her eyes, while continuing to
smile, if she caught sight of some horrid creature who was to be
avoided or some country squire for whom the bond of a schoolboy
friendship had secured admission to Gilbert's, and whose presence at
her garden-party would be no gain. She preferred not to speak to him,
so as to be able to say later on: "I issued my invitations verbally,
and unfortunately I didn't see you anywhere." And so she, a mere
Saint-Euverte, set to work with her gimlet eyes to pick and choose
among the guests at the Princess's party. And she imagined herself, in
so doing, to be every inch a Duchesse de Guermantes.

It must be admitted that the latter lady had not, either, whatever one
might suppose, the unrestricted use of her greetings and smiles. To
some extent, no doubt, when she withheld them, it was deliberately.
"But the woman bores me to tears," she would say, "am I expected to
talk to her about her party for the next hour?"

A duchess of swarthy complexion went past, whom her ugliness and
stupidity, and certain irregularities of behaviour, had exiled not
from society as a whole but from certain small and fashionable
circles. "Ah!" murmured Mme. de Guermantes, with the sharp, unerring
glance of the connoisseur who is shewn a false jewel, "so they have
that sort here?" By the mere sight of this semi-tarnished lady, whose
face was burdened with a surfeit of moles from which black hairs
sprouted, Mme. de Guermantes gauged the mediocre importance of this
party. They had been brought up together, but she had severed all
relations with the lady; and responded to her greeting only with the
curtest little nod. "I cannot understand," she said to me, "how
Marie-Gilbert can invite us with all that scum. You might say there
was a deputation of paupers from every parish. Mélanie Pourtalès
arranged things far better. She could have the Holy Synod and the
Oratoire Chapel in her house if she liked, but at least she didn't
invite us on the same day." But, in many cases, it was from timidity,
fear of a scene with her husband, who did not like her to entertain
artists and such like (Marie-Gilbert took a kindly interest in dozens
of them, you had to take care not to be accosted by some illustrious
German diva), from some misgivings, too, with regard to Nationalist
feeling, which, inasmuch as she was endowed, like M. de Charlus, with
the wit of the Guermantes, she despised from the social point of view
(people were now, for the greater glory of the General Staff, sending
a plebeian general in to dinner before certain dukes), but to which,
nevertheless, as she knew that she was considered unsound in her
views, she made liberal concessions, even dreading the prospect of
having to offer her hand to Swann in these anti-semitic surroundings.
With regard to this, her mind was soon set at rest, for she learned
that the Prince had refused to have Swann in the house, and had had 'a
sort of an altercation' with him. There was no risk of her having to
converse in public with 'poor Charles,' whom she preferred to cherish
in private.

"And who in the world is that?" Mme. de Guermantes exclaimed, upon
seeing a little lady with a slightly lost air, in a black gown so
simple that you would have taken her for a pauper, greet her, as did
also the lady's husband, with a sweeping bow. She did not recognise
the lady and, in her insolent way, drew herself up as though offended
and stared at her without responding. "Who is that person, Basin?" she
asked with an air of astonishment, while M. de Guermantes, to atone
for Oriane's impoliteness, was bowing to the lady and shaking hands
with her husband. "Why, it is Mme. de Chaussepierre, you were most
impolite." "I have never heard of anybody called Chaussepierre." "Old
mother Chanlivault's nephew." "I haven't the faintest idea what you're
talking about. Who is the woman, and why does she bow to me?" "But you
know her perfectly, she's Mme. de Charleval's daughter, Henriette
Montmorency." "Oh, but I knew her mother quite well, she was charming,
extremely intelligent. What made her go and marry all these people I
never heard of? You say that she calls herself Mme. de Chaussepierre?"
she said, isolating each syllable of the name with a questioning air,
and as though she were afraid of making a mistake. "It is not so
ridiculous as you appear to think, to call oneself Chaussepierre! Old
Chaussepierre was the brother of the aforesaid Chanlivault, of Mme.
de Sennecour and of the Vicomtesse de Merlerault. They're a good
family." "Oh, do stop," cried the Duchess, who, like a lion-tamer,
never cared to appear to be allowing herself to be intimidated by the
devouring glare of the animal. "Basin, you are the joy of my life. I
can't imagine where you picked up those names, but I congratulate you
on them. If I did not know Chaussepierre, I have at least read
Balzac, you are not the only one, and I have even read Labiche. I can
appreciate Chanlivault, I do not object to Charleval, but I must
confess that Merlerault is a masterpiece. However, let us admit that
Chaussepierre is not bad either. You must have gone about collecting
them, it's not possible. You mean to write a book," she turned to
myself, "you ought to make a note of Charleval and Merlerault. You
will find nothing better." "He will find himself in the dock, and will
go to prison; you are giving him very bad advice, Oriane." "I hope,
for his own sake, that he has younger people than me at his disposal
if he wishes to ask for bad advice; especially if he means to follow
it. But if he means to do nothing worse than write a book!" At some
distance from us, a wonderful, proud young woman stood out delicately
from the throng in a white dress, all diamonds and tulle. Madame de
Guermantes watched her talking to a whole group of people fascinated
by her grace. "Your sister is the belle of the ball, as usual; she is
charming to-night," she said, as she took a chair, to the Prince de
Chimay who went past. Colonel de Froberville (the General of that name
was his uncle) came and sat down beside us, as did M. de Bréauté,
while M. de Vaugoubert, after hovering about us (by an excess of
politeness which he maintained even when playing tennis when, by dint
of asking leave of the eminent personages present before hitting the
ball, he invariably lost the game for his partner) returned to M. de
Charlus (until that moment almost concealed by the huge skirt of the
Comtesse Molé, whom he professed to admire above all other women),
and, as it happened, at the moment when several members of the latest
diplomatic mission to Paris were greeting the Baron. At the sight of a
young secretary with a particularly intelligent air, M. de Vaugoubert
fastened on M. de Charlus a smile upon which there bloomed visibly one
question only. M. de Charlus would, no doubt, readily have compromised
some one else, but to feel himself compromised by this smile formed on
another person's lips, which, moreover, could have but one meaning,
exasperated him. "I know absolutely nothing about the matter, I beg
you to keep your curiosity to yourself. It leaves me more than cold.
Besides, in this instance, you are making a mistake of the first
order. I believe this young man to be absolutely the opposite." Here
M. de Charlus, irritated at being thus given away by a fool, was not
speaking the truth. The secretary would, had the Baron been correct,
have formed an exception to the rule of his Embassy. It was, as a
matter of fact, composed of widely different personalities, many of
them extremely second-rate, so that, if one sought to discover what
could have been the motive of the selection that had brought them
together, the only one possible seemed to be inversion. By setting at
the head of this little diplomatic Sodom an Ambassador who on the
contrary ran after women with the comic exaggeration of an old buffer
in a revue, who made his battalion of male impersonators toe the line,
the authorities seemed to have been obeying the law of contrasts. In
spite of what he had beneath his nose, he did not believe in
inversion. He gave an immediate proof of this by marrying his sister
to a Chargé d'Affaires whom he believed, quite mistakenly, to be a
womaniser. After this he became rather a nuisance and was soon
replaced by a fresh Excellency who ensured the homogeneity of the
party. Other Embassies sought to rival this one, but could never
dispute the prize (as in the matriculation examinations, where a
certain school always heads the list), and more than ten years had to
pass before, heterogeneous attachés having been introduced into this
too perfect whole, another might at last wrest the grim trophy from it
and march at the head.

Reassured as to her fear of having to talk to Swann, Mme. de
Guermantes felt now merely curious as to the subject of the
conversation he had had with their host. "Do you know what it was
about?" the Duke asked M. de Bréauté. "I did hear," the other replied,
"that it was about a little play which the writer Bergotte produced at
their house. It was a delightful show, as it happens. But it seems the
actor made up as Gilbert, whom, as it happens, Master Bergotte had
intended to take off." "Oh, I should have loved to see Gilbert taken
off," said the Duchess, with a dreamy smile. "It was about this little
performance," M. de Bréauté went on, thrusting forward his rodent jaw,
"that Gilbert demanded an explanation from Swann, who merely replied
what everyone thought very witty: 'Why, not at all, it wasn't the
least bit like you, you are far funnier!' It appears, though," M. de
Bréauté continued, "that the little play was quite delightful. Mme.
Molé was there, she was immensely amused." "What, does Mme. Molé go
there?" said the Duchess in astonishment. "Ah! That must be Mémé's
doing. That is what always happens, in the end, to that sort of house.
One fine day everybody begins to flock to it, and I, who have
deliberately remained aloof, upon principle, find myself left to mope
alone in my corner." Already, since M. de Bréauté's speech, the
Duchesse de Guermantes (with regard if not to Swann's house, at least
to the hypothesis of encountering him at any moment) had, as we see,
adopted a fresh point of view. "The explanation that you have given
us," said Colonel de Froberville to M. de Bréauté, "is entirely
unfounded. I have good reason to know. The Prince purely and simply
gave Swann a dressing down and would have him to know, as our
forebears used to say, that he was not to shew his face in the house
again, seeing the opinions he flaunts. And, to my mind, my uncle
Gilbert was right a thousand times over, not only in giving Swann a
piece of his mind, he ought to have finished six months ago with an
out-and-out Dreyfusard."

Poor M. de Vaugoubert, changed now from a too cautious tennis-player
to a mere inert tennis ball which is tossed to and fro without
compunction, found himself projected towards the Duchesse de
Guermantes to whom he made obeisance. He was none too well received,
Oriane living in the belief that all the diplomats—or politicians—of
her world were nincompoops.

M. de Froberville had greatly benefited by the social privileges that
had of late been accorded to military men. Unfortunately, if the wife
of his bosom was a quite authentic relative of the Guermantes, she was
also an extremely poor one, and, as he himself had lost his fortune,
they went scarcely anywhere, and were the sort of people who were apt
to be overlooked except on great occasions, when they had the good
fortune to bury or marry a relative. Then, they did really enter into
communion with the world of fashion, like those nominal Catholics who
approach the holy table but once in the year. Their material situation
would indeed have been deplorable had not Mme. de Saint-Euverte,
faithful to her affection for the late General de Froberville, done
everything to help the household, providing frocks and entertainments
for the two girls. But the Colonel, though generally considered a good
fellow, had not the spirit of gratitude. He was envious of the
splendours of a benefactress who extolled them herself without pause
or measure. The annual garden party was for him, his wife and children
a marvellous pleasure which they would not have missed for all the
gold in the world, but a pleasure poisoned by the thought of the joys
of satisfied pride that Mme. de Saint-Euverte derived from it. The
accounts of this garden party in the newspapers, which, after giving
detailed reports, would add with Machiavellian guile: "We shall refer
again to this brilliant gathering," the complementary details of the
women's costume, appearing for several days in succession, all this
was so obnoxious to the Frobervilles, that they, cut off from most
pleasures and knowing that they could count upon the pleasure of this
one afternoon, were moved every year to hope that bad weather would
spoil the success of the party, to consult the barometer and to
anticipate with ecstasy the threatenings of a storm that might ruin
everything.

"I shall not discuss politics with you, Froberville," said M. de
Guermantes, "but, so far as Swann is concerned, I can tell you frankly
that his conduct towards ourselves has been beyond words. Introduced
into society, in the past, by ourselves, by the Duc de Chartres, they
tell me now that he is openly a Dreyfusard. I should never have
believed it of him, an epicure, a man of practical judgment, a
collector, who goes in for old books, a member of the Jockey, a man
who enjoys the respect of all that know him, who knows all the good
addresses, and used to send us the best port wine you could wish to
drink, a dilettante, the father of a family. Oh! I have been greatly
deceived. I do not complain for myself, it is understood that I am
only an old fool, whose opinion counts for nothing, mere rag tag and
bobtail, but if only for Oriane's sake, he ought to have openly
disavowed the Jews and the partisans of the man Dreyfus.

"Yes, after the friendship my wife has always shewn him," went on the
Duke, who evidently considered that to denounce Dreyfus as guilty of
high treason, whatever opinion one might hold in one's own conscience
as to his guilt, constituted a sort of thank-offering for the manner
in which one had been received in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, "he
ought to have disassociated himself. For, you can ask Oriane, she had
a real friendship for him." The Duchess, thinking that an ingenuous,
calm tone would give a more dramatic and sincere value to her words,
said in a schoolgirl voice, as though she were simply letting the
truth fall from her lips, merely giving a slightly melancholy
expression to her eyes: "It is quite true, I have no reason to conceal
the fact that I did feel a sincere affection for Charles!" "There, you
see, I don't have to make her say it. And after that, he carries his
ingratitude to the point of being a Dreyfusard!"

"Talking of Dreyfusards," I said, "it appears, Prince Von is one."
"Ah, I am glad you reminded me of him," exclaimed M. de Guermantes, "I
was forgetting that he had asked me to dine with him on Monday. But
whether he is a Dreyfusard or not is entirely immaterial, since he is
a foreigner. I don't give two straws for his opinion. With a
Frenchman, it is another matter. It is true that Swann is a Jew. But,
until to-day—forgive me, Froberville—I have always been foolish
enough to believe that a Jew can be a Frenchman, that is to say, an
honourable Jew, a man of the world. Now, Swann was that in every sense
of the word. Ah, well! He forces me to admit that I have been
mistaken, since he has taken the side of this Dreyfus (who, guilty or
not, never moved in his world, he cannot ever have met him) against a
society that had adopted him, had treated him as one of ourselves. It
goes without saying, we were all of us prepared to vouch for Swann, I
would have answered for his patriotism as for my own. Ah! He is
rewarding us very badly: I must confess that I should never have
expected such a thing from him. I thought better of him. He was a man
of intelligence (in his own line, of course). I know that he had
already made that insane, disgraceful marriage. By which token, shall
I tell you some one who was really hurt by Swann's marriage: my wife.
Oriane often has what I might call an affectation of insensibility.
But at heart she feels things with extraordinary keenness." Mme. de
Guermantes, delighted by this analysis of her character, listened to
it with a modest air but did not utter a word, from a scrupulous
reluctance to acquiesce in it, but principally from fear of cutting it
short. M. de Guermantes might have gone on talking for an hour on this
subject, she would have sat as still, or even stiller than if she had
been listening to music. "Very well! I remember, when she heard of
Swann's marriage, she felt hurt; she considered that it was wrong in a
person to whom we had given so much friendship. She was very fond of
Swann; she was deeply grieved. Am I not right, Oriane?" Mme. de
Guermantes felt that she ought to reply to so direct a challenge, upon
a point of fact, which would allow her, unobtrusively, to confirm the
tribute which, she felt, had come to an end. In a shy and simple tone,
and with an air all the more studied in that it sought to shew genuine
'feeling,' she said with a meek reserve, "It is true, Basin is quite
right." "Still, that was not quite the same. After all, love is love,
although, in my opinion, it ought to confine itself within certain
limits. I might excuse a young fellow, a mere boy, for letting himself
be caught by an infatuation. But Swann, a man of intelligence, of
proved refinement, a good judge of pictures, an intimate friend of the
Duc de Chartres, of Gilbert himself!" The tone in which M. de
Guermantes said this was, for that matter, quite inoffensive, without
a trace of the vulgarity which he too often shewed. He spoke with a
slightly indignant melancholy, but everything about him was steeped in
that gentle gravity which constitutes the broad and unctuous charm of
certain portraits by Rembrandt, that of the Burgomaster Six, for
example. One felt that the question of the immorality of Swann's
conduct with regard to 'the Case' never even presented itself to the
Duke, so confident was he of the answer; it caused him the grief of a
father who sees one of his sons, for whose education he has made the
utmost sacrifices, deliberately ruin the magnificent position he has
created for him and dishonour, by pranks which the principles or
prejudices of his family cannot allow, a respected name. It is true
that M. de Guermantes had not displayed so profound and pained an
astonishment when he learned that Saint-Loup was a Dreyfusard. But,
for one thing, he regarded his nephew as a young man gone astray, as
to whom nothing, until he began to mend his ways, could be surprising,
whereas Swann was what M. de Guermantes called 'a man of weight, a man
occupying a position in the front rank.' Moreover and above all, a
considerable interval of time had elapsed during which, if, from the
historical point of view, events had, to some extent, seemed to
justify the Dreyfusard argument, the anti-Dreyfusard opposition had
doubled its violence, and, from being purely political, had become
social. It was now a question of militarism, of patriotism, and the
waves of anger that had been stirred up in society had had time to
gather the force which they never have at the beginning of a storm.
"Don't you see," M. de Guermantes went on, "even from the point of
view of his beloved Jews, since he is absolutely determined to stand
by them, Swann has made a blunder of an incalculable magnitude. He has
shewn that they are to some extent forced to give their support to
anyone of their own race, even if they do not know him personally. It
is a public danger. We have evidently been too easy going, and the
mistake Swann is making will create all the more stir since he was
respected, not to say received, and was almost the only Jew that
anyone knew. People will say: _Ab uno disce omnes_." (His satisfaction
at having hit, at the right moment, in his memory, upon so apt a
quotation, alone brightened with a proud smile the melancholy of the
great nobleman conscious of betrayal.)

I was longing to know what exactly had happened between the Prince and
Swann, and to catch the latter, if he had not already gone home. "I
don't mind telling you," the Duchess answered me when I spoke to her
of this desire, "that I for my part am not over anxious to see him,
because it appears, by what I was told just now at Mme. de
Saint-Euverte's, that he would like me before he dies to make the
acquaintance of his wife and daughter. Good heavens, it distresses me
terribly that he should be ill, but, I must say, I hope it is not so
serious as all that. And besides, it is not really a reason at all,
because if it were it would be so childishly simple. A writer with no
talent would have only to say: 'Vote for me at the Academy because my
wife is dying and I wish to give her this last happiness.' There would
be no more entertaining if one was obliged to make friends with all
the dying people. My coachman might come to me with: 'My daughter is
seriously ill, get me an invitation to the Princesse de Parme's.' I
adore Charles, and I should hate having to refuse him, and so that is
why I prefer to avoid the risk of his asking me. I hope with all my
heart that he is not dying, as he says, but really, if it has to
happen, it would not be the moment for me to make the acquaintance of
those two creatures who have deprived me of the most amusing of my
friends for the last fifteen years, with the additional disadvantage
that I should not even be able to make use of their society to see
him, since he would be dead!"

Meanwhile M. de Bréauté had not ceased to ruminate the contradiction
of his story by Colonel de Froberville. "I do not question the
accuracy of your version, my dear fellow," he said, "but I had mine
from a good source. It was the Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne who told
me."

"I am surprised that an educated man like yourself should still say
'Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne,'" the Duc de Guermantes broke in, "you
know that he is nothing of the kind. There is only one member of that
family left. Oriane's uncle, the Duc de Bouillon."

"The brother of Mme. de Villeparisis?" I asked, remembering that she
had been Mlle. de Bouillon. "Precisely. Oriane, Mme. de Lambresac is
bowing to you." And indeed, one saw at certain moments form and fade
like a shooting star a faint smile directed by the Duchesse de
Lambresac at somebody whom she had recognised. But this smile, instead
of taking definite shape in an active affirmation, in a language mute
but clear, was drowned almost immediately in a sort of ideal ecstasy
which expressed nothing, while her head drooped in a gesture of
blissful benediction, recalling the inclination towards the crowd of
communicants of the head of a somewhat senile prelate. There was not
the least trace of senility about Mme. de Lambresac. But I was
acquainted already with this special type of old-fashioned
distinction. At Combray and in Paris, all my grandmother's friends
were in the habit of greeting one another at a social gathering with
as seraphic an air as if they had caught sight of some one of their
acquaintance in church, at the moment of the Elevation or during a
funeral, and were casting him a gentle 'Good morning' which ended in
prayer. At this point a remark made by M. de Guermantes was to
complete the likeness that I was tracing. "But you have seen the Duc
de Bouillon," he said to me. "He was just going out of my library this
afternoon as you came in, a short person with white hair." It was the
person whom I had taken for a man of business from Combray, and yet,
now that I came to think it over, I could see the resemblance to Mme.
de Villeparisis. The similarity between the evanescent greetings of
the Duchesse de Lambresac and those of my grandmother's friends had
first aroused my interest, by shewing me how in all narrow and
exclusive societies, be they those of the minor gentry or of the great
nobility, the old manners persist, allowing us to recapture, like an
archaeologist, what might have been the standard of upbringing, and
the side of life which it reflects, in the days of the Vicomte
d'Arlincourt and Loïsa Puget. Better still now, the perfect conformity
in appearance between a man of business from Combray of his generation
and the Duc de Bouillon reminded me of what had already struck me so
forcibly when I had seen Saint-Loup's maternal grandfather, the Duc de
La Rochefoucauld, in a daguerreotype in which he was exactly similar,
in dress, air and manner, to my great-uncle, that social, and even
individual differences are merged when seen from a distance in the
uniformity of an epoch. The truth is that the similarity of dress, and
also the reflexion, from a person's face, of the spirit of his age
occupy so much more space than his caste, which bulks largely only in
his own self-esteem and the imagination of other people, that in order
to discover that a great nobleman of the time of Louis Philippe
differs less from a citizen of the time of Louis Philippe than from a
great nobleman of the time of Louis XV, it is not necessary to visit
the galleries of the Louvre.

At that moment, a Bavarian musician with long hair, whom the Princesse
de Guermantes had taken under her wing, bowed to Oriane. She responded
with an inclination of her head, but the Duke, furious at seeing his
wife bow to a person whom he did not know, who had a curious style,
and, so far as M. de Guermantes understood, an extremely bad
reputation, turned upon his wife with a terrible inquisitorial air, as
much as to say: "Who in the world is that Ostrogoth?" Poor Mme. de
Guermantes's position was already distinctly complicated, and if the
musician had felt a little pity for this martyred wife, he would have
made off as quickly as possible. But, whether from a desire not to
remain under the humiliation that had just been inflicted on him in
public, before the eyes of the Duke's oldest and most intimate
friends, whose presence there had perhaps been responsible to some
extent for his silent bow, and to shew that it was on the best of
grounds and not without knowing her already that he had greeted the
Duchesse de Guermantes, or else in obedience to the obscure but
irresistible impulse to commit a blunder which drove him—at a moment
when he ought to have trusted to the spirit—to apply the whole letter
of the law, the musician came closer to Mme. de Guermantes and said to
her: "Madame la Duchesse, I should like to request the honour of being
presented to the Duke." Mme. de Guermantes was indeed in a quandary.
But after all, she might well be a forsaken wife, she was still
Duchesse de Guermantes and could not let herself appear to have
forfeited the right to introduce to her husband the people whom she
knew. "Basin," she said, "allow me to present to you M. d'Herweck."

"I need not ask whether you are going to Madame de Saint-Euverte's
to-morrow," Colonel de Froberville said to Mme. de Guermantes, to
dispel the painful impression produced by M. d'Herweck's ill-timed
request. "The whole of Paris will be there." Meanwhile, turning with
a single movement and as though he were carved out of a solid block
towards the indiscreet musician, the Duc de Guermantes, fronting his
suppliant, monumental, mute, wroth, like Jupiter Tonans, remained
motionless like this for some seconds, his eyes ablaze with anger and
astonishment, his waving locks seeming to issue from a crater. Then,
as though carried away by an impulse which alone enabled him to
perform the act of politeness that was demanded of him, and after
appearing by his attitude of defiance to be calling the entire company
to witness that he did not know the Bavarian musician, clasping his
white-gloved hands behind his back, he jerked his body forward and
bestowed upon the musician a bow so profound, instinct with such
stupefaction and rage, so abrupt, so violent, that the trembling
artist recoiled, stooping as he went, so as not to receive a
formidable butt in the stomach. "Well, the fact is, I shall not be in
Paris," the Duchess answered Colonel de Froberville. "I may as well
tell you (though I ought to be ashamed to confess such a thing) that I
have lived all these years without seeing the windows at
Montfort-l'Amaury. It is shocking, but there it is. And so, to make
amends for my shameful ignorance, I decided that I would go and see
them to-morrow." M. de Bréauté smiled a subtle smile. He quite
understood that, if the Duchess had been able to live all these years
without seeing the windows at Montfort-l'Amaury, this artistic
excursion did not all of a sudden take on the urgent character of an
expedition 'hot-foot' and might without danger, after having been put
off for more than twenty-five years, be retarded for twenty-four
hours. The plan that the Duchess had formed was simply the Guermantes
way of issuing the decree that the Saint-Euverte establishment was
definitely not a 'really nice' house, but a house to which you were
invited that you might be utilised afterwards in the account in the
Gaulois, a house that would set the seal of supreme smartness upon
those, or at any rate upon her (should there be but one) who did not
go to it. The delicate amusement of M. de Bréauté, enhanced by that
poetical pleasure which people in society felt when they saw Mme. de
Guermantes do things which their own inferior position did not allow
them to imitate, but the mere sight of which brought to their lips the
smile of the peasant thirled to the soil when he sees freer and more
fortunate men pass by above his head, this delicate pleasure could in
no way be compared with the concealed but frantic ecstasy that was at
once felt by M. de Froberville.

The efforts that this gentleman was making so that people should not
hear his laughter had made him turn as red as a turkey-cock, in spite
of which it was only with a running interruption of hiccoughs of joy
that he exclaimed in a pitying tone: "Oh! Poor Aunt Saint-Euverte, she
will take to her bed! No! The unhappy woman is not to have her
Duchess, what a blow, why, it is enough to kill her!" he went on,
convulsed with laughter. And in his exhilaration he could not help
stamping his feet and rubbing his hands. Smiling out of one eye and
with the corner of her lips at M. de Froberville, whose amiable
intention she appreciated, but found the deadly boredom of his society
quite intolerable, Mme. de Guermantes decided finally to leave him.

"Listen, I shall be obliged to bid you good night," she said to him as
she rose with an air of melancholy resignation, and as though it had
been a bitter grief to her. Beneath the magic spell of her blue eyes
her gently musical voice made one think of the poetical lament of a
fairy. "Basin wants me to go and talk to Marie for a little." In
reality, she was tired of listening to Froberville, who did not cease
to envy her her going to Montfort-l'Amaury, when she knew quite well
that he had never heard of the windows before in his life, nor for
that matter would he for anything in the world have missed going to
the Saint-Euverte party. "Good-bye, I've barely said a word to you, it
is always like that at parties, we never see the people, we never say
the things we should like to say, but it is the same everywhere in
this life. Let us hope that when we are dead things will be better
arranged. At any rate, we shall not always be having to put on low
dresses. And yet, one never knows. We may perhaps have to display our
bones and worms on great occasions. Why not? Look, there goes old
Rampillon, do you see any great difference between her and a skeleton
in an open dress? It is true that she has every right to look like
that, for she must be at least a hundred. She was already one of those
sacred monsters before whom I refused to bow the knee when I made my
first appearance in society. I thought she had been dead for years;
which for that matter would be the only possible explanation of the
spectacle she presents. It is impressive and liturgical; quite
_Camposanto_!" The Duchess had moved away from Froberville; he came
after her: "Just one word in your ear." Slightly annoyed: "Well, what
is it now?" she said to him stiffly. And he, having been afraid lest,
at the last moment, she might change her mind about Montfort-l'Amaury:
"I did not like to mention it for Mme. de Saint-Euverte's sake, so as
not to get her into trouble, but since you don't intend to be there, I
may tell you that I am glad for your sake, for she has measles in the
house!" "Oh, good gracious!" said Oriane, who had a horror of
illnesses. "But that wouldn't matter to me, I've had them already.
You can't get them twice." "So the doctors say; I know people who've
had them four times. Anyhow, you are warned." As for himself, these
fictitious measles would have needed to attack him in reality and to
chain him to his bed before he would have resigned himself to missing
the Saint-Euverte party to which he had looked forward for so many
months. He would have the pleasure of seeing so many smart people
there! The still greater pleasure of remarking that certain things had
gone wrong, and the supreme pleasures of being able for long
afterwards to boast that he had mingled with the former and, while
exaggerating or inventing them, of deploring the latter.

I took advantage of the Duchess's moving to rise also in order to make
my way to the smoking-room and find out the truth about Swann. "Do not
believe a word of what Babal told us," she said to me. "Little Molé
would never poke her nose into a place like that. They tell us that to
draw us. Nobody ever goes to them and they are never asked anywhere
either. He admits it himself: 'We spend the evenings alone by our own
fireside.' As he always says we, not like royalty, but to include his
wife, I do not press him. But I know all about it," the Duchess added.
We passed two young men whose great and dissimilar beauty took its
origin from one and the same woman. They were the two sons of Mme. de
Surgis, the latest mistress of the Duc de Guermantes. Both were
resplendent with their mother's perfections, but each in his own way.
To one had passed, rippling through a virile body, the royal presence
of Mme. de Surgis and the same pallor, ardent, flushed and sacred,
flooded the marble cheeks of mother and son; but his brother had
received the Grecian brow, the perfect nose, the statuesque throat,
the eyes of infinite depth; composed thus of separate gifts, which the
goddess had shared between them, their twofold beauty offered one the
abstract pleasure of thinking that the cause of that beauty was
something outside themselves; one would have said that the principal
attributes of their mother were incarnate in two different bodies;
that one of the young men was his mother's stature and her complexion,
the other her gaze, like those divine beings who were no more than the
strength and beauty of Jupiter or Minerva. Full of respect for M. de
Guermantes, of whom they said: "He is a great friend of our parents,"
the elder nevertheless thought that it would be wiser not to come up
and greet the Duchess, of whose hostility towards his mother he was
aware, though without perhaps understanding the reason for it, and at
the sight of us he slightly averted his head. The younger, who copied
his brother in everything, because, being stupid and short-sighted to
boot, he did not venture to own a personal opinion, inclined his head
at the same angle, and the pair slipped past us towards the card-room,
one behind the other, like a pair of allegorical figures.

Just as I reached this room, I was stopped by the Marquise de Citri,
still beautiful but almost foaming at the mouth. Of decently noble
birth, she had sought and made a brilliant match in marrying M. de
Citri, whose great-grandmother had been an Aumale-Lorraine. But no
sooner had she tasted this satisfaction than her natural
cantankerousness gave her a horror of people in society which did not
cut her off absolutely from social life. Not only, at a party, did
she deride everyone present, her derision of them was so violent that
mere laughter was not sufficiently bitter, and changed into a guttural
hiss. "Ah!" she said to me, pointing to the Duchesse de Guermantes who
had now left my side and was already some way off, "what defeats me is
that she can lead this sort of existence." Was this the speech of a
righteously indignant Saint, astonished that the Gentiles did not come
of their own accord to perceive the Truth, or that of an anarchist
athirst for carnage? In any case there could be no possible
justification for this apostrophe. In the first place, the 'existence
led' by Mme. de Guermantes differed hardly perceptibly (except in
indignation) from that led by Mme. de Citri. Mme. de Citri was
stupefied when she saw the Duchess capable of that mortal sacrifice:
attendance at one of Marie-Gilbert's parties. It must be said in this
particular instance that Mme. de Citri was genuinely fond of the
Princess, who was indeed the kindest of women, and knew that, by
attending her party, she was giving her great pleasure. And so she had
put off, in order to come to the party, a dancer whom she regarded as
a genius, and who was to have initiated her into the mysteries of
Russian choreography. Another reason which to some extent stultified
the concentrated rage which Mme. de Citri felt on seeing Oriane greet
one or other of the guests was that Mme. de Guermantes, albeit at a
far less advanced stage, shewed the symptoms of the malady that was
devouring Mme. de Citri. We have seen, moreover, that she had carried
the germs of it from her birth. In fact, being more intelligent than
Mme. de Citri, Mme. de Guermantes would have had better right than
she to this nihilism (which was more than merely social), but it is
true that certain good qualities help us rather to endure the defects
of our neighbour than they make us suffer from them; and a man of
great talent will normally pay less attention to other people's folly
than would a fool. We have already described at sufficient length the
nature of the Duchess's wit to convince the reader that, if it had
nothing in common with great intellect, it was at least wit, a wit
adroit in making use (like a translator) of different grammatical
forms. Now nothing of this sort seemed to entitle Mme. de Citri to
look down upon qualities so closely akin to her own. She found
everyone idiotic, but in her conversation, in her letters, shewed
herself distinctly inferior to the people whom she treated with such
disdain. She had moreover such a thirst for destruction that, when she
had almost given up society, the pleasures that she then sought were
subjected, each in turn, to her terrible disintegrating force. After
she had given up parties for musical evenings, she used to say: "You
like listening to that sort of thing, to music? Good gracious, it all
depends on what it is. It can be simply deadly! Oh! Beethoven! What a
bore!" With Wagner, then with Franck, Debussy, she did not even take
the trouble to say the word _barbe_, but merely passed her hand over
her face with a tonsorial gesture.

Presently, everything became boring. "Beautiful things are such a
bore. Oh! Pictures! They're enough to drive one mad. How right you
are, it is such a bore having to write letters!" Finally it was life
itself that she declared to be _rasante_, leaving her hearers to
wonder where she applied the term.

I do not know whether it was the effect of what the Duchesse de
Guermantes, on the evening when I first dined at her house, had said
of this interior, but the card—or smoking-room, with its pictorial
floor, its tripods, its figures of gods and animals that gazed at you,
the sphinxes stretched out along the arms of the chairs, and most of
all the huge table, of marble or enamelled mosaic, covered with
symbolical signs more or less imitated from Etruscan and Egyptian art,
gave me the impression of a magician's cell. And, on a chair drawn up
to the glittering, augural table, M. de Charlus, in person, never
touching a card, unconscious of what was going on round about him,
incapable of observing that I had entered the room, seemed precisely a
magician applying all the force of his will and reason to drawing a
horoscope. Not only that, but, like the eyes of a Pythian on her
tripod, his eyes were starting from his head, and that nothing might
distract him from labours which required the cessation of the most
simple movements, he had (like a calculator who will do nothing else
until he has solved his problem) laid down beside him the cigar which
he had previously been holding between his lips, but had no longer the
necessary detachment of mind to think of smoking. Seeing the two
crouching deities borne upon the arms of the chair that stood facing
him, one might have thought that the Baron was endeavouring to solve
the enigma of the Sphinx, had it not been that, rather, of a young and
living Oedipus, seated in that very armchair, where he had come to
join in the game. Now, the figure to which M. de Charlus was applying
with such concentration all his mental powers, and which was not, to
tell the truth, one of the sort that are commonly studied _more
geometrico_, was that of the proposition set him by the lineaments of
the young Comte de Surgis; it appeared, so profound was M. de
Charlus's absorption in front of it, to be some rebus, some riddle,
some algebraical problem, of which he must try to penetrate the
mystery or to work out the formula. In front of him the sibylline
signs and the figures inscribed upon that Table of the Law seemed the
gramarye which would enable the old sorcerer to tell in what direction
the young man's destiny was shaping. Suddenly he became aware that I
was watching him, raised his head as though he were waking from a
dream, smiled at me and blushed. At that moment Mme. de Surgis's other
son came up behind the one who was playing, to look at his cards. When
M. de Charlus had learned from me that they were brothers, his
features could not conceal the admiration that he felt for a family
which could create masterpieces so splendid and so diverse. And what
added to the Baron's enthusiasm was the discovery that the two sons of
Mme. de Surgis-le-Duc were sons not only of the same mother but of the
same father. The children of Jupiter are dissimilar, but that is
because he married first Metis, whose destiny was to bring into the
world wise children, then Themis, and after her Eurynome, and
Mnemosyne, and Leto, and only as a last resort Juno. But to a single
father Mme. de Surgis had borne these two sons who had each received
beauty from her, but a different beauty.

I had at length the pleasure of seeing Swann come into this room,
which was very big, so big that he did not at first catch sight of me.
A pleasure mingled with sorrow, with a sorrow which the other guests
did not, perhaps, feel, their feeling consisting rather in that sort
of fascination which is exercised by the strange and unexpected forms
of an approaching death, a death that a man already has, in the
popular saying, written on his face. And it was with a stupefaction
that was almost offensive, into which entered indiscreet curiosity,
cruelty, a scrutiny at once quiet and anxious (a blend of _suave mari
magno_ and _memento quia pulvis_, Robert would have said), that all
eyes were fastened upon that face the cheeks of which had been so
eaten away by disease, like a waning moon, that, except at a certain
angle, the angle doubtless at which Swann looked at himself, they
stopped short like a flimsy piece of scenery to which only an optical
illusion can add the appearance of solidity. Whether because of the
absence of those cheeks, no longer there to modify it, or because
arterio-sclerosis, which also is a form of intoxication, had reddened
it, as would drunkenness, or deformed it, as would morphine, Swann's
punchinello nose, absorbed for long years in an attractive face,
seemed now enormous, tumid, crimson, the nose of an old Hebrew rather
than of a dilettante Valois. Perhaps too in him, in these last days,
the race was making appear more pronounced the physical type that
characterises it, at the same time as the sentiment of a moral
solidarity with the rest of the Jews, a solidarity which Swann seemed
to have forgotten throughout his life, and which, one after another,
his mortal illness, the Dreyfus case and the anti-semitic propaganda
had revived. There are certain Israelites, superior people for all
that and refined men of the world, in whom there remain in reserve and
in the wings, ready to enter at a given moment in their lives, as in a
play, a bounder and a prophet. Swann had arrived at the age of the
prophet. Certainly, with his face from which, by the action of his
disease, whole segments had vanished, as when a block of ice melts and
slabs of it fall off bodily, he had greatly altered. But I could not
help being struck by the discovery how far more he had altered in
relation to myself. This man, excellent, cultivated, whom I was far
from annoyed at meeting, I could not bring myself to understand how I
had been able to invest him long ago in a mystery so great that his
appearance in the Champs-Elysées used to make my heart beat so
violently that I was too bashful to approach his silk-lined cape, that
at the door of the flat in which such a being dwelt I could not ring
the bell without being overcome by boundless emotion and dismay; all
this had vanished not only from his home, but from his person, and the
idea of talking to him might or might not be agreeable to me, but had
no effect whatever upon my nervous system.

And besides, how he had altered since that very afternoon, when I had
met him—after all, only a few hours earlier—in the Duc de
Guermantes's study. Had he really had a scene with the Prince, and had
it left him crushed? The supposition was not necessary. The slightest
efforts that are demanded of a person who is very ill quickly become
for him an excessive strain. He has only to be exposed, when already
tired, to the heat of a crowded drawing-room, for his countenance to
decompose and turn blue, as happens in a few hours with an overripe
pear or milk that is ready to turn. Besides, Swann's hair was worn
thin in patches, and, as Mme. de Guermantes remarked, needed attention
from the furrier, looked as if it had been camphored, and camphored
badly. I was just crossing the room to speak to Swann when
unfortunately a hand fell upon my shoulder.

"Hallo, old boy, I am in Paris for forty-eight hours. I called at your
house, they told me you were here, so that it is to you that my aunt
is indebted for the honour of my company at her party." It was
Saint-Loup. I told him how greatly I admired the house. "Yes, it
makes quite a historic edifice. Personally, I think it appalling. We
mustn't go near my uncle Palamède, or we shall be caught. Now that
Mme. Molé has gone (for it is she that is ruling the roost just now),
he is quite at a loose end. It seems it was as good as a play, he
never let her out of his sight for a moment, and only left her when he
had put her safely into her carriage. I bear my uncle no ill will,
only I do think it odd that my family council, which has always been
so hard on me, should be composed of the very ones who have led giddy
lives themselves, beginning with the giddiest of the lot, my uncle
Charlus, who is my official guardian, has had more women than Don
Juan, and is still carrying on in spite of his age. There was a talk
at one time of having me made a ward of court. I bet, when all those
gay old dogs met to consider the question, and had me up to preach to
me and tell me that I was breaking my mother's heart, they dared not
look one another in the face for fear of laughing. Just think of the
fellows who formed the council, you would think they had deliberately
chosen the biggest womanisers." Leaving out of account M. de Charlus,
with regard to whom my friend's astonishment no longer seemed to me to
be justified, but for different reasons, and reasons which, moreover,
were afterwards to undergo modification in my mind, Robert was quite
wrong in finding it extraordinary that lessons in worldly wisdom
should be given to a young man by people who had done foolish things,
or were still doing them.

Even if we take into account only atavism, family likenesses, it is
inevitable that the uncle who delivers the lecture should have more or
less the same faults as the nephew whom he has been deputed to scold.
Nor is the uncle in the least hypocritical in so doing, taken in as he
is by the faculty that people have of believing, in every fresh
experience, that 'this is quite different,' a faculty which allows
them to adopt artistic, political and other errors without perceiving
that they are the same errors which they exposed, ten years ago, in
another school of painters, whom they condemned, another political
affair which, they considered, merited a loathing that they no longer
feel, and espouse those errors without recognising them in a fresh
disguise. Besides, even if the faults of the uncle are different from
those of the nephew, heredity may none the less be responsible, for
the effect does not always resemble the cause, as a copy resembles its
original, and even if the uncle's faults are worse, he may easily
believe them to be less serious.

When M. de Charlus made indignant remonstrances to Robert, who
moreover was unaware of his uncle's true inclinations, at that time,
and indeed if it had still been the time when the Baron used to
scarify his own inclinations, he might perfectly well have been
sincere in considering, from the point of view of a man of the world,
that Robert was infinitely more to blame than himself. Had not Robert,
at the very moment when his uncle had been deputed to make him listen
to reason, come within an inch of getting himself ostracised by
society, had he not very nearly been blackballed at the Jockey, had he
not made himself a public laughing stock by the vast sums that he
threw away upon a woman of the lowest order, by his friendships with
people—authors, actors, Jews—not one of whom moved in society, by
his opinions, which were indistinguishable from those held by
traitors, by the grief he was causing to all his relatives? In what
respect could it be compared, this scandalous existence, with that of
M. de Charlus who had managed, so far, not only to retain but to
enhance still further his position as a Guermantes, being in society
an absolutely privileged person, sought after, adulated in the most
exclusive circles, and a man who, married to a Bourbon Princess, a
woman of eminence, had been able to ensure her happiness, had shewn a
devotion to her memory more fervent, more scrupulous than is customary
in society, and had thus been as good a husband as a son!

"But are you sure that M. de Charlus has had all those mistresses?" I
asked, not, of course, with any diabolical intent of revealing to
Robert the secret that I had surprised, but irritated, nevertheless,
at hearing him maintain an erroneous theory with so much certainty and
assurance. He merely shrugged his shoulders in response to what he
took for ingenuousness on my part. "Not that I blame him in the least,
I consider that he is perfectly right." And he began to sketch in
outline a theory of conduct that would have horrified him at Balbec
(where he was not content with denouncing seducers, death seeming to
him then the only punishment adequate to their crime). Then, however,
he had still been in love and jealous. He went so far as to sing me
the praises of houses of assignation. "They're the only places where
you can find a shoe to fit you, sheath your weapon, as we say in the
regiment." He no longer felt for places of that sort the disgust that
had inflamed him at Balbec when I made an allusion to them, and,
hearing what he now said, I told him that Bloch had introduced me to
one, but Robert replied that the one which Bloch frequented must be
"extremely mixed, the poor man's paradise!—It all depends, though:
where is it?" I remained vague, for I had just remembered that it was
the same house at which one used to have for a louis that Rachel whom
Robert had so passionately loved. "Anyhow, I can take you to some far
better ones, full of stunning women." Hearing me express the desire
that he would take me as soon as possible to the ones he knew, which
must indeed be far superior to the house to which Bloch had taken me,
he expressed a sincere regret that he could not, on this occasion, as
he would have to leave Paris next day. "It will have to be my next
leave," he said. "You'll see, there are young girls there, even," he
added with an air of mystery. "There is a little Mademoiselle de... I
think it's d'Orgeville, I can let you have the exact name, who is the
daughter of quite tip-top people; her mother was by way of being a La
Croix-l'Evêque, and they're a really decent family, in fact they're
more or less related, if I'm not mistaken, to my aunt Oriane. Anyhow,
you have only to see the child, you can tell at once that she comes of
decent people" (I could detect, hovering for a moment over Robert's
voice, the shadow of the genius of the Guermantes, which passed like a
cloud, but at a great height and without stopping). "It seems to me to
promise marvellous developments. The parents are always ill and can't
look after her. Gad, the child must have some amusement, and I count
upon you to provide it!" "Oh! When are you coming back?" "I don't
know, if you don't absolutely insist upon Duchesses" (Duchess being in
aristocracy the only title that denotes a particularly brilliant rank,
as the lower orders talk of 'Princesses'), "in a different class of
goods, there is Mme. Putbus's maid."

At this moment, Mme. de Surgis entered the room in search of her sons.
As soon as he saw her M. de Charlus went up to her with a friendliness
by which the Marquise was all the more agreeably surprised, in that an
icy frigidity was what she had expected from the Baron, who had always
posed as Oriane's protector and alone of the family—the rest being
too often inclined to forgive the Duke his irregularities by the
glamour of his position and their own jealousy of the Duchess—kept
his brother's mistresses pitilessly at a distance. And so Mme. de
Surgis had fully understood the motives of the attitude that she
dreaded to find in the Baron, but never for a moment suspected those
of the wholly different welcome that she did receive from him. He
spoke to her with admiration of the portrait that Jacquet had painted
of her years before. This admiration waxed indeed to an enthusiasm
which, if it was partly deliberate, with the object of preventing the
Marquise from going away, of 'hooking' her, as Robert used to say of
enemy armies when you seek to keep their effective strength engaged at
one point, might also be sincere. For, if everyone was delighted to
admire in her sons the regal bearing and eyes of Mme. de Surgis, the
Baron could taste an inverse but no less keen pleasure in finding
those charms combined in the mother, as in a portrait which does not
by itself excite desire, but feeds with the aesthetic admiration that
it does excite the desires that it revives. These came now to give, in
retrospect, a voluptuous charm to Jacquet's portrait itself, and at
that moment the Baron would gladly have purchased it to study upon its
surface the physiognomic pedigree of the two young Surgis.

"You see, I wasn't exaggerating," Robert said in my ear. "Just look at
the way my uncle is running after Mme. de Surgis. Though I must say,
that does surprise me. If Oriane knew, she would be furious. Really,
there are enough women in the world without his having to go and
sprawl over that one," he went on; like everybody who is not in love,
he imagined that one chose the person whom one loved after endless
deliberations and on the strength of various qualities and advantages.
Besides, while completely mistaken about his uncle, whom he supposed
to be devoted to women, Robert, in his rancour, spoke too lightly of
M. de Charlus. We are not always somebody's nephew with impunity. It
is often through him that a hereditary habit is transmitted to us
sooner or later. We might indeed arrange a whole gallery of portraits,
named like the German comedy: _Uncle and Nephew_, in which we should
see the uncle watching jealously, albeit unconsciously, for his nephew
to end by becoming like himself.

I go so far as to say that this gallery would be incomplete were we
not to include in it the uncles who are not really related by blood,
being the uncles only of their nephews' wives. The Messieurs de
Charlus are indeed so convinced that they themselves are the only good
husbands, what is more the only husbands of whom their wives are not
jealous, that generally, out of affection for their niece, they make
her marry another Charlus. Which tangles the skein of family
likenesses. And, to affection for the niece, is added at times
affection for her betrothed as well. Such marriages are not uncommon,
and are often what are called happy.

"What were we talking about? Oh yes, that big, fair girl, Mme.
Put-bus's maid. She goes with women too, but I don't suppose you mind
that, I can tell you frankly, I have never seen such a gorgeous
creature." "I imagine her rather Giorgione?" "Wildly Giorgione! Oh, if
I only had a little time in Paris, what wonderful things there are to
be done! And then, one goes on to the next. For love is all rot, mind
you, I've finished with all that." I soon discovered, to my surprise,
that he had equally finished with literature, whereas it was merely
with regard to literary men that he had struck me as being
disillusioned at our last meeting. ("They're practically all a pack of
scoundrels," he had said to me, a saying that might be explained by
his justified resentment towards certain of Rachel's friends. They
had indeed persuaded her that she would never have any talent if she
allowed 'Robert, scion of an alien race' to acquire an influence over
her, and with her used to make fun of him, to his face, at the dinners
to which he entertained them.) But in reality Robert's love of Letters
was in no sense profound, did not spring from his true nature, was
only a by-product of his love of Rachel, and he had got rid of it, at
the same time as of his horror of voluptuaries and his religious
respect for the virtue of women.

"There is something very strange about those two young men. Look at
that curious passion for gambling, Marquise," said M. de Charlus,
drawing Mme. de Surgis's attention to her own sons, as though he were
completely unaware of their identity. "They must be a pair of
Orientals, they have certain characteristic features, they are perhaps
Turks," he went on, so as both to give further support to his feint of
innocence and to exhibit a vague antipathy, which, when in due course
it gave place to affability, would prove that the latter was addressed
to the young men solely in their capacity as sons of Mme. de Surgis,
having begun only when the Baron discovered who they were. Perhaps too
M. de Charlus, whose insolence was a natural gift which he delighted
in exercising, took advantage of the few moments in which he was
supposed not to know the name of these two young men to have a little
fun at Mme. de Surgis's expense, and to indulge in his habitual
sarcasm, as Scapin takes advantage of his master's disguise to give
him a sound drubbing.

"They are my sons," said Mme. de Surgis, with a blush which would not
have coloured her cheeks had she been more discerning, without
necessarily being more virtuous. She would then have understood that
the air of absolute indifference or of sarcasm which M. de Charlus
displayed towards a young man was no more sincere than the wholly
superficial admiration which he shewed for a woman, did not express
his true nature. The woman to whom he could go on indefinitely paying
the prettiest compliments might well be jealous of the look which,
while talking to her, he shot at a man whom he would pretend
afterwards not to have noticed. For that look was not of the sort
which M. de Charlus kept for women; a special look, springing from the
depths, which even at a party could not help straying innocently in
the direction of the young men, like the look in a tailor's eye which
betrays his profession by immediately fastening upon your attire.

"Oh, how very strange!" replied M. de Charlus, not without insolence,
as though his mind had to make a long journey to arrive at a reality
so different from what he had pretended to suppose. "But I don't know
them!" he added, fearing lest he might have gone a little too far in
the expression of his antipathy, and have thus paralysed the
Marquise's intention to let him make their acquaintance. "Would you
allow me to introduce them to you?" Mme. de Surgis inquired timidly.
"Why, good gracious, just as you please, I shall be delighted, I am
perhaps not very entertaining company for such young people," M. de
Charlus intoned with the air of hesitation and coldness of a person
who is letting himself be forced into an act of politeness.

"Arnulphe, Victurnien, come here at once," said Mme. de Surgis.
Victurnien rose with decision. Arnulphe, though he could not see
where his brother was going, followed him meekly.

"It's the sons' turn, now," muttered Saint-Loup. "It's enough to make
one die with laughing. He tries to curry favour with every one, down
to the dog in the yard. It is all the funnier, as my uncle detests
pretty boys. And just look how seriously he is listening to them. If
it had been I who tried to introduce them to him, he would have given
me what for. Listen, I shall have to go and say how d'ye do to Oriane.
I have so little time in Paris that I want to try and see all the
people here that I ought to leave cards on."

"What a well-bred air they have, what charming manners," M. de Charlus
was saying. "You think so?" Mme. de Surgis replied, highly delighted.

Swann having caught sight of me came over to Saint-Loup and myself.
His Jewish gaiety was less refined than his witticisms as a man of the
world. "Good evening," he said to us. "Heavens! All three of us
together, people will think it is a meeting of the Syndicate. In
another minute they'll be looking for the safe!" He had not observed
that M. de Monserfeuil was just behind his back and could hear what
he said. The General could not help wincing. We heard the voice of M.
de Charlus close beside us: "What, you are called Victurnien, after
the _Cabinet des Antiques_," the Baron was saying, to prolong his
conversation with the two young men. "By Balzac, yes," replied the
elder Surgis, who had never read a line of that novelist's work, but
to whom his tutor had remarked, a few days earlier, upon the
similarity of his Christian name and d'Esgrignon's. Mme. de Surgis
was delighted to see her son shine, and at M. de Charlus's ecstasy
before such a display of learning.

"It appears that Loubet is entirely on our side, I have it from an
absolutely trustworthy source," Swann informed Saint-Loup, but this
time in a lower tone so as not to be overheard by the General. Swann
had begun to find his wife's Republican connexions more interesting
now that the Dreyfus case had become his chief preoccupation. "I tell
you this because I know that your heart is with us."

"Not quite to that extent; you are entirely mistaken," was Robert's
answer. "It's a bad business, and I'm sorry I ever had a finger in it.
It was no affair of mine. If it were to begin over again, I should
keep well clear of it. I am a soldier, and my first duty is to support
the Army. If you will stay with M. Swann for a moment, I shall be back
presently, I must go and talk to my aunt." But I saw that it was with
Mlle. d'Ambresac that he went to talk, and was distressed by the
thought that he had lied to me about the possibility of their
engagement. My mind was set at rest when I learned that he had been
introduced to her half an hour earlier by Mme. de Marsantes, who was
anxious for the marriage, the Ambresacs being extremely rich.

"At last," said M. de Charlus to Mme. de Surgis, "I find a young man
with some education, who has read, who knows what is meant by Balzac.
And it gives me all the more pleasure to meet him where that sort of
thing has become most rare, in the house of one of my peers, one of
ourselves," he added, laying stress upon the words. It was all very
well for the Guermantes to profess to regard all men as equal; on the
great occasions when they found themselves among people who were
'born,' especially if they were not quite so well born as themselves,
whom they were anxious and able to flatter, they did not hesitate to
trot out old family memories. "At one time," the Baron went on, "the
word aristocrat meant the best people, in intellect, in heart. Now,
here is the first person I find among ourselves who has ever heard of
Victurnien d'Esgrignon. I am wrong in saying the first. There are also
a Polignac and a Montesquieu," added M. de Charlus, who knew that this
twofold association must inevitably thrill the Marquise. "However,
your sons have every reason to be learned, their maternal grandfather
had a famous collection of eighteenth century stuff. I will shew you
mine if you will do me the pleasure of coming to luncheon with me one
day," he said to the young Victurnien. "I can shew you an interesting
edition of the _Cabinet des Antiques_ with corrections in Balzac's own
hand. I shall be charmed to bring the two Victurniens face to face."

I could not bring myself to leave Swann. He had arrived at that stage
of exhaustion in which a sick man's body becomes a mere retort in
which we study chemical reactions. His face was mottled with tiny
spots of Prussian blue, which seemed not to belong to the world of
living things, and emitted the sort of odour which, at school, after
the 'experiments,' makes it so unpleasant to have to remain in a
'science' classroom. I asked him whether he had not had a long
conversation with the Prince de Guermantes and if he would tell me
what it had been about. "Yes," he said, "but go for a moment first
with M. de Charlus and Mme. de Surgis, I shall wait for you here."

Indeed, M. de Charlus, having suggested to Mme. de Surgis that they
should leave this room which was too hot, and go and sit for a little
in another, had invited not the two sons to accompany their mother,
but myself. In this way he made himself appear, after he had
successfully hooked them, to have lost all interest in the two young
men. He was moreover paying me an inexpensive compliment, Mme. de
Surgis being in distinctly bad odour.

Unfortunately, no sooner had we sat down in an alcove from which there
was no way of escape than Mme. de Saint-Euverte, a butt for the
Baron's jibes, came past. She, perhaps to mask or else openly to shew
her contempt for the ill will which she inspired in M. de Charlus, and
above all to shew that she was on intimate terms with a woman who was
talking so familiarly to him, gave a disdainfully friendly greeting to
the famous beauty, who acknowledged it, peeping out of the corner of
her eye at M. de Charlus with a mocking smile. But the alcove was so
narrow that Mme. de Saint-Euverte, when she tried to continue, behind
our backs, her canvass of her guests for the morrow, found herself a
prisoner, and had some difficulty in escaping, a precious moment which
M. de Charlus, anxious that his insolent wit should shine before the
mother of the two young men, took good care not to let slip. A silly
question which I had put to him, without malice aforethought, gave him
the opportunity for a hymn of triumph of which the poor Saint-Euverte,
almost immobilised behind us, could not have lost a word. "Would you
believe it, this impertinent young man," he said, indicating me to
Mme. de Surgis, "asked me just now, without any sign of that modesty
which makes us keep such expeditions private, if I was going to Mme.
de Saint-Euverte's, which is to say, I suppose, if I was suffering
from the colic. I should endeavour, in any case, to relieve myself in
some more comfortable place than the house of a person who, if my
memory serves me, was celebrating her centenary when I first began to
go about town, though not, of course, to her house. And yet who could
be more interesting to listen to? What a host of historic memories,
seen and lived through in the days of the First Empire and the
Restoration, and secret history too, which could certainly have
nothing of the 'saint' about it, but must be decidedly 'verdant' if we
are to judge by the amount of kick still left in the old trot's
shanks. What would prevent me from questioning her about those
passionate times is the acuteness of my olfactory organ. The proximity
of the lady is enough. I say to myself all at once: oh, good lord,
some one has broken the lid of my cesspool, when it is simply the
Marquise opening her mouth to emit some invitation. And you can
understand that if I had the misfortune to go to her house, the
cesspool would be magnified into a formidable sewage-cart. She bears a
mystic name, though, which has always made me think with jubilation,
although she has long since passed the date of her jubilee, of that
stupid line of poetry called deliquescent: 'Ah, green, how green my
soul was on that day....' But I require a cleaner sort of verdure.
They tell me that the indefatigable old streetwalker gives
'garden-parties,' I should describe them as 'invitations to explore
the sewers.' Are you going to wallow there?" he asked Mme. de Surgis,
who this time was annoyed. Wishing to pretend for the Baron's benefit
that she was not going, and knowing that she would give days of her
life rather than miss the Saint-Euverte party, she got out of it by
taking a middle course, that is to say uncertainty. This uncertainty
took so clumsily amateurish, so sordidly material a form, that M. de
Charlus, with no fear of offending Mme. de Surgis, whom nevertheless
he was anxious to please, began to laugh to shew her that 'it cut no
ice with him.'

"I always admire people who make plans," she said; "I often change
mine at the last moment. There is a question of a summer frock which
may alter everything. I shall act upon the inspiration of the moment."

For my part, I was furious at the abominable little speech that M. de
Charlus had just made. I would have liked to shower blessings upon the
giver of garden-parties. Unfortunately, in the social as in the
political world, the victims are such cowards that one cannot for long
remain indignant with their tormentors. Mme. de Saint-Euverte, who had
succeeded in escaping from the alcove to which we were barring the
entry, brushed against the Baron inadvertently as she passed him, and,
by a reflex action of snobbishness which wiped out all her anger,
perhaps even in the hope of securing an opening, at which this could
not be the first attempt, exclaimed: "Oh! I beg your pardon, Monsieur
de Charlus, I hope I did not hurt you," as though she were kneeling
before her lord and master. The latter did not deign to reply save by
a broad ironical smile, and conceded only a "Good evening," which,
uttered as though he were only now made aware of the Marquise's
presence after she had greeted him, was an insult the more. Lastly,
with a supreme want of spirit which pained me for her sake, Mme. de
Saint-Euverte came up to me and, drawing me aside, said in my ear:
"Tell me, what have I done to offend M. de Charlus? They say that he
doesn't consider me smart enough for him," she said, laughing from ear
to ear. I remained serious. For one thing, I thought it stupid of her
to appear to believe or to wish other people to believe that nobody,
really, was as smart as herself. For another thing, people who laugh
so heartily at what they themselves have said, when it is not funny,
dispense us accordingly, by taking upon themselves the responsibility
for the mirth, from joining in it.

"Other people assure me that he is cross because I do not invite him.
But he does not give me much encouragement. He seems to avoid me."
(This expression struck me as inadequate.) "Try to find out, and come
and tell me to-morrow. And if he feels remorseful and wishes to come
too, bring him. I shall forgive and forget. Indeed, I shall be quite
glad to see him, because it will annoy Mme. de Surgis. I give you a
free hand. You have the most perfect judgment in these matters and I
do not wish to appear to be begging my guests to come. In any case, I
count upon you absolutely."

It occurred to me that Swann must be getting tired of waiting for me.
I did not wish, moreover, to be too late in returning home, because of
Albertine, and, taking leave of Mme. de Surgis and M. de Charlus, I
went in search of my sick man in the card-room. I asked him whether
what he had said to the Prince in their conversation in the garden was
really what M. de Bréauté (whom I did not name) had reported to us,
about a little play by Bergotte. He burst out laughing: "There is not
a word of truth in it, not one, it is entirely made up and would have
been an utterly stupid thing to say. Really, it is unheard of, this
spontaneous generation of falsehood. I do not ask who it was that
told you, but it would be really interesting, in a field as limited as
this, to work back from one person to another and find out how the
story arose. Anyhow, what concern can it be of other people, what the
Prince said to me? People are very inquisitive. I have never been
inquisitive, except when I was in love, and when I was jealous. And a
lot I ever learned! Are you jealous?" I told Swann that I had never
experienced jealousy, that I did not even know what it was. "Indeed! I
congratulate you. A little jealousy is not at all a bad thing, from
two points of view. For one thing, because it enables people who are
not inquisitive to take an interest in the lives of others, or of one
other at any rate. And besides, it makes one feel the pleasure of
possession, of getting into a carriage with a woman, of not allowing
her to go about by herself. But that occurs only in the very first
stages of the disease, or when the cure is almost complete. In the
interval, it is the most agonising torment. However, even the two
pleasures I have mentioned, I must own to you that I have tasted very
little of them: the first, by the fault of my own nature, which is
incapable of sustained reflexion; the second, by force of
circumstances, by the fault of the woman, I should say the women, of
whom I have been jealous. But that makes no difference. Even when one
is no longer interested in things, it is still something to have been
interested in them; because it was always for reasons which other
people did not grasp. The memory of those sentiments is, we feel, to
be found only in ourselves; we must go back into ourselves to study
it. You mustn't laugh at this idealistic jargon, what I mean to say is
that I have been very fond of life and very fond of art. Very well!
Now that I am a little too weary to live with other people, those old
sentiments, so personal and individual, that I felt in the past, seem
to me—it is the mania of all collectors—very precious. I open my
heart to myself like a sort of showcase, and examine one by one ever
so many love affairs of which the rest of the world can have known
nothing. And of this collection, to which I am now even more attached
than to my others, I say to myself, rather as Mazarin said of his
library, but still without any keen regret, that it will be very
tiresome to have to leave it all. But, to come back to my conversation
with the Prince, I shall repeat it to one person only, and that person
is going to be yourself." My attention was distracted by the
conversation that M. de Charlus, who had returned to the card-room,
was prolonging indefinitely close beside us. "And are you a reader
too? What do you do?" he asked Comte Arnulphe, who had never heard
even the name of Balzac. But his short-sightedness, as he saw
everything very small, gave him the appearance of seeing to great
distances, so that, rare poetry in a sculptural Greek god, there
seemed to be engraved upon his pupils remote, mysterious stars.

"Suppose we took a turn in the garden, Sir," I said to Swann, while
Comte Arnulphe, in a lisping voice which seemed to indicate that
mentally at least his development was incomplete, replied to M. de
Charlus with an artlessly obliging precision: "I, oh, golf chiefly,
tennis, football, running, polo I'm really keen on." So Minerva, being
subdivided, ceased in certain cities to be the goddess of wisdom, and
incarnated part of herself in a purely sporting, horse-loving deity,
Athene Hippia. And he went to Saint Moritz also to ski, for Pallas
Trilogeneia frequents the high peaks and outruns swift horsemen. "Ah!"
replied M. de Charlus with the transcendent smile of the intellectual
who does not even take the trouble to conceal his derision, but, on
the other hand, feels himself so superior to other people and so far
despises the intelligence of those who are the least stupid, that he
barely differentiates between them and the most stupid, the moment
they can be attractive to him in some other way. While talking to
Arnulphe, M. de Charlus felt that by the mere act of addressing him
he was conferring upon him a superiority which everyone else must
recognise and envy. "No," Swann replied, "I am too tired to walk
about, let us sit down somewhere in a corner, I cannot remain on my
feet any longer." This was true, and yet the act of beginning to talk
had already given him back a certain vivacity. This was because, in
the most genuine exhaustion, there is, especially in neurotic people,
an element that depends upon attracting their attention and is kept
going only by an act of memory. We at once feel tired as soon as we
are afraid of feeling tired, and, to throw off our fatigue, it
suffices us to forget about it. To be sure, Swann was far from being
one of those indefatigable invalids who, entering a room worn out and
ready to drop, revive in conversation like a flower in water and are
able for hours on end to draw from their own words a reserve of
strength which they do not, alas, communicate to their hearers, who
appear more and more exhausted the more the talker comes back to life.
But Swann belonged to that stout Jewish race, in whose vital energy,
its resistance to death, its individual members seem to share.
Stricken severally by their own diseases, as it is stricken itself by
persecution, they continue indefinitely to struggle against terrible
suffering which may be prolonged beyond every apparently possible
limit, when already one sees nothing more than a prophet's beard
surmounted by a huge nose which dilates to inhale its last breath,
before the hour strikes for the ritual prayers and the punctual
procession begins of distant relatives advancing with mechanical
movements, as upon an Assyrian frieze.

We went to sit down, but, before moving away from the group formed by
M. de Charlus with the two young Surgis and their mother, Swann could
not resist fastening upon the lady's bosom the slow expansive
concupiscent gaze of a connoisseur. He put up his monocle, for a
better view, and, while he talked to me, kept glancing in the
direction of the lady. "This is, word for word," he said to me when we
were seated, "my conversation with the Prince, and if you remember
what I said to you just now, you will see why I choose you as my
confidant. There is another reason as well, which you shall one day
learn.—'My dear Swann,' the Prince de Guermantes said to me, 'you
must forgive me if I have appeared to be avoiding you for some time
past.' (I had never even noticed it, having been ill and avoiding
society myself.) 'In the first place, I had heard it said that, as I
fully expected, in the unhappy affair which is splitting the country
in two your views were diametrically opposed to mine. Now, it would
have been extremely painful to me to have to hear you express them. So
sensitive were my nerves that when the Princess, two years ago, heard
her brother-in-law, the Grand Duke of Hesse, say that Dreyfus was
innocent, she was not content with promptly denying the assertion but
refrained from repeating it to me in order not to upset me. About the
same time, the Crown Prince of Sweden came to Paris and, having
probably heard some one say that the Empress Eugénie was a Dreyfusist,
confused her with the Princess (a strange confusion, you will admit,
between a woman of the rank of my wife and a Spaniard, a great deal
less well born than people make out, and married to a mere Bonaparte),
and said to her: Princess, I am doubly glad to meet you, for I know
that you hold the same view as myself of the Dreyfus case, which does
not surprise me since Your Highness is Bavarian. Which drew down upon
the Prince the answer: Sir, I am nothing now but a French Princess,
and I share the views of all my fellow-countrymen. Now, my dear Swann,
about eighteen months ago, a conversation I had with General de
Beaucerfeuil made me suspect that not an error, but grave illegalities
had been committed in the procedure of the trial.'"

We were interrupted (Swann did not wish people to overhear his story)
by the voice of M. de Charlus who (without, as it happened, paying us
the slightest attention) came past escorting Mme. de Surgis, and
stopped in the hope of detaining her for a moment longer, whether on
account of her sons or from that reluctance common to all the
Guermantes to bring anything to an end, which kept them plunged in a
sort of anxious inertia. Swann informed me, in this connexion, a
little later, of something that stripped the name Surgis-le-Duc, for
me, of all the poetry that I had found in it. The Marquise de
Surgis-le-Duc boasted a far higher social position, far finer
connexions by marriage than her cousin the Comte de Surgis, who had no
money and lived on his estate in the country. But the words that ended
her title "le Duc" had not at all the origin which I ascribed to them,
and which had made me associate it in my imagination with
Bourg-l'Abbé, Bois-le-Roi, etc. AH that had happened was that a Comte
de Surgis had married, during the Restoration, the daughter of an
immensely rich industrial magnate, M. Leduc, or Le Duc, himself the
son of a chemical manufacturer, the richest man of his day, and a Peer
of France. King Charles X had created for the son born of this
marriage the Marquisate of Surgis-le-Duc, a Marquisate of Surgis
existing already in the family. The addition of the plebeian surname
had not prevented this branch from allying itself, on the strength of
its enormous fortune, with the first families of the realm. And the
present Marquise de Surgis-le-Duc, herself of exalted birth, might
have moved in the very highest circles. A demon of perversity had
driven her, scorning the position ready made for her, to flee from the
conjugal roof, to live a life of open scandal. Whereupon the world
which she had scorned at twenty, when it was at her feet, had cruelly
failed her at thirty, when, after ten years, everybody, except a few
faithful friends, had ceased to bow to her, and she set to work to
reconquer laboriously, inch by inch, what she had possessed as a
birthright. (An outward and return journey which are not uncommon.)

As for the great nobles, her kinsmen, whom she had disowned in the
past, and who in their turn had now disowned her, she found an excuse
for the joy that she would feel in gathering them again to her bosom
in the memories of childhood that they would be able to recall. And in
so saying, to cloak her snobbishness, she was perhaps less untruthful
than she supposed. "Basin is all my girlhood!" she said on the day on
which he came back to her. And as a matter of fact there was a grain
of truth in the statement. But she had miscalculated when she chose
him for her lover. For all the women friends of the Duchesse de
Guermantes were to rally round her, and so Mme. de Surgis must descend
for the second time that slope up which she had so laboriously toiled.
"Well!" M. de Charlus was saying to her, in his attempt to prolong the
conversation. "You will lay my tribute at the feet of the beautiful
portrait. How is it? What has become of it?" "Why," replied Mme. de
Surgis, "you know I haven't got it now; my husband wasn't pleased with
it." "Not pleased! With one of the greatest works of art of our time,
equal to Nattier's Duchesse de Châteauroux, and, moreover,
perpetuating no less majestic and heart-shattering a goddess. Oh! That
little blue collar! I swear, Vermeer himself never painted a fabric
more consummately, but we must not say it too loud or Swann will fall
upon us to avenge his favourite painter, the Master of Delft." The
Marquise, turning round, addressed a smile and held out her hand to
Swann, who had risen to greet her. But almost without concealment,
whether in his declining days he had lost all wish for concealment, by
indifference to opinion, or the physical power, by the excitement of
his desire and the weakening of the control that helps us to conceal
it, as soon as Swann, on taking the Marquise's hand, saw her bosom at
close range and from above, he plunged an attentive, serious,
absorbed, almost anxious gaze into the cavity of her bodice, and his
nostrils, drugged by the lady's perfume, quivered like the wings of a
butterfly about to alight upon a half-hidden flower. He checked
himself abruptly on the edge of the precipice, and Mme. de Surgis
herself, albeit annoyed, stifled a deep sigh, so contagious can desire
prove at times. "The painter was cross," she said to M. de Charlus,
"and took it back. I have heard that it is now at Diane de
Saint-Euverte's." "I decline to believe," said the Baron, "that a
great picture can have such bad taste."

"He is talking to her about her portrait. I could talk to her about
that portrait just as well as Charlus," said Swann, affecting a
drawling, slangy tone as he followed the retreating couple with his
gaze. "And I should certainly enjoy talking about it more than
Charlus," he added. I asked him whether the things that were said
about M. de Charlus were true, in doing which I was lying twice over,
for, if I had no proof that anybody ever had said anything, I had on
the other hand been perfectly aware for some hours past that what I
was hinting at was true. Swann shrugged his shoulders, as though I had
suggested something quite absurd. "It's quite true that he's a
charming friend. But, need I add, his friendship is purely platonic.
He is more sentimental than other men, that is all; on the other hand,
as he never goes very far with women, that has given a sort of
plausibility to the idiotic rumours to which you refer. Charlus is
perhaps greatly attached to his men friends, but you may be quite
certain that the attachment is only in his head and in his heart. At
last, we may perhaps be left in peace for a moment. Well, the Prince
de Guermantes went on to say: 'I don't mind telling you that this idea
of a possible illegality in the procedure of the trial was extremely
painful to me, because I have always, as you know, worshipped the
army; I discussed the matter again with the General, and, alas, there
could be no two ways of looking at it. I don't mind telling you
frankly that, all this time, the idea that an innocent man might be
undergoing the most degrading punishment had never even entered my
mind. But, starting from this idea of illegality, I began to study
what I had always declined to read, and then the possibility not, this
time, of illegal procedure but of the prisoner's innocence began to
haunt me. I did not feel that I could talk about it to the Princess.
Heaven knows that she has become just as French as myself. You may say
what you like, from the day of our marriage, I took such pride in
shewing her our country in all its beauty, and what to me is the most
splendid thing in it, our Army, that it would have been too painful to
me to tell her of my suspicions, which involved, it is true, a few
officers only. But I come of a family of soldiers, I did not like to
think that officers could be mistaken. I discussed the case again with
Beaucerfeuil, he admitted that there had been culpable intrigues, that
the _bordereau_ was possibly not in Dreyfus's writing, but that an
overwhelming proof of his guilt did exist. This was the Henry
document. And, a few days later, we learned that it was a forgery.
After that, without letting the Princess see me, I began to read the
_Siècle_ and the _Aurore_ every day; soon I had no doubt left, it kept
me awake all night. I confided my distress to our friend, the abbé
Poiré, who, I was astonished to find, held the same conviction, and I
got him to say masses for the intention of Dreyfus, his unfortunate
wife and their children. Meanwhile, one morning as I was going to the
Princess's room, I saw her maid trying to hide something from me that
she had in her hand. I asked her, chaffingly, what it was, she blushed
and refused to tell me. I had the fullest confidence in my wife, but
this incident disturbed me considerably (and the Princess too, no
doubt, who must have heard of it from her woman), for my dear Marie
barely uttered a word to me that day at luncheon. I asked the abbé
Poiré whether he could say my mass for Dreyfus on the following
morning....' And so much for that!" exclaimed Swann, breaking off his
narrative. I looked up, and saw the Duc de Guermantes bearing down
upon us. "Forgive me for interrupting you, boys. My lad," he went on,
addressing myself, "I am instructed to give you a message from Oriane.
Marie and Gilbert have asked her to stay and have supper at their
table with only five or six other people: the Princess of Hesse, Mme.
de Ligné, Mme. de Tarente, Mme. de Chevreuse, the Duchesse d'Arenberg.
Unfortunately, we can't wait, we are going on to a little ball of
sorts." I was listening, but whenever we have something definite to do
at a given moment, we depute a certain person who is accustomed to
that sort of duty to keep an eye on the clock and warn us in time.
This indwelling servant reminded me, as I had asked him to remind me a
few hours before, that Albertine, who at the moment was far from my
thoughts, was to come and see me immediately after the theatre. And so
I declined the invitation to supper. This does not mean that I was not
enjoying myself at the Princesse de Guermantes's. The truth is that
men can have several sorts of pleasure. The true pleasure is that for
which they abandon the other. But the latter, if it is apparent, or
rather if it alone is apparent, may put people off the scent of the
other, reassure or mislead the jealous, create a false impression. And
yet, all that is needed to make us sacrifice it to the other is a
little happiness or a little suffering. Sometimes a third order of
pleasures, more serious but more essential, does not yet exist for us,
in whom its potential existence is indicated only by its arousing
regrets, discouragement. And yet it is to these pleasures that we
shall devote ourselves in time to come. To give an example of quite
secondary importance, a soldier in time of peace will sacrifice a
social existence to love, but, once war is declared (and without there
being any need to introduce the idea of a patriotic duty), will
sacrifice love to the passion, stronger than love, for fighting. It
was all very well Swann's saying that he enjoyed telling me his story,
I could feel that his conversation with me, because of the lateness of
the hour, and because he himself was too ill, was one of those
fatigues at which those who know that they are killing themselves by
sitting up late, by overexerting themselves, feel when they return
home an angry regret, similar to that felt at the wild extravagance of
which they have again been guilty by the spendthrifts who will not,
for all that, be able to restrain themselves to-morrow from throwing
money out of the windows. After we have passed a certain degree of
enfeeblement, whether it be caused by age or by ill health, all
pleasure taken at the expense of sleep, in departure from our habits,
every breach of the rules becomes a nuisance. The talker continues to
talk, out of politeness, from excitement, but he knows that the hour
at which he might still have been able to go to sleep has already
passed, and he knows also the reproaches that he will heap upon
himself during the insomnia and fatigue that must ensue. Already,
moreover, even the momentary pleasure has come to an end, body and
brain are too far drained of their strength to welcome with any
readiness what seems to the other person entertaining. They are like a
house on the morning before a journey or removal, where visitors
become a perfect plague, to be received sitting upon locked trunks,
with our eyes on the clock. "At last we are alone," he said; "I quite
forget where I was. Oh yes, I had just told you, hadn't I, that the
Prince asked the abbé Poiré if he could say his mass next day for
Dreyfus. 'No, the abbé informed me' (I say _me_ to you," Swann
explained to me, "because it is the Prince who is speaking, you
understand?), 'for I have another mass that I have been asked to say
for him to-morrow as well.—What, I said to him, is there another
Catholic as well as myself who is convinced of his innocence?—It
appears so.—But this other supporter's conviction must be of more
recent growth than mine.—Maybe, but this other was making me say
masses when you still believed Dreyfus guilty.—Ah, I can see that it
is not anyone in our world.—On the contrary!—Indeed! There are
Dreyfusists among us, are there? You intrigue me; I should like to
unbosom myself to this rare bird, if I know him.—You do know
him.—His name?—The Princesse de Guermantes. While I was afraid of
shocking the Nationalist opinions, the French faith of my dear wife,
she had been afraid of alarming my religious opinions, my patriotic
sentiments. But privately she had been thinking as I did, though for
longer than I had. And what her maid had been hiding as she went into
her room, what she went out to buy for her every morning, was the
_Aurore_. My dear Swann, from that moment I thought of the pleasure
that I should give you when I told you how closely akin my views upon
this matter were to yours; forgive me for not having done so sooner.
If you bear in mind that I had never said a word to the Princess, it
will not surprise you to be told that thinking the same as yourself
must at that time have kept me farther apart from you than thinking
differently. For it was an extremely painful topic for me to
approach. The more I believe that an error, that crimes even have been
committed, the more my heart bleeds for the Army. It had never
occurred to me that opinions like mine could possibly cause you
similar pain, until I was told the other day that you were
emphatically protesting against the insults to the Army and against
the Dreyfusists for consenting to ally themselves with those who
insulted it. That settled it, I admit that it has been most painful
for me to confess to you what I think of certain officers, few in
number fortunately, but it is a relief to me not to have to keep at
arms' length from you any longer, and especially that you should quite
understand that if I was able to entertain other sentiments, it was
because I had not a shadow of doubt as to the soundness of the
verdict. As soon as my doubts began, I could wish for only one thing,
that the mistake should be rectified.' I must tell you that this
speech of the Prince de Guermantes moved me profoundly. If you knew
him as I do, if you could realise the distance he has had to traverse
in order to reach his present position, you would admire him as he
deserves. Not that his opinion surprises me, his is such a
straightforward nature!" Swann was forgetting that in the afternoon he
had on the contrary told me that people's opinions as to the Dreyfus
case were dictated by atavism. At the most he had made an exception in
favour of intelligence, because in Saint-Loup it had managed to
overcome atavism and had made a Dreyfusard of him. Now he had just
seen that this victory had been of short duration and that Saint-Loup
had passed into the opposite camp. And so it was to
straightforwardness now that he assigned the part which had previously
devolved upon intelligence. In reality we always discover afterwards
that our adversaries had a reason for being on the side they espoused,
which has nothing to do with any element of right that there may be on
that side, and that those who think as we do do so because their
intelligence, if their moral nature is too base to be invoked, or
their straightforwardness, if their penetration is feeble, has
compelled them.

Swann now found equally intelligent anybody who was of his opinion,
his old friend the Prince de Guermantes and my schoolfellow Bloch,
whom previously he had avoided and whom he now invited to luncheon.
Swann interested Bloch greatly by telling him that the Prince de
Guermantes was a Dreyfusard. "We must ask him to sign our appeal for
Picquart; a name like his would have a tremendous effect." But Swann,
blending with his ardent conviction as an Israelite the diplomatic
moderation of a man of the world, whose habits he had too thoroughly
acquired to be able to shed them at this late hour, refused to allow
Bloch to send the Prince a circular to sign, even on his own
initiative. "He cannot do such a thing, we must not expect the
impossible," Swann repeated. "There you have a charming man who has
travelled thousands of miles to come over to our side. He can be very
useful to us. If he were to sign your list, he would simply be
compromising himself with his own people, would be made to suffer on
our account, might even repent of his confidences and not confide in
us again." Nor was this all, Swann refused his own signature. He felt
that his name was too Hebraic not to create a bad effect. Besides,
even if he approved of all the attempts to secure a fresh trial, he
did not wish to be mixed up in any way in the antimilitarist campaign.
He wore, a thing he had never done previously, the decoration he had
won as a young militiaman, in '70, and added a codicil to his will
asking that, contrary to his previous dispositions, he might be buried
with the military honours due to his rank as Chevalier of the Legion
of Honour. A request which assembled round the church of Combray a
whole squadron of those troopers over whose fate Françoise used to
weep in days gone by, when she envisaged the prospect of a war. In
short, Swann refused to sign Bloch's circular, with the result that,
if he passed in the eyes of many people as a fanatical Dreyfusard, my
friend found him lukewarm, infected with Nationalism, and a
militarist.

Swann left me without shaking hands so as not to be
forced into a general leave-taking in this room which swarmed with his
friends, but said to me: "You ought to come and see your friend
Gilberte. She has really grown up now and altered, you would not know
her. She would be so pleased!" I was no longer in love with Gilberte.
She was for me like a dead person for whom one has long mourned, then
forgetfulness has come, and if she were to be resuscitated, she could
no longer find any place in a life which has ceased to be fashioned
for her. I had no desire now to see her, not even that desire to shew
her that I did not wish to see her which, every day, when I was in
love with her, I vowed to myself that I would flaunt before her, when
I should be in love with her no longer.

And so, seeking now only to give myself, in Gilberte's eyes, the air
of having longed with all my heart to meet her again and of having
been prevented by circumstances of the kind called "beyond our
control" albeit they only occur, with any certainty at least, when we
have done nothing to prevent them, so far from accepting Swann's
invitation with reserve, I would not let him go until he had promised
to explain in detail to his daughter the mischances that had prevented
and would continue to prevent me from going to see her. "Anyhow, I am
going to write to her as soon as I go home," I added. "But be sure you
tell her it will be a threatening letter, for in a month or two I
shall be quite free, and then let her tremble, for I shall be coming
to your house as regularly as in the old days."

Before parting from Swann, I said a word to him about his health. "No,
it is not as bad as all that," he told me. "Still, as I was saying, I
am quite worn out, and I accept with resignation whatever may be in
store for me. Only, I must say that it would be most annoying to die
before the end of the Dreyfus case. Those scoundrels have more than
one card up their sleeves. I have no doubt of their being defeated in
the end, but still they are very powerful, they have supporters
everywhere. Just as everything is going on splendidly, it all
collapses. I should like to live long enough to see Dreyfus
rehabilitated and Picquart a colonel."

When Swann had left, I returned to the great drawing-room in which was
to be found that Princesse de Guermantes with whom I did not then know
that I was one day to be so intimate. Her passion for M. de Charlus
did not reveal itself to me at first. I noticed only that the Baron,
after a certain date, and without having taken one of those sudden
dislikes, which were not surprising in him, to the Princesse de
Guermantes, while continuing to feel for her just as strong an
affection, a stronger affection perhaps than ever, appeared worried
and annoyed whenever anyone mentioned her name to him. He never
included it now in his list of the people whom he wished to meet at
dinner.

It is true that before this time I had heard an extremely malicious
man about town say that the Princess had completely changed, that she
was in love with M. de Charlus, but this slander had appeared to me
absurd and had made me angry. I had indeed remarked with astonishment
that, when I was telling her something that concerned myself, if M. de
Charlus's name cropped up in the middle, the Princess immediately
screwed up her attention to the narrower focus of a sick man who,
hearing us talk about ourselves, and listening, in consequence, in a
careless and distracted fashion, suddenly realises that a name we have
mentioned is that of the disease from which he is suffering, which at
once interests and delights him. So, if I said to her: "Why, M. de
Charlus told me..." the Princess at once gathered up the slackened
reins of her attention. And having on one occasion said in her hearing
that M. de Charlus had at that moment a warm regard for a certain
person, I was astonished to see appear in the Princess's eyes that
momentary change of colour, like the line of a fissure in the pupil,
which is due to a thought which our words have unconsciously aroused
in the mind of the person to whom we are talking, a secret thought
that will not find expression in words, but will rise from the depths
which we have stirred to the surface—altered for an instant—of his
gaze. But if my remark had moved the Princess, I did not then suspect
in what fashion.

Anyhow, shortly after this, she began to talk to me about M. de
Charlus, and almost without ambiguity. If she made any allusion to the
rumours which a few people here and there were spreading about the
Baron, it was merely as though to absurd and scandalous inventions.
But, on the other hand, she said: "I feel that any woman who fell in
love with a man of such priceless worth as Palamède ought to have
sufficient breadth of mind, enough devotion, to accept him and
understand him as a whole, for what he is, to respect his freedom,
humour his fancies, seek only to smooth out his difficulties and
console him in his griefs." Now, by such a speech, vague as it was,
the Princesse de Guermantes revealed the weakness of the character she
was seeking to extol, just as M. de Charlus himself did at times.
Have I not heard him, over and again, say to people who until then had
been uncertain whether or not he was being slandered: "I, who have
climbed many hills and crossed many valleys in my life, who have known
all manner of people, burglars as well as kings, and indeed, I must
confess, with a slight preference for the burglars, who have pursued
beauty in all its forms," and so forth; and by these words which he
thought adroit, and in contradicting rumours the currency of which no
one suspected (or to introduce, from inclination, moderation, love of
accuracy, an element of truth which he was alone in regarding as
insignificant), he removed the last doubts of some of his hearers,
inspired others, who had not yet begun to doubt him, with their first.
For the most dangerous of all forms of concealment is that of the
crime itself in the mind of the guilty party. His permanent
consciousness of it prevents him from imagining how generally it is
unknown, how readily a complete lie would be accepted, and on the
other hand from realising at what degree of truth other people will
detect, in words which he believes to be innocent, a confession. Not
that he would not be entirely wrong in seeking to hush it up, for
there is no vice that does not find ready support in the best society,
and one has seen a country house turned upside down in order that two
sisters might sleep in adjoining rooms as soon as their hostess
learned that theirs was a more than sisterly affection. But what
revealed to me all of a sudden the Princess's love was a trifling
incident upon which I shall not dwell here, for it forms part of quite
another story, in which M. de Charlus allowed a Queen to die rather
than miss an appointment with the hairdresser who was to singe his
hair for the benefit of an omnibus conductor who filled him with
alarm. However, to be done with the Princess's love, let us say what
the trifle was that opened my eyes. I was, on the day in question,
alone with her in her carriage. As we were passing a post office she
stopped the coachman. She had come out without a footman. She half
drew a letter from her muff and was preparing to step down from the
carriage to put it into the box. I tried to stop her, she made a show
of resistance, and we both realised that our instinctive movements had
been, hers compromising, in appearing to be guarding a secret, mine
indiscreet, in attempting to pass that guard. She was the first to
recover. Suddenly turning very red, she gave me the letter. I no
longer dared not to take it, but, as I slipped it into the box, I
could not help seeing that it was addressed to M. de Charlus.

To return to this first evening at the Princesse de Guermantes's, I
went to bid her good-night, for her cousins, who had promised to take
me home, were in a hurry to be gone. M. de Guermantes wished, however,
to say good-bye to his brother, Mme. de Surgis having found time to
mention to the Duke as she left that M. de Charlus had been charming
to her and to her sons. This great courtesy on his brother's part, the
first moreover that he had ever shewn in that line, touched Basin
deeply and aroused in him old family sentiments which were never
asleep for long. At the moment when we were saying good-bye to the
Princess he was attempting, without actually thanking M. de Charlus,
to give expression to his fondness for him, whether because he really
found a difficulty in controlling it or in order that the Baron might
remember that actions of the sort that he had performed this evening
did not escape the eyes of a brother, just as, with the object of
creating a chain of pleasant associations in the future, we give sugar
to a dog that has done its trick. "Well, little brother!" said the
Duke, stopping M. de Charlus and taking him lovingly by the arm, "so
this is how one walks past one's elders and betters without so much as
a word. I never see you now, Mémé, and you can't think how I miss you.
I was turning over some old letters just now and came upon some from
poor Mamma, which are all so full of love for you." "Thank you,
Basin," replied M. de Charlus in a broken voice, for he could never
speak without emotion of their mother. "You must make up your mind to
let me fix up bachelor quarters for you at Guermantes," the Duke went
on. "It is nice to see the two brothers so affectionate towards each
other," the Princess said to Oriane. "Yes, indeed! I don't suppose
you could find many brothers like that. I shall invite you to meet
him," she promised me. "You've not quarrelled with him?... But what
can they be talking about?" she added in an anxious tone, for she
could catch only an occasional word of what they were saying. She had
always felt a certain jealousy of the pleasure that M. de Guermantes
found in talking to his brother of a past from which he was inclined
to keep his wife shut out. She felt that, when they were happy at
being together like this, and she, unable to restrain her impatient
curiosity, came and joined them, her coming did not add to their
pleasure. But this evening, this habitual jealousy was reinforced by
another. For if Mme. de Surgis had told M. de Guermantes how kind his
brother had been to her so that the Duke might thank his brother, at
the same time certain devoted female friends of the Guermantes couple
had felt it their duty to warn the Duchess that her husband's mistress
had been seen in close conversation with his brother. And this
information was torture to Mme. de Guermantes. "Think of the fun we
used to have at Guermantes long ago," the Duke went on. "If you came
down sometimes in summer we could take up our old life again. Do you
remember old Father Courveau: 'Why is Pascal vexing? Because he is
vec... vec...'" "_Said_!" put in M. de Charlus as though he were still
answering his tutor's question. "And why is Pascal vexed; because he
is vec... because he is vec... _Sing_! Very good, you will pass, you
are certain to be mentioned, and Madame la Duchesse will give you a
Chinese dictionary." "How it all comes back to me, young Mémé, and the
old china vase Hervey brought you from Saint-Denis, I can see it now.
You used to threaten us that you would go and spend your life in
China, you were so fond of the country; even then you used to love
wandering about all night. Ah! You were a peculiar type, for I can
honestly say that never in anything did you have the same tastes as
other people...." But no sooner had he uttered these words than the
Duke flamed up, as the saying is, for he was aware of his brother's
reputation, if not of his actual habits. As he never made any allusion
to them before his brother, he was all the more annoyed at having said
something which might be taken to refer to them, and more still at
having shewn his annoyance. After a moment's silence: "Who knows," he
said, to cancel the effect of his previous speech, "you were perhaps
in love with a Chinese girl, before loving so many white ones and
finding favour with them, if I am to judge by a certain lady to whom
you have given great pleasure this evening by talking to her. She was
delighted with you." The Duke had vowed that he would not mention Mme.
de Surgis, but, in the confusion that the blunder he had just made had
wrought in his ideas, he had fallen upon the first that occurred to
him, which happened to be precisely the one that ought not to have
appeared in the conversation, although it had started it. But M. de
Charlus had observed his brother's blush. And, like guilty persons who
do not wish to appear embarrassed that you should talk in their
presence of the crime which they are supposed not to have committed,
and feel that they ought to prolong a dangerous conversation: "I am
charmed to hear it," he replied, "but I should like to go back to what
you were saying before, which struck me as being profoundly true. You
were saying that I never had the same ideas as other people, how right
you are, you said that I had peculiar tastes." "No," protested M. de
Guermantes who, as a matter of fact, had not used those words, and may
not have believed that their meaning was applicable to his brother.
Besides, what right had he to bully him about eccentricities which in
any case were vague enough or secret enough to have in no way impaired
the Baron's tremendous position in society? What was more, feeling
that the resources of his brother's position were about to be placed
at the service of his mistresses, the Duke told himself that this was
well worth a little tolerance in exchange; had he at that moment known
of some "peculiar" intimacy of his brother, M. de Guermantes would, in
the hope of the support that the other was going to give him, have
passed it over, shutting his eyes to it, and if need be lending a
hand. "Come along, Basin; good night, Palamède," said the Duchess,
who, devoured by rage and curiosity, could endure no more, "if you
have made up your minds to spend the night here, we might just as well
have stayed to supper. You have been keeping Marie and me standing for
the last half-hour." The Duke parted from his brother after a
significant pressure of his hand, and the three of us began to descend
the immense staircase of the Princess's house.

On either side of us, on the topmost steps, were scattered couples who
were waiting for their carriages to come to the door. Erect, isolated,
flanked by her husband and myself, the Duchess kept to the left of the
staircase, already wrapped in her Tiepolo cloak, her throat clasped in
its band of rubies, devoured by the eyes of women and men alike, who
sought to divine the secret of her beauty and distinction. Waiting for
her carriage upon the same step of the stair as Mme. de Guermantes,
but at the opposite side of it, Mme. de Gallardon, who had long
abandoned all hope of ever receiving a visit from her cousin, turned
her back so as not to appear to have seen her, and, what was more
important, so as not to furnish a proof of the fact that the other did
not greet her. Mme. de Gallardon was in an extremely bad temper
because some gentlemen in her company had taken it upon themselves to
speak to her of Oriane: "I have not the slightest desire to see her,"
she had replied to them, "I did see her, as a matter of fact, just
now, she is beginning to shew her age; it seems she can't get over it.
Basin says so himself. And, good lord, I can understand that, for, as
she has no brains, is as mischievous as a weevil, and has shocking
manners, she must know very well that, once her looks go, she will
have nothing left to fall back upon."

I had put on my greatcoat, for which M. de Guermantes, who dreaded
chills, reproached me, as we went down together, because of the heated
atmosphere indoors. And the generation of noblemen which more or less
passed through the hands of Mgr. Dupanloup speaks such bad French
(except the Castellane brothers) that the Duke expressed what was in
his mind thus: "It is better not to put on your coat before going out
of doors, at least _as a general rule_." I can see all that departing
crowd now, I can see, if I be not mistaken in placing him upon that
staircase, a portrait detached from its frame, the Prince de Sagan,
whose last appearance in society this must have been, baring his head
to offer his homage to the Duchess, with so sweeping a revolution of
his tall hat in his white-gloved hand (harmonising with the gardenia
in his buttonhole), that one felt surprised that it was not a plumed
felt hat of the old regime, several ancestral faces from which were
exactly reproduced in the face of this great gentleman. He stopped for
but a short time in front of her, but even his momentary attitudes
were sufficient to compose a complete tableau vivant, and, as it were,
an historical scene. Moreover, as he has since then died, and as I
never had more than a glimpse of him in his lifetime, he has so far
become for me a character in history, social history at least, that I
am quite astonished when I think that a woman and a man whom I know
are his sister and nephew.

While we were going downstairs, there came up, with an air of
weariness that became her, a woman who appeared to be about forty, but
was really older. This was the Princesse d'Orvillers, a natural
daughter, it was said, of the Duke of Parma, whose pleasant voice rang
with a vaguely Austrian accent. She advanced, tall, stooping, in a
gown of white flowered silk, her exquisite, throbbing, cankered bosom
heaving beneath a harness of diamonds and sapphires. Tossing her head
like a royal palfrey embarrassed by its halter of pearls, of an
incalculable value but an inconvenient weight, she let fall here and
there a gentle, charming gaze, of an azure which, as time began to
fade it, became more caressing than ever, and greeted most of the
departing guests with a friendly nod. "You choose a nice time to
arrive, Paulette!" said the Duchess. "Yes, I am so sorry! But really
it was a physical impossibility," replied the Princesse d'Orvillers,
who had acquired this sort of expression from the Duchesse de
Guermantes, but added to it her own natural sweetness and the air of
sincerity conveyed by the force of a remotely Teutonic accent in so
tender a voice. She appeared to be alluding to complications of life
too elaborate to be related, and not merely to evening parties,
although she had just come on from a succession of these. But it was
not they that obliged her to come so late. As the Prince de Guermantes
had for many years forbidden his wife to receive Mme. d'Orvillers,
that lady, when the ban was withdrawn, contented herself with replying
to the other's invitations, so as not to appear to be thirsting after
them, by simply leaving cards. After two or three years of this
method, she came in person, but very late, as though after the
theatre. In this way she gave herself the appearance of attaching no
importance to the party, nor to being seen at it, but simply of having
come to pay the Prince and Princess a visit, for their own sakes,
because she liked them, at an hour when, the great majority of their
guests having already gone, she would "have them more to herself."

"Oriane has really sunk very low," muttered Mme. de Gallardon. "I
cannot understand Basin's allowing her to speak to Mme. d'Orvillers. I
am sure M. de Gallardon would never have allowed me." For my part, I
had recognised in Mme. d'Orvillers the woman who, outside the Hôtel
Guermantes, used to cast languishing glances at me, turn round, stop
and gaze into shop windows. Mme. de Guermantes introduced me, Mme.
d'Orvillers was charming, neither too friendly nor annoyed. She gazed
at me as at everyone else out of her gentle eyes.... But I was never
again, when I met her, to receive from her one of those overtures with
which she had seemed to be offering herself. There is a special kind
of glance, apparently of recognition, which a young man never receives
from certain women—nor from certain men—after the day on which they
have made his acquaintance and have learned that he is the friend of
people with whom they too are intimate.

We were told that the carriage was at the door. Mme. de Guermantes
gathered up her red skirt as though to go downstairs and get into the
carriage, but, seized perhaps by remorse, or by the desire to give
pleasure, and above all to profit by the brevity which the material
obstacle to prolonging it imposed upon so boring an action, looked at
Mme. de Gallardon; then, as though she had only just caught sight of
her, acting upon a sudden inspiration, before going down tripped
across the whole width of the step and, upon reaching her delighted
cousin, held out her hand. "Such a long time," said the Duchess who
then, so as not to have to develop all the regrets and legitimate
excuses that this formula might be supposed to contain, turned with a
look of alarm towards the Duke, who as a matter of fact, having gone
down with me to the carriage, was storming with rage when he saw that
his wife had gone over to Mme. de Gallardon and was holding up the
stream of carriages behind. "Oriane is still very good looking, after
all!" said Mme. de Gallardon. "People amuse me when they say that we
have quarrelled; we may (for reasons which we have no need to tell
other people) go for years without seeing one another, we have too
many memories in common ever to be separated, and in her heart she
must know that she cares far more for me than for all sorts of people
whom she sees every day and who are not of her rank." Mme. de
Gallardon was in fact like those scorned lovers who try desperately to
make people believe that they are better loved than those, whom their
fair one cherishes. And (by the praises which, without heeding their
contradiction of what she had been saying a moment earlier, she now
lavished in speaking of the Duchesse de Guermantes) she proved
indirectly that the other was thoroughly conversant with the maxims
that ought to guide in her career a great lady of fashion who, at the
selfsame moment when her most marvellous gown is exciting an
admiration not unmixed with envy, must be able to cross the whole
width of a staircase to disarm it. "Do at least take care not to wet
your shoes" (a brief but heavy shower of rain had fallen), said the
Duke, who was still furious at having been kept waiting.

On our homeward drive, in the confined space of the coupé, the red
shoes were of necessity very close to mine, and Mme. de Guermantes,
fearing that she might actually have touched me, said to the Duke:
"This young man will have to say to me, like the person in the
caricature: 'Madame, tell me at once that you love me, but don't tread
on my feet like that.'" My thoughts, however, were far from Mme. de
Guermantes. Ever since Saint-Loup had spoken to me of a young girl of
good family who frequented a house of ill-fame, and of the Baroness
Putbus's maid, it was in these two persons that were coalesced and
embodied the desires inspired in me day by day by countless beauties
of two classes, on the one hand the plebeian and magnificent, the
majestic lady's maids of great houses, swollen with pride and saying
'we' when they spoke of Duchesses, on the other hand those girls of
whom it was enough for me sometimes, without even having seen them go
past in carriages or on foot, to have read the names in the account of
a ball for me to fall in love with them and, having conscientiously
searched the year-book for the country houses in which they spent the
summer (as often as not letting myself be led astray by a similarity
of names), to dream alternately of going to live amid the plains of
the West, the sandhills of the North, the pine-forests of the South.
But in vain might I fuse together all the most exquisite fleshly
matter to compose, after the ideal outline traced for me by
Saint-Loup, the young girl of easy virtue and Mme. Putbus's maid, my
two possessible beauties still lacked what I should never know until I
had seen them: individual character. I was to wear myself out in
seeking to form a mental picture, during the months in which I would
have preferred a lady's maid, of the maid of Mme. Putbus. But what
peace of mind after having been perpetually troubled by my restless
desires, for so many fugitive creatures whose very names I often did
not know, who were in any case so hard to find again, harder still to
become acquainted with, impossible perhaps to captivate, to have
subtracted from all that scattered, fugitive, anonymous beauty, two
choice specimens duly labelled, whom I was at least certain of being
able to procure when I chose. I kept putting off the hour for devoting
myself to this twofold pleasure, as I put off that for beginning to
work, but the certainty of having it whenever I chose dispensed me
almost from the necessity of taking it, like those soporific tablets
which one has only to have within reach of one's hand not to need them
and to fall asleep. In the whole universe I desired only two women, of
whose faces I could not, it is true, form any picture, but whose names
Saint-Loup had told me and had guaranteed their consent. So that, if
he had, by what he had said this evening, set my imagination a heavy
task, he had at the same time procured an appreciable relaxation, a
prolonged rest for my will.

"Well!" said the Duchess to me, "apart from your balls, can't I be of
any use to you? Have you found a house where you would like me to
introduce you?" I replied that I was afraid the only one that tempted
me was hardly fashionable enough for her. "Whose is that?" she asked
in a hoarse and menacing voice, scarcely opening her lips. "Baroness
Putbus." This time she pretended to be really angry. "No, not that! I
believe you're trying to make a fool of me. I don't even know how I
come to have heard the creature's name. But she is the dregs of
society. It's just as though you were to ask me for an introduction to
my milliner. And worse than that, for my milliner is charming. You are
a little bit cracked, my poor boy. In any case, I beg that you will be
polite to the people to whom I have introduced you, leave cards on
them, and go and see them, and not talk to them about Baroness Putbus
of whom they have never heard." I asked whether Mme. d'Orvillers was
not inclined to be flighty. "Oh, not in the least, you are thinking of
some one else, why, she's rather a prude, if anything. Ain't she,
Basin?" "Yes, in any case I don't think there has ever been anything
to be said about her," said the Duke.

"You won't come with us to the ball?" he asked me. "I can lend you a
Venetian cloak and I know some one who will be damned glad to see you
there—Oriane for one, that I needn't say—but the Princesse de Parme.
She's never tired of singing your praises, and swears by you alone.
It's fortunate for you—since she is a trifle mature—that she is the
model of virtue. Otherwise she would certainly have chosen you as a
sigisbee, as it was called in my young days, a sort of cavaliere
servente."

I was interested not in the ball but in my appointment with Albertine.
And so I refused. The carriage had stopped, the footman was shouting
for the gate to be opened, the horses pawing the ground until it was
flung apart and the carriage passed into the courtyard. "Till we meet
again," said the Duke. "I have sometimes regretted living so close to
Marie," the Duchess said to me, "because I may be very fond of her,
but I am not quite so fond of her company. But have never regretted it
so much as to-night, since it has allowed me so little of yours."
"Come, Oriane, no speechmaking." The Duchess would have liked me to
come inside for a minute. She laughed heartily, as did the Duke, when
I said that I could not because I was expecting a girl to call at any
moment. "You choose a funny time to receive visitors," she said to me.

"Come along, my child, there is no time to waste," said M. de
Guermantes to his wife. "It is a quarter to twelve, and time we were
dressed...." He came in collision, outside his front door which they
were grimly guarding, with the two ladies of the walking-sticks, who
had not been afraid to descend at dead of night from their
mountain-top to prevent a scandal. "Basin, we felt we must warn you,
in case you were seen at that ball: poor Amanien has just passed away,
an hour ago." The Duke felt a momentary alarm. He saw the delights of
the famous ball snatched from him as soon as these accursed
mountaineers had informed him of the death of M. d'Osmond. But he
quickly recovered himself and flung at his cousins a retort into which
he introduced, with his determination not to forego a pleasure, his
incapacity to assimilate exactly the niceties of the French language:
"He is dead! No, no, they exaggerate, they exaggerate!" And without
giving a further thought to his two relatives who, armed with their
alpenstocks, were preparing to make their nocturnal ascent, he fired
off a string of questions at his valet:

"Are you sure my helmet has come?" "Yes, Monsieur le Duc." "You're
sure there's a hole in it I can breathe through? I don't want to be
suffocated, damn it!" "Yes, Monsieur le Duc." "Oh, thunder of heaven,
this is an unlucky evening. Oriane, I forgot to ask Babal whether the
shoes with pointed toes were for you!" "But, my dear, the dresser from
the Opéra-Comique is here, he will tell us. I don't see how they could
go with your spurs." "Let us go and find the dresser," said the Duke.
"Good-bye, my boy, I should ask you to come in while we are trying on,
it would amuse you. But we should only waste time talking, it is
nearly midnight and we must not be late in getting there or we shall
spoil the set."

I too was in a hurry to get away from M. and Mme. de Guermantes as
quickly as possible. _Phèdre_ finished at about half past eleven.
Albertine must have arrived by now. I went straight to Françoise: "Is
Mlle. Albertine in the house?" "No one has called."

Good God, that meant that no one would call! I was in torment,
Albertine's visit seeming to me now all the more desirable, the less
certain it had become.

Françoise was cross too, but for quite a different reason. She had
just installed her daughter at the table for a succulent repast. But,
on hearing me come in, and seeing that there was not time to whip away
the dishes and put out needles and thread as though it were a work
party and not a supper party: "She has just been taking a spoonful of
soup," Françoise explained to me, "I forced her to gnaw a bit of
bone," to reduce thus to nothing her daughter's supper, as though the
crime lay in its abundance. Even at luncheon or dinner, if I
committed the error of entering the kitchen, Françoise would pretend
that they had finished, and would even excuse herself with "I just
felt I could eat a _scrap_," or 'a _mouthful_.' But I was speedily
reassured on seeing the multitude of the plates that covered the
table, which Françoise, surprised by my sudden entry, like a thief in
the night which she was not, had not had time to conjure out of sight.
Then she added: "Go along to your bed now, you have done enough work
today" (for she wished to make it appear that her daughter not only
cost us nothing, lived by privations, but was actually working herself
to death in our service). "You are only crowding up the kitchen, and
disturbing Master, who is expecting a visitor. Go on, upstairs," she
repeated, as though she were obliged to use her authority to send her
daughter to bed, who, the moment supper was out of the question,
remained in the kitchen only for appearance's sake, and if I had
stayed five minutes longer would have withdrawn of her own accord. And
turning to me, in that charming popular and yet, somehow, personal
French which was her spoken language: "Master doesn't see that her
face is just cut in two with want of sleep." I remained, delighted at
not having to talk to Françoise's daughter.

I have said that she came from a small village which was quite close
to her mother's, and yet different from it in the nature of the soil,
its cultivation, in dialect; above all in certain characteristics of
the inhabitants. Thus the 'butcheress' and Françoise's niece did not
get on at all well together, but had this point in common, that, when
they went out on an errand, they would linger for hours at 'the
sister's' or 'the cousin's,' being themselves incapable of finishing a
conversation, in the course of which the purpose with which they had
set out faded so completely from their minds that, if we said to them
on their return:

"Well! Will M. le Marquis de Norpois be at home at a quarter past
six?" they did not even beat their brows and say: "Oh, I forgot all
about it," but "Oh! I didn't understand that Master wanted to know
that, I thought I had just to go and bid him good day." If they 'lost
their heads' in this manner about a thing that had been said to them
an hour earlier, it was on the other hand impossible to get out of
their heads what they had once heard said, by 'the' sister or cousin.
Thus, if the butcheress had heard it said that the English made war
upon us in '70 at the same time as the Prussians, and I had explained
to her until I was tired that this was not the case, every three weeks
the butcheress would repeat to me in the course of conversation: "It's
all because of that war the English made on us in '70, with the
Prussians." "But I've told you a hundred times that you are
wrong."—She would then answer, implying that her conviction was in no
way shaken: "In any case, that's no reason for wishing them any harm.
Plenty of water has run under the bridges since '70," and so forth. On
another occasion, advocating a war with England which I opposed, she
said: "To be sure, it's always better not to go to war; but when you
must, it's best to do it at once. As the sister was explaining just
now, ever since that war the English made on us in '70, the commercial
treaties have ruined us. After we've beaten them, we won't allow one
Englishman into France, unless he pays three hundred francs to come
in, as we have to pay now to land in England."

Such was, in addition to great honesty and, when they were speaking,
an obstinate refusal to allow any interruption, going back twenty
times over to the point at which they had been interrupted, which
ended by giving to their talk the unshakable solidity of a Bach fugue,
the character of the inhabitants of this tiny village which did not
boast five hundred, set among its chestnuts, its willows, and its
fields of potatoes and beetroot.

Françoise's daughter, on the other hand, spoke (regarding herself as
an up-to-date woman who had got out of the old ruts) Parisian slang
and was well versed in all the jokes of the day. Françoise having
told her that I had come from the house of a Princess: "Oh, indeed!
The Princess of Brazil, I suppose, where the nuts come from." Seeing
that I was expecting a visitor, she pretended to suppose that my name
was Charles. I replied innocently that it was not, which enabled her
to get in: "Oh, I thought it was! And I was just saying to myself,
_Charles attend_ (charlatan)." This was not in the best of taste. But
I was less unmoved when, to console me for Albertine's delay, she said
to me: "I expect you'll go on waiting till doomsday. She's never
coming. Oh! Those modern flappers!"

And so her speech differed from her mother's; but, what is more
curious, her mother's speech was not the same as that of her
grandmother, a native of Bailleau-le-Pin, which was so close to
Franchise's village. And yet the dialects differed slightly, like the
scenery. Franchise's mother's village, scrambling down a steep bank
into a ravine, was overgrown with willows. And, miles away from
either of them, there was, on the contrary, a small district of France
where the people spoke almost precisely the same dialect as at
Méséglise. I made this discovery only to feel its drawbacks. In fact,
I once came upon Françoise eagerly conversing with a neighbour's
housemaid, who came from this village and spoke its dialect. They
could more or less understand one another, I did not understand a
word, they knew this but did not however cease (excused, they felt, by
the joy of being fellow-countrywomen although born so far apart) to
converse in this strange tongue in front of me, like people who do not
wish to be understood. These picturesque studies in linguistic
geography and comradeship belowstairs were continued weekly in the
kitchen, without my deriving any pleasure from them.

Since, whenever the outer gate opened, the doorkeeper pressed an
electric button which lighted the stairs, and since all the occupants
of the building had already come in, I left the kitchen immediately
and went to sit down in the hall, keeping watch, at a point where the
curtains did not quite meet over the glass panel of the outer door,
leaving visible a vertical strip of semi-darkness on the stair. If,
all of a sudden, this strip turned to a golden yellow, that would mean
that Albertine had just entered the building and would be with me in a
minute; nobody else could be coming at that time of night. And I sat
there, unable to take my eyes from the strip which persisted in
remaining dark; I bent my whole body forward to make certain of
noticing any change; but, gaze as I might, the vertical black band,
despite my impassioned longing, did not give me the intoxicating
delight that I should have felt had I seen it changed by a sudden and
significant magic to a luminous bar of gold. This was a great to do to
make about that Albertine to whom I had not given three minutes'
thought during the Guermantes party! But, reviving my feelings when in
the past I had been kept waiting by other girls, Gilberte especially,
when she delayed her coming, the prospect of having to forego a simple
bodily pleasure caused me an intense mental suffering.

I was obliged to retire to my room. Françoise followed me. She felt
that, as I had come away from my party, there was no point in my
keeping the rose that I had in my buttonhole, and approached to take
it from me. Her action, by reminding me that Albertine was perhaps
not coming, and by obliging me also to confess that I wished to look
smart for her benefit, caused an irritation that was increased by the
fact that, in tugging myself free, I crushed the flower and Françoise
said to me: "It would have been better to let me take it than to go
and spoil it like that." But anything that she might say exasperated
me. When we are kept waiting, we suffer so keenly from the absence of
the person for whom we are longing that we cannot endure the presence
of anyone else.

When Françoise had left my room, it occurred to me that, if it only
meant that now I wanted to look my best before Albertine, it was a
pity that I had so many times let her see me unshaved, with several
days' growth of beard, on the evenings when I let her come in to renew
our caresses. I felt that she took no interest in me and was giving me
the cold shoulder. To make my room look a little brighter, in case
Albertine should still come, and because it was one of the prettiest
things that I possessed, I set out, for the first time for years, on
the table by my bed, the turquoise-studded cover which Gilberte had
had made for me to hold Bergotte's pamphlet, and which, for so long a
time, I had insisted on keeping by me while I slept, with the agate
marble. Besides, as much perhaps as Albertine herself, who still did
not come, her presence at that moment in an 'alibi' which she had
evidently found more attractive, and of which I knew nothing, gave me
a painful feeling which, in spite of what I had said, barely an hour
before, to Swann, as to my incapacity for being jealous, might, if I
had seen my friend at less protracted intervals, have changed into an
anxious need to know where, with whom, she was spending her time. I
dared not send round to Albertine's house, it was too late, but in the
hope that, having supper perhaps with some other girls, in a café, she
might take it into her head to telephone to me, I turned the switch
and, restoring the connexion to my own room, cut it off between the
post office and the porter's lodge to which it was generally switched
at that hour. A receiver in the little passage on which Françoise's
room opened would have been simpler, less inconvenient, but useless.
The advance of civilisation enables each of us to display unsuspected
merits or fresh defects which make him dearer or more insupportable to
his friends. Thus Dr. Bell's invention had enabled Françoise to
acquire an additional defect, which was that of refusing, however
important, however urgent the occasion might be, to make use of the
telephone. She would manage to disappear whenever anybody was going to
teach her how to use it, as people disappear when it is time for them
to be vaccinated. And so the telephone was installed in my bedroom,
and, that it might not disturb my parents, a rattle had been
substituted for the bell. I did not move, for fear of not hearing it
sound. So motionless did I remain that, for the first time for months,
I noticed the tick of the clock. Françoise came in to make the room
tidy. She began talking to me, but I hated her conversation, beneath
the uniformly trivial continuity of which my feelings were changing
from one minute to another, passing from fear to anxiety; from anxiety
to complete disappointment. Belying the words of vague satisfaction
which I thought myself obliged to address to her, I could feel that my
face was so wretched that I pretended to be suffering from rheumatism,
to account for the discrepancy between my feigned indifference and my
woebegone expression; besides, I was afraid that her talk, which, for
that matter, Françoise carried on in an undertone (not on account of
Albertine, for she considered that all possibility of her coming was
long past), might prevent me from hearing the saving call which now
would not sound. At length Françoise went off to bed; I dismissed her
with an abrupt civility, so that the noise she made in leaving the
room should not drown that of the telephone. And I settled down again
to listen, to suffer; when we are kept waiting, from the ear which
takes in sounds to the mind which dissects and analyses them, and from
the mind to the heart, to which it transmits its results, the double
journey is so rapid that we cannot even detect its course, and imagine
that we have been listening directly with our heart.

I was tortured by the incessant recurrence of my longing, ever more
anxious and never to be gratified, for the sound of a call; arrived at
the culminating point of a tortuous ascent through the coils of my
lonely anguish, from the heart of the populous, nocturnal Paris that
had suddenly come close to me, there beside my bookcase, I heard all
at once, mechanical and sublime, like, in _Tristan_, the fluttering
veil or the shepherd's pipe, the purr of the telephone. I sprang to
the instrument, it was Albertine. "I'm not disturbing you, ringing you
up at this hour?" "Not at all..." I said, restraining my joy, for her
remark about the lateness of the hour was doubtless meant as an
apology for coming, in a moment, so late, and did not mean that she
was not coming. "Are you coming round?" I asked in a tone of
indifference. "Why... no, unless you absolutely must see me."

Part of me which the other part sought to join was in Albertine. It
was essential that she come, but I did not tell her so at first; now
that we were in communication, I said to myself that I could always
oblige her at the last moment either to come to me or to let me hasten
to her. "Yes, I am near home," she said, "and miles away from you; I
hadn't read your note properly. I have just found it again and was
afraid you might be waiting up for me." I felt sure that she was
lying, and it was now, in my fury, from a desire not so much to see
her as to upset her plans that I determined to make her come. But I
felt it better to refuse at first what in a few moments I should try
to obtain from her. But where was she? With the sound of her voice
were blended other sounds: the braying of a bicyclist's horn, a
woman's voice singing, a brass band in the distance rang out as
distinctly as the beloved voice, as though to shew me that it was
indeed Albertine in her actual surroundings who was beside me at that
moment, like a clod of earth with which we have carried away all the
grass that was growing from it. The same sounds that I heard were
striking her ear also, and were distracting her attention: details of
truth, extraneous to the subject under discussion, valueless in
themselves, all the more necessary to our perception of the miracle
for what it was; elements sober and charming, descriptive of some
street in Paris, elements heart-rending also and cruel of some unknown
festivity which, after she came away from _Phèdre_, had prevented
Albertine from coming to me. "I must warn you first of all that I
don't in the least want you to come, because, at this time of night,
it will be a frightful nuisance..." I said to her, "I'm dropping with
sleep. Besides, oh, well, there are endless complications. I am bound
to say that there was no possibility of your misunderstanding my
letter. You answered that it was all right. Very well, if you hadn't
understood, what did you mean by that?" "I said it was all right, only
I couldn't quite remember what we had arranged. But I see you're cross
with me, I'm sorry. I wish now I'd never gone to _Phèdre_. If I'd
known there was going to be all this fuss about it..." she went on, as
people invariably do when, being in the wrong over one thing, they
pretend to suppose that they are being blamed for another. "I am not
in the least annoyed about _Phèdre_, seeing it was I that asked you to
go to it." "Then you are angry with me; it's a nuisance it's so late
now, otherwise I should have come to you, but I shall call tomorrow or
the day after and make it up." "Oh, please, Albertine, I beg of you
not to, after making me waste an entire evening, the least you can do
is to leave me in peace for the next few days. I shan't be free for a
fortnight or three weeks. Listen, if it worries you to think that we
seem to be parting in anger, and perhaps you are right, after all,
then I greatly prefer, all things considered, since I have been
waiting for you all this time and you have not gone home yet, that you
should come at once. I shall take a cup of coffee to keep myself
awake." "Couldn't you possibly put it off till tomorrow? Because the
trouble is...." As I listened to these words of deprecation, uttered
as though she did not intend to come, I felt that, with the longing to
see again the velvet-blooming face which in the past, at Balbec, used
to point all my days to the moment when, by the mauve September sea, I
should be walking by the side of that roseate flower, a very different
element was painfully endeavouring to combine. This terrible need of a
person, at Combray I had learned to know it in the case of my mother,
and to the pitch of wanting to die if she sent word to me by Françoise
that she could not come upstairs. This effort on the part of the old
sentiment, to combine and form but a single element with the other,
more recent, which had for its voluptuous object only the coloured
surface, the rosy complexion of a flower of the beach, this effort
results often only in creating (in the chemical sense) a new body,
which can last for but a few moments. This evening, at any rate, and
for long afterwards, the two elements remained apart. But already,
from the last words that had reached me over the telephone, I was
beginning to understand that Albertine's life was situated (not in a
material sense, of course) at so great a distance from mine that I
should always have to make a strenuous exploration before I could lay
my hand on her, and, what was more, organised like a system of
earthworks, and, for greater security, after the fashion which, at a
later period, we learned to call camouflaged. Albertine, in fact,
belonged, although at a slightly higher social level, to that class of
persons to whom their door-keeper promises your messenger that she
will deliver your letter when she comes in (until the day when you
realise that it is precisely she, the person whom you met out of
doors, and to whom you have allowed yourself to write, who is the
door-keeper. So that she does indeed live (but in the lodge, only) at
the address she has given you, which for that matter is that of a
private brothel, in which the door-keeper acts as pander), or who
gives as her address a house where she is known to accomplices who
will not betray her secret to you, from which your letters will be
forwarded to her, but in which she does not live, keeps at the most a
few articles of toilet. Lives entrenched behind five or six lines of
defence, so that when you try to see the woman, or to find out about
her, you invariably arrive too far to the right, or to the left, or
too early, or too late, and may remain for months on end, for years
even, knowing nothing. About Albertine, I felt that I should never
find out anything, that, out of that tangled mass of details of fact
and falsehood, I should never unravel the truth: and that it would
always be so, unless I were to shut her up in prison (but prisoners
escape) until the end. This evening, this conviction gave me only a
vague uneasiness, in which however I could detect a shuddering
anticipation of long periods of suffering to come.

"No," I replied, "I told you a moment ago that I should not be free
for the next three weeks—no more to-morrow than any other day." "Very
well, in that case... I shall come this very instant... it's a
nuisance, because I am at a friend's house, and she...." I saw that
she had not believed that I would accept her offer to come, which
therefore was not sincere, and I decided to force her hand. "What do
you suppose I care about your friend, either come or don't, it's for
you to decide, it wasn't I that asked you to come, it was you who
suggested it to me." "Don't be angry with me, I am going to jump into
a cab now and shall be with you in ten minutes." And so from that
Paris out of whose murky depths there had already emanated as far as
my room, delimiting the sphere of action of an absent person, a voice
which was now about to emerge and appear, after this preliminary
announcement, it was that Albertine whom I had known long ago beneath
the sky of Balbec, when the waiters of the Grand Hotel, as they laid
the tables, were blinded by the glow of the setting sun, when, the
glass having been removed from all the windows, every faintest murmur
of the evening passed freely from the beach where the last strolling
couples still lingered, into the vast dining-room in which the first
diners had not yet taken their places, and, across the mirror placed
behind the cashier's desk, there passed the red reflexion of the hull,
and lingered long after it the grey reflexion of the smoke of the last
steamer for Rivebelle. I no longer asked myself what could have made
Albertine late, and, when Françoise came into my room to inform me:
"Mademoiselle Albertine is here," if I answered without even turning
my head, that was only to conceal my emotion: "What in the world makes
Mademoiselle Albertine come at this time of night!" But then, raising
my eyes to look at Françoise, as though curious to hear her answer
which must corroborate the apparent sincerity of my question, I
perceived, with admiration and wrath, that, capable of rivalling Berma
herself in the art of endowing with speech inanimate garments and the
lines of her face, Françoise had taught their part to her bodice, her
hair—the whitest threads of which had been brought to the surface,
were displayed there like a birth-certificate—her neck bowed by
weariness and obedience. They commiserated her for having been dragged
from her sleep and from her warm bed, in the middle of the night, at
her age, obliged to bundle into her clothes in haste, at the risk of
catching pneumonia. And so, afraid that I might have seemed to be
apologising for Albertine's late arrival: "Anyhow, I'm very glad she
has come, it's just what I wanted," and I gave free vent to my
profound joy. It did not long remain unclouded, when I had heard
Françoise's reply. Without uttering a word of complaint, seeming
indeed to be doing her best to stifle an irrepressible cough, and
simply folding her shawl over her bosom as though she were feeling
cold, she began by telling me everything that she had said to
Albertine, whom she had not forgotten to ask after her aunt's health.
"I was just saying, Monsieur must have been afraid that Mademoiselle
was not coming, because this is no time to pay visits, it's nearly
morning. But she must have been in some place where she was enjoying
herself, because she never even said as much as that she was sorry she
had kept Monsieur waiting, she answered me with a devil-may-care look,
'Better late than never!'" And Françoise added, in words that pierced
my heart: "When she spoke like that she gave herself away. She would
have liked to hide what she was thinking, perhaps, but...."

I had no cause for astonishment. I said, a few pages back, that
Françoise rarely paid attention, when she was sent with a message, if
not to what she herself had said, which she would willingly relate in
detail, at any rate to the answer that we were awaiting. But if,
making an exception, she repeated to us the things that our friends
had said, however short they might be, she generally arranged,
appealing if need be to the expression, the tone that, she assured us,
had accompanied them, to make them in some way or other wounding. At a
pinch, she would bow her head beneath an insult (probably quite
imaginary) which she had received from a tradesman to whom we had sent
her, provided that, being addressed to her as our representative, who
was speaking in our name, the insult might indirectly injure us. The
only thing would have been to tell her that she had misunderstood the
man, that she was suffering from persecution mania and that the
shopkeepers were not at all in league against her. However, their
sentiments affected me little. It was a very different matter, what
Albertine's sentiments were. And, as she repeated the ironical words:
"Better late than never!" Françoise at once made me see the friends in
whose company Albertine had finished the evening, preferring their
company, therefore, to mine. "She's a comical sight, she has a little
flat hat on, with those big eyes of hers, it does make her look funny,
especially with her cloak which she did ought to have sent to the
amender's, for it's all in holes. She amuses me," added, as though
laughing at Albertine, Françoise who rarely shared my impressions, but
felt a need to communicate her own. I refused even to appear to
understand that this laugh was indicative of scorn, but, to give tit
for tat, replied, although I had never seen the little hat to which
she referred: "What you call a 'little flat hat' is a simply
charming...." "That is to say, it's just nothing at all," said
Françoise, giving expression, frankly this time, to her genuine
contempt. Then (in a mild and leisurely tone so that my mendacious
answer might appear to be the expression not of my anger but of the
truth), wasting no time, however, so as not to keep Albertine waiting,
I heaped upon Françoise these cruel words: "You are excellent," I said
to her in a honeyed voice, "you are kind, you have a thousand merits,
but you have never learned a single thing since the day when you first
came to Paris, either about ladies' clothes or about how to pronounce
words without making silly blunders." And this reproach was
particularly stupid, for those French words which We are so proud of
pronouncing accurately are themselves only blunders made by the Gallic
lips which mispronounced Latin or Saxon, our language being merely a
defective pronunciation of several others.

The genius of language in a living state, the future and past of
French, that is what ought to have interested me in Françoise's
mistakes. Her 'amender' for 'mender' was not so curious as those
animals that survive from remote ages, such as the whale or the
giraffe, and shew us the states through which animal life has passed.
"And," I went on, "since you haven't managed to learn in all these
years, you never will. But don't let that distress you, it doesn't
prevent you from being a very good soul, and making spiced beef with
jelly to perfection, and lots of other things as well. The hat that
you think so simple is copied from a hat belonging to the Princesse de
Guermantes which cost five hundred francs. However, I mean to give
Mlle. Albertine an even finer one very soon." I knew that what would
annoy Françoise more than anything was the thought of my spending
money upon people whom she disliked. She answered me in a few words
which were made almost unintelligible by a sudden attack of
breathlessness. When I discovered afterwards that she had a weak
heart, how remorseful I felt that I had never denied myself the fierce
and sterile pleasure of making these retorts to her speeches.
Françoise detested Albertine, moreover, because, being poor, Albertine
could not enhance what Françoise regarded as my superior position. She
smiled benevolently whenever I was invited by Mme. de Villeparisis. On
the other hand, she was indignant that Albertine did not practice
reciprocity. It came to my being obliged to invent fictitious presents
which she was supposed to have given me, in the existence of which
Françoise never for an instant believed. This want of reciprocity
shocked her most of all in the matter of food. That Albertine should
accept dinners from Mamma, when we were not invited to Mme.
Bontemps's (who for that matter spent half her time out of Paris, her
husband accepting 'posts' as in the old days when he had had enough of
the Ministry), seemed to her an indelicacy on the part of my friend
which she rebuked indirectly by repeating a saying current at Combray:

  "Let's eat my bread."
  "Ay, that's the stuff."
  "Let's eat thy bread."
  "I've had enough."

I pretended that I was obliged to write a letter. "To whom were you
writing?" Albertine asked me as she entered the room. "To a pretty
little friend of mine, Gilberte Swann. Don't you know her?" "No." I
decided not to question Albertine as to how she had spent the evening,
I felt that I should only find fault with her and that we should not
have any time left, seeing how late it was already, to be reconciled
sufficiently to pass to kisses and caresses. And so it was with these
that I chose to begin from the first moment. Besides, if I was a
little calmer, I was not feeling happy. The loss of all orientation,
of all sense of direction that we feel when we are kept waiting, still
continues, after the coming of the person awaited, and, taking the
place, inside us, of the calm spirit in which we were picturing her
coming as so great a pleasure, prevents us from deriving any from it.
Albertine was in the room: my unstrung nerves, continuing to flutter,
were still expecting her. "I want a nice kiss, Albertine." "As many as
you like," she said to me in her kindest manner. I had never seen her
looking so pretty. "Another?" "Why, you know it's a great, great
pleasure to me." "And a thousand times greater to me," she replied.
"Oh! What a pretty book-cover you have there!" "Take it, I give it to
you as a keepsake." "You are too kind...." People would be cured for
ever of romanticism if they could make up their minds, in thinking of
the girl they love, to try to be the man they will be when they are no
longer in love with her. Gilberte's book-cover, her agate marble,
must have derived their importance in the past from some purely inward
distinction, since now they were to me a book-cover, a marble like any
others.

I asked Albertine if she would like something to drink. "I seem to see
oranges over there and water," she said. "That will be perfect." I was
thus able to taste with her kisses that refreshing coolness which had
seemed to me to be better than they, at the Princesse de Guermantes's.
And the orange squeezed into the water seemed to yield to me, as I
drank, the secret life of its ripening growth, its beneficent action
upon certain states of that human body which belongs to so different a
kingdom, its powerlessness to make that body live, but on the other
hand the process of irrigation by which it was able to benefit it, a
hundred mysteries concealed by the fruit from my senses, but not from
my intellect.

When Albertine had gone, I remembered that I had promised Swann that I
would write to Gilberte, and courtesy, I felt, demanded that I should
do so at once. It was without emotion and as though drawing a line at
the foot of a boring school essay, that I traced upon the envelope the
name _Gilberte Swann_, with which at one time I used to cover my
exercise-books to give myself the illusion that I was corresponding
with her. For if, in the past, it had been I who wrote that name, now
the task had been deputed by Habit to one of the many secretaries whom
she employs. He could write down Gilberte's name with all the more
calm, in that, placed with me only recently by Habit, having but
recently entered my service, he had never known Gilberte, and knew
only, without attaching any reality to the words, because he had heard
me speak of her, that she was a girl with whom I had once been in
love.

I could not accuse her of hardness. The person that I now was in
relation to her was the clearest possible proof of what she herself
had been: the book-cover, the agate marble had simply become for me in
relation to Albertine what they had been for Gilberte, what they would
have been to anybody who had not suffused them with the glow of an
internal flame. But now I felt a fresh disturbance which in its turn
destroyed the very real power of things and words. And when Albertine
said to me, in a further outburst of gratitude: "I do love
turquoises!" I answered her: "Do not let them die," entrusting to them
as to some precious jewel the future of our friendship which however
was no more capable of inspiring a sentiment in Albertine than it had
been of preserving the sentiment that had bound me in the past to
Gilberte.

There appeared about this time a phenomenon which deserves mention
only because it recurs in every important period of history. At the
same moment when I was writing to Gilberte, M. de Guermantes, just
home from his ball, still wearing his helmet, was thinking that next
day he would be compelled to go into formal mourning, and decided to
proceed a week earlier to the cure that he had been ordered to take.
When he returned from it three weeks later (to anticipate for a
moment, since I am still finishing my letter to Gilberte), those
friends of the Duke who had seen him, so indifferent at the start,
turn into a raving anti-Dreyfusard, were left speechless with
amazement when they heard him (as though the action of the cure had
not been confined to his bladder) answer: "Oh, well, there'll be a
fresh trial and he'll be acquitted; you can't sentence a fellow
without any evidence against him. Did you ever see anyone so gaga as
Forcheville? An officer, leading the French people to the shambles,
heading straight for war. Strange times we live in." The fact was
that, in the interval, the Duke had met, at the spa, three charming
ladies (an Italian princess and her two sisters-in-law). After hearing
them make a few remarks about the books they were reading, a play that
was being given at the Casino, the Duke had at once understood that he
was dealing with women of superior intellect, by whom, as he expressed
it, he would be knocked out in the first round. He was all the more
delighted to be asked to play bridge by the Princess. But, the moment
he entered her sitting room, as he began, in the fervour of his
double-dyed anti-Dreyfusism: "Well, we don't hear very much more of
the famous Dreyfus and his appeal," his stupefaction had been great
when he heard the Princess and her sisters-in-law say: "It's becoming
more certain every day. They can't keep a man in prison who has done
nothing." "Eh? Eh?" the Duke had gasped at first, as at the discovery
of a fantastic nickname employed in this household to turn to ridicule
a person whom he had always regarded as intelligent. But, after a few
days, as, from cowardice and the spirit of imitation, we shout 'Hallo,
Jojotte' without knowing why at a great artist whom we hear so
addressed by the rest of the household, the Duke, still greatly
embarrassed by the novelty of this attitude, began nevertheless to
say: "After all, if there is no evidence against him." The three
charming ladies decided that he was not progressing rapidly enough and
began to bully him: "But really, nobody with a grain of intelligence
can ever have believed for a moment that there was anything." Whenever
any revelation came out that was 'damning' to Dreyfus, and the Duke,
supposing that now he was going to convert the three charming ladies,
came to inform them of it, they burst out laughing and had no
difficulty in proving to him, with great dialectic subtlety, that his
argument was worthless and quite absurd. The Duke had returned to
Paris a frantic Dreyfusard. And certainly we do not suggest that the
three charming ladies were not, in this instance, messengers of truth.
But it is to be observed that, every ten years or so, when we have
left a man filled with a genuine conviction, it so happens that an
intelligent couple, or simply a charming lady, come in touch with him
and after a few months he is won over to the opposite camp. And in
this respect there are plenty of countries that behave like the
sincere man, plenty of countries which we have left full of hatred for
another race, and which, six months later, have changed their attitude
and broken off all their alliances.

I ceased for some time to see Albertine, but continued, failing Mme.
de Guermantes who no longer spoke to my imagination, to visit other
fairies and their dwellings, as inseparable from themselves as is from
the mollusc that fashioned it and takes shelter within it the pearly
or enamelled valve or crenellated turret of its shell. I should not
have been able to classify these ladies, the difficulty being that the
problem was so vague in its terms and impossible not merely to solve
but to set. Before coming to the lady, one had first to approach the
faery mansion. Now as one of them was always at home after luncheon in
the summer months, before I reached her house I was obliged to close
the hood of my cab, so scorching were the sun's rays, the memory of
which was, without my realising it, to enter into my general
impression. I supposed that I was merely being driven to the
Cours-la-Reine; in reality, before arriving at the gathering which a
man of wider experience would perhaps have despised, I received, as
though on a journey through Italy, a delicious, dazzled sensation from
which the house was never afterwards to be separated in my memory.
What was more, in view of the heat of the season and the hour, the
lady had hermetically closed the shutters of the vast rectangular
saloons on the ground floor in which she entertained her friends. I
had difficulty at first in recognising my hostess and her guests, even
the Duchesse de Guermantes, who in her hoarse voice bade me come and
sit down next to her, in a Beauvais armchair illustrating the Rape of
Europa. Then I began to make out on the walls the huge eighteenth
century tapestries representing vessels whose masts were hollyhocks in
blossom, beneath which I sat as though in the palace not of the Seine
but of Neptune, by the brink of the river Oceanus, where the Duchesse
de Guermantes became a sort of goddess of the waters. I should never
stop if I began to describe all the different types of drawing-room.
This example is sufficient to shew that I introduced into my social
judgments poetical impressions which I never included among the items
when I came to add up the sum, so that, when I was calculating the
importance of a drawing-room, my total was never correct.

Certainly, these were by no means the only sources of error, but I
have no time left now, before my departure for Balbec (where to my
sorrow I am going to make a second stay which will also be my last),
to start upon a series of pictures of society which will find their
place in due course. I need here say only that to this first erroneous
reason (my relatively frivolous existence which made people suppose
that I was fond of society) for my letter to Gilberte, and for that
reconciliation with the Swann family to which it seemed to point,
Odette might very well, and with equal inaccuracy, have added a
second. I have suggested hitherto the different aspects that the
social world assumes in the eyes of a single person only by supposing
that, if a woman who, the other day, knew nobody now goes everywhere,
and another who occupied a commanding position is ostracised, one is
inclined to regard these changes merely as those purely personal ups
and downs of fortune which from time to time bring about in a given
section of society, in consequence of speculations on the stock
exchange, a crashing downfall or enrichment beyond the dreams of
avarice. But there is more in it than that. To a certain extent social
manifestations (vastly less important than artistic movements,
political crises, the evolution that sweeps the public taste in the
direction of the theatre of ideas, then of impressionist painting,
then of music that is German and complicated, then of music that is
Russian and simple, or of ideas of social service, justice, religious
reaction, patriotic outbursts) are nevertheless an echo of them,
remote, broken, uncertain, disturbed, changing. So that even
drawing-rooms cannot be portrayed in a static immobility which has
been conventionally employed up to this point for the study of
characters, though these too must be carried along in an almost
historical flow. The thirst for novelty that leads men of the world
who are more or less sincere in their eagerness for information as to
intellectual evolution to frequent the circles in which they can trace
its development makes them prefer as a rule some hostess as yet
undiscovered, who represents still in their first freshness the hopes
of a superior culture so faded and tarnished in the women who for long
years have wielded the social sceptre and who, having no secrets from
these men, no longer appeal to their imagination. And every age finds
itself personified thus in fresh women, in a fresh group of women,
who, closely adhering to whatever may at that moment be the latest
object of interest, seem, in their attire, to be at that moment making
their first public appearance, like an unknown species, born of the
last deluge, irresistible beauties of each new Consulate, each new
Directory. But very often the new hostess is simply like certain
statesmen who may be in office for the first time but have for the
last forty years been knocking at every door without seeing any open,
women who were not known in society but who nevertheless had been
receiving, for years past, and failing anything better, a few 'chosen
friends' from its ranks. To be sure, this is not always the case, and
when, with the prodigious flowering of the Russian Ballet, revealing
one after another Bakst, Nijinski, Benoist, the genius of Stravinski,
Princess Yourbeletieff, the youthful sponsor of all these new great
men, appeared bearing on her head an immense, quivering egret, unknown
to the women of Paris, which they all sought to copy, one might have
supposed that this marvellous creature had been imported in their
innumerable baggage, and as their most priceless treasure, by the
Russian dancers; but when presently, by her side, in her stage box, we
see, at every performance of the 'Russians,' seated like a true fairy
godmother, unknown until that moment to the aristocracy, Mme.
Verdurin, we shall be able to tell the society people who naturally
supposed that Mme. Verdurin had recently entered the country with
Diaghileff's troupe, that this lady had already existed in different
periods, and had passed through various avatars of which this is
remarkable only in being the first that is bringing to pass at last,
assured henceforth, and at an increasingly rapid pace, the success so
long awaited by the Mistress. In Mme. Swann's case, it is true, the
novelty she represented had not the same collective character. Her
drawing-room was crystallised round a man, a dying man, who had almost
in an instant passed, at the moment when his talent was exhausted,
from obscurity to a blaze of glory. The passion for Bergotte's works
was unbounded. He spent the whole day, on show, at Mme. Swann's, who
would whisper to some influential man: "I shall say a word to him, he
will write an article for you." He was, for that matter, quite capable
of doing so and even of writing a little play for Mme. Swann. A stage
nearer to death, he was not quite so feeble as at the time when he
used to come and inquire after my grandmother. This was because
intense physical suffering had enforced a regime on him. Illness is
the doctor to whom we pay most heed: to kindness, to knowledge we make
promises only; pain we obey.

It is true that the Verdurins and their little clan had at this time a
far more vital interest than the drawing-room, faintly nationalist,
more markedly literary, and pre-eminently Bergottic, of Mme. Swann.
The little clan was in fact the active centre of a long political
crisis which had reached its maximum of intensity: Dreyfusism. But
society people were for the most part so violently opposed to the
appeal that a Dreyfusian house seemed to them as inconceivable a thing
as, at an earlier period, a Communard house. The Principessa di
Caprarola, who had made Mme. Verdurin's acquaintance over a big
exhibition which she had organised, had indeed been to pay her a long
call, in the hope of seducing a few interesting specimens of the
little clan and incorporating them in her own drawing-room, a call in
the course of which the Princess (playing the Duchesse de Guermantes
in miniature) had made a stand against current ideas, declared that
the people in her world were idiots, all of which, thought Mme.
Verdurin, shewed great courage. But this courage was not, in the
sequel, to go the length of venturing, under fire of the gaze of
nationalist ladies, to bow to Mme. Verdurin at the Balbec races. With
Mme. Swann, on the contrary, the anti-Dreyfusards gave her credit for
being 'sound,' which, in a woman married to a Jew, was doubly
meritorious. Nevertheless, the people who had never been to her house
imagined her as visited only by a few obscure Israelites and disciples
of Bergotte. In this way we place women far more outstanding than Mme.
Swann on the lowest rung of the social ladder, whether on account of
their origin, or because they do not care about dinner parties and
receptions at which we never see them, and suppose this, erroneously,
to be due to their not having been invited, or because they never
speak of their social connexions, but only of literature and art, or
because people conceal the fact that they go to their houses, or they,
to avoid impoliteness to yet other people, conceal the fact that they
open their doors to these, in short for a thousand reasons which,
added together, make of one or other of them in certain people's eyes,
the sort of woman whom one does not know. So it was with Odette. Mme.
d'Epinoy, when busy collecting some subscription for the 'Patrie
Française,' having been obliged to go and see her, as she would have
gone to her dressmaker, convinced moreover that she would find only a
lot of faces that were not so much impossible as completely unknown,
stood rooted to the ground when the door opened not upon the
drawing-room she imagined but upon a magic hall in which, as in the
transformation scene of a pantomime, she recognised in the dazzling
chorus, half reclining upon divans, seated in armchairs, addressing
their hostess by her Christian name, the royalties, the duchesses,
whom she, the Princesse d'Epinoy, had the greatest difficulty in
enticing into her own drawing-room, and to whom at that moment,
beneath the benevolent eyes of Odette, the Marquis du Lau, Comte Louis
de Turenne, Prince Borghese, the Duc d'Estrées, carrying orangeade and
cakes, were acting as cupbearers and henchmen. The Princesse d'Epinoy,
as she instinctively made people's social value inherent in
themselves, was obliged to disincarnate Mme. Swann and reincarnate her
in a fashionable woman. Our ignorance of the real existence led by the
women who do not advertise it in the newspapers draws thus over
certain situations (thereby helping to differentiate one house from
another) a veil of mystery. In Odette's case, at the start, a few men
of the highest society, anxious to meet Bergotte, had gone to dine,
quite quietly, at her house. She had had the tact, recently acquired,
not to advertise their presence, they found when they went there, a
memory perhaps of the little nucleus, whose traditions Odette had
preserved in spite of the schism, a place laid for them at table, and
so forth. Odette took them with Bergotte (whom these excursions,
incidentally, finished off) to interesting first nights. They spoke of
her to various women of their own world who were capable of taking an
interest in such a novelty. These women were convinced that Odette, an
intimate friend of Bergotte, had more or less collaborated in his
works, and believed her to be a thousand times more intelligent than
the most outstanding women of the Faubourg, for the same reason that
made them pin all their political faith to certain Republicans of the
right shade such as M. Doumer and M. Deschanel, whereas they saw
France doomed to destruction were her destinies entrusted to the
Monarchy men who were in the habit of dining with them, men like
Charette or Doudeauville. This change in Odette's status was carried
out, so far as she was concerned, with a discretion that made it more
secure and more rapid but allowed no suspicion to filter through to
the public that is prone to refer to the social columns of the
_Gaulois_ for evidence as to the advance or decline of a house, with
the result that one day, at the dress rehearsal of a play by Bergotte,
given in one of the most fashionable theatres in aid of a charity, the
really dramatic moment was when people saw enter the box opposite,
which was that reserved for the author, and sit down by the side of
Mme. Swann, Mme. de Marsantes and her who, by the gradual
self-effacement of the Duchesse de Guermantes (glutted with fame, and
retiring to save the trouble of going on), was on the way to becoming
the lion, the queen of the age, Comtesse Molé. "We never even supposed
that she had begun to climb," people said of Odette as they saw
Comtesse Molé enter her box, "and look, she has reached the top of the
ladder."

So that Mme. Swann might suppose that it was from snobbishness that I
was taking up again with her daughter.

Odette, notwithstanding her brilliant escort, listened with close
attention to the play, as though she had come there solely to see it
performed, just as in the past she used to walk across the Bois for
her health, as a form of exercise. Men who in the past had shewn less
interest in her came to the edge of the box, disturbing the whole
audience, to reach up to her hand and so approach the imposing circle
that surrounded her. She, with a smile that was still more friendly
than ironical, replied patiently to their questions, affecting greater
calm than might have been expected, a calm which was, perhaps,
sincere, this exhibition being only the belated revelation of a
habitual and discreetly hidden intimacy. Behind these three ladies to
whom every eye was drawn was Bergotte flanked by the Prince
d'Agrigente, Comte Louis de Turenne, and the Marquis de Bréauté. And
it is easy to understand that, to men who were received everywhere and
could not expect any further advancement save as a reward for original
research, this demonstration of their merit which they considered that
they were making in letting themselves succumb to a hostess with a
reputation for profound intellectuality, in whose house they expected
to meet all the dramatists and novelists of the day, was more
exciting, more lively than those evenings at the Princesse de
Guermantes's, which, without any change of programme or fresh
attraction, had been going on year after year, all more or less like
the one we have described in such detail. In that exalted sphere, the
sphere of the Guermantes, in which people were beginning to lose
interest, the latest intellectual fashions were not incarnate in
entertainments fashioned in their image, as in those sketches that
Bergotte used to write for Mme. Swann, or those positive committees of
public safety (had society been capable of taking an interest in the
Dreyfus case) at which, in Mme. Verdurin's drawing-room, used to
assemble Picquart, Clemenceau, Zola, Reinach and Labori.

Gilberte, too, helped to strengthen her mother's position, for an
uncle of Swann had just left nearly twenty-four million francs to the
girl, which meant that the Faubourg Saint-Germain was beginning to
take notice of her. The reverse of the medal was that Swann (who,
however, was dying) held Dreyfusard opinions, though this as a matter
of fact did not injure his wife, but was actually of service to her.
It did not injure her because people said: "He is dotty, his mind has
quite gone, nobody pays any attention to him, his wife is the only
person who counts and she is charming." But even Swann's Dreyfusism
was useful to Odette. Left to herself, she would quite possibly have
allowed herself to make advances to fashionable women which would have
been her undoing. Whereas on the evenings when she dragged her husband
out to dine in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, Swann, sitting sullenly in
his corner, would not hesitate, if he saw Odette seeking an
introduction to some Nationalist lady, to exclaim aloud: "Really,
Odette, you are mad. Why can't you keep yourself to yourself. It is
idiotic of you to get yourself introduced to anti-Semites, I forbid
you." People in society whom everyone else runs after are not
accustomed either to such pride or to such ill-breeding. For the first
time they beheld some one who thought himself 'superior' to them. The
fame of Swann's mutterings was spread abroad, and cards with
turned-down corners rained upon Odette. When she came to call upon
Mme. d'Arpajon there was a brisk movement of friendly curiosity. "You
didn't mind my introducing her to you," said Mme. d'Arpajon. "She is
so nice. It was Marie de Marsantes that told me about her." "No, not
at all, I hear she's so wonderfully clever, and she is charming. I had
been longing to meet her; do tell me where she lives." Mme. d'Arpajon
told Mme. Swann that she had enjoyed herself hugely at the latter's
house the other evening, and had joyfully forsaken Mme. de
Saint-Euverte for her. And it was true, for to prefer Mme. Swann was
to shew that one was intelligent, like going to concerts instead of to
tea-parties. But when Mme. de Saint-Euverte called on Mme. d'Arpajon
at the same time as Odette, as Mme. de Saint-Euverte was a great snob
and Mme. d'Arpajon, albeit she treated her without ceremony, valued
her invitations, she did not introduce Odette, so that Mme. de
Saint-Euverte should not know who it was. The Marquise imagined that
it must be some Princess who never went anywhere, since she had never
seen her before, prolonged her call, replied indirectly to what Odette
was saying, but Mme. d'Arpajon remained adamant. And when Mme.
Saint-Euverte owned herself defeated and took her leave: "I did not
introduce you," her hostess told Odette, "because people don't much
care about going to her parties and she is always inviting one; you
would never hear the last of her." "Oh, that is all right," said
Odette with a pang of regret. But she retained the idea that people
did not care about going to Mme. de Saint-Euverte's, which was to a
certain extent true, and concluded that she herself held a position in
society vastly superior to Mme. de Saint-Euverte's, albeit that lady
held a very high position, and Odette, so far, had none at all.

That made no difference to her, and, albeit all Mme. de Guermantes's
friends were friends also of Mme. d'Arpajon, whenever the latter
invited Mme. Swann, Odette would say with an air of compunction: "I am
going to Mme. d'Arpajon's; you will think me dreadfully old-fashioned,
I know, but I hate going, for Mme. de Guermantes's sake" (whom, as it
happened, she had never met). The distinguished men thought that the
fact that Mme. Swann knew hardly anyone in good society meant that
she must be a superior woman, probably a great musician, and that it
would be a sort of extra distinction, as for a Duke to be a Doctor of
Science, to go to her house. The completely unintelligent women were
attracted by Odette for a diametrically opposite reason; hearing that
she attended the Colonne concerts and professed herself a Wagnerian,
they concluded from this that she must be 'rather a lark,' and were
greatly excited by the idea of getting to know her. But, being
themselves none too firmly established, they were afraid of
compromising themselves in public if they appeared to be on friendly
terms with Odette, and if, at a charity concert, they caught sight of
Mme. Swann, would turn away their heads, deeming it impossible to bow,
beneath the very nose of Mme. de Rochechouart, to a woman who was
perfectly capable of having been to Bayreuth, which was as good as
saying that she would stick at nothing. Everybody becomes different
upon entering another person's house. Not to speak of the marvellous
metamorphoses that were accomplished thus in the faery palaces, in
Mme. Swann's drawing-room, M. de Bréauté, acquiring a sudden
importance from the absence of the people by whom he was normally
surrounded, by his air of satisfaction at finding himself there, just
as if instead of going out to a party he had slipped on his spectacles
to shut himself up in his study and read the _Revue des Deux Mondes_,
the mystic rite that he appeared to be performing in coming to see
Odette, M. de Bréauté himself seemed another man. I would have given
anything to see what alterations the Duchesse de
Montmorency-Luxembourg would undergo in this new environment. But she
was one of the people who could never be induced to meet Odette. Mme.
de Montmorency, a great deal kinder to Oriane than Oriane was to her,
surprised me greatly by saying, with regard to Mme. de Guermantes:
"She knows some quite clever people, everybody likes her, I believe
that if she had just had a slightly more coherent mind, she would have
succeeded in forming a salon. The fact is, she never bothered about
it, she is quite right, she is very well off as she is, with everybody
running after her." If Mme. de Guermantes had not a 'salon,' what in
the world could a 'salon' be? The stupefaction in which this speech
plunged me was no greater than that which I caused Mme. de Guermantes
when I told her that I should like to be invited to Mme. de
Montmorency's. Oriane thought her an old idiot. "I go there," she
said, "because I'm forced to, she's my aunt, but you! She doesn't even
know how to get nice people to come to her house." Mme. de Guermantes
did not realise that nice people left me cold, that when she spoke to
me of the Arpajon drawing-room I saw a yellow butterfly, and the Swann
drawing-room (Mme. Swann was at home in the winter months between 6
and 7) a black butterfly, its wings powdered with snow. Even this last
drawing-room, which was not a 'salon' at all, she considered, albeit
out of bounds for herself, permissible to me, on account of the
'clever people' to be found there. But Mme. de Luxembourg! Had I
already produced something that had attracted attention, she would
have concluded that an element of snobbishness may be combined with
talent. But I put the finishing touch to her disillusionment; I
confessed to her that I did not go to Mme. de Montmorency's (as she
supposed) to 'take notes' and 'make a study.' Mme. de Guermantes was
in this respect no more in error than the social novelists who analyse
mercilessly from outside the actions of a snob or supposed snob, but
never place themselves in his position, at the moment when a whole
social springtime is bursting into blossom in his imagination. I
myself, when I sought to discover what was the great pleasure that I
found in going to Mme. de Montmorency's, was somewhat taken aback. She
occupied, in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, an old mansion ramifying into
pavilions which were separated by small gardens. In the outer hall a
statuette, said to be by Falconnet, represented a spring which did, as
it happened, exude a perpetual moisture. A little farther on the
doorkeeper, her eyes always red, whether from grief or neurasthenia, a
headache or a cold in the head, never answered your inquiry, waved her
arm vaguely to indicate that the Duchess was at home, and let a drop
or two trickle from her eyelids into a bowl filled with
forget-me-nots. The pleasure that I felt on seeing the statuette,
because it reminded me of a 'little gardener' in plaster that stood in
one of the Combray gardens, was nothing to that which was given me by
the great staircase, damp and resonant, full of echoes, like the
stairs in certain old-fashioned bathing establishments, with the vases
filled with cinerarias—blue against blue—in the entrance hall and
most of all the tinkle of the bell, which was exactly that of the bell
in Eulalie's room. This tinkle raised my enthusiasm to a climax, but
seemed to me too humble a matter for me to be able to explain it to
Mme. de Montmorency, with the result that she invariably saw me in a
state of rapture of which she might never guess the cause.





THE HEART'S INTERMISSIONS


MY second arrival at Balbec was very different from the other. The
manager had come in person to meet me at Pont-à-Couleuvre, reiterating
how greatly he valued his titled patrons, which made me afraid that he
had ennobled me, until I realised that, in the obscurity of his
grammatical memory, _titré_ meant simply _attitré_, or accredited. In
fact, the more new languages he learned the worse he spoke the others.
He informed me that he had placed me at the very top of the hotel. "I
hope," he said, "that you will not interpolate this as a want of
discourtesy, I was sorry to give you a room of which you are unworthy,
but I did it in connexion with the noise, because in that room you
will not have anyone above your head to disturb your trepanum
(tympanum). Don't be alarmed, I shall have the windows closed, so that
they shan't bang. Upon that point, I am intolerable" (the last word
expressing not his own thought, which was that he would always be
found inexorable in that respect, but, quite possibly, the thoughts of
his underlings). The rooms were, as it proved, those we had had
before. They were no humbler, but I had risen in the manager's
esteem. I could light a fire if I liked (for, by the doctors' orders,
I had left Paris at Easter), but he was afraid there might be
'fixtures' in the ceiling. "See that you always wait before alighting
a fire until the preceding one is extenuated" (extinct). "The
important thing is to take care not to avoid setting fire to the
chimney, especially as, to cheer things up a bit, I have put an old
china pottage on the mantelpiece which might become insured."

He informed me with great sorrow of the death of the leader of the
Cherbourg bar. "He was an old retainer," he said (meaning probably
'campaigner') and gave me to understand that his end had been hastened
by the quickness, otherwise the fastness, of his life. "For some time
past I noticed that after dinner he would take a doss in the
reading-room" (take a doze, presumably). "The last times, he was so
changed that if you hadn't known who it was, to look at him, he was
barely recognisant" (presumably, recognisable).

A happy compensation: the chief magistrate of Caen had just received
his 'bags' (badge) as Commander of the Legion of Honour. "Surely to
goodness, he has capacities, but seems they gave him it principally
because of his general 'impotence.'" There was a mention of this
decoration, as it happened, in the previous day's _Echo de Paris_, of
which the manager had as yet read only 'the first paradox' (meaning
paragraph). The paper dealt admirably with M. Caillaux's policy. "I
consider, they're quite right," he said. "He is putting us too much
under the thimble of Germany" (under the thumb). As the discussion of
a subject of this sort with a hotel-keeper seemed to me boring, I
ceased to listen. I thought of the visual images that had made me
decide to return to Balbec. They were very different from those of the
earlier time, the vision in quest of which I came was as dazzlingly
clear as the former had been clouded; they were to prove deceitful
nevertheless. The images selected by memory are as arbitrary, as
narrow, as intangible as those which imagination had formed and
reality has destroyed. There is no reason why, existing outside
ourselves, a real place should conform to the pictures in our memory
rather than to those in our dreams. And besides, a fresh reality will
perhaps make us forget, detest even, the desires that led us forth
upon our journey.

Those that had led me forth to Balbec sprang to some extent from my
discovery that the Verdurins (whose invitations I had invariably
declined, and who would certainly be delighted to see me, if I went to
call upon them in the country with apologies for never having been
able to call upon them in Paris), knowing that several of the faithful
would be spending the holidays upon that part of the coast, and
having, for that reason, taken for the whole season one of M. de
Cambremer's houses (la Raspelière), had invited Mme. Putbus to stay
with them. The evening on which I learned this (in Paris) I lost my
head completely and sent our young footman to find out whether the
lady would be taking her Abigail to Balbec with her. It was eleven
o'clock. Her porter was a long time in opening the front door, and,
for a wonder, did not send my messenger packing, did not call the
police, merely gave him a dressing down, but with it the information
that I desired. He said that the head lady's maid would indeed be
accompanying her mistress, first of all to the waters in Germany, then
to Biarritz, and at the end of the season to Mme. Verdurin's. From
that moment my mind had been at rest, and glad to have this iron in
the fire, I had been able to dispense with those pursuits in the
streets, in which I had not that letter of introduction to the
beauties I encountered which I should have to the 'Giorgione' in the
fact of my having dined that very evening, at the Verdurins', with her
mistress. Besides, she might form a still better opinion of me perhaps
when she learned that I knew not merely the middle class tenants of la
Raspelière but its owners, and above all Saint-Loup who, prevented
from commending me personally to the maid (who did not know him by
name), had written an enthusiastic letter about me to the Cambremers.
He believed that, quite apart from any service that they might be able
to render me, Mme. de Cambremer, the Legrandin daughter-in-law, would
interest me by her conversation. "She is an intelligent woman," he had
assured me. "She won't say anything final" (_final_ having taken the
place of _sublime_ things with Robert, who, every five or six years,
would modify a few of his favourite expressions, while preserving the
more important intact), "but it is an interesting nature, she has a
personality, intuition; she has the right word for everything. Every
now and then she is maddening, she says stupid things on purpose, to
seem smart, which is all the more ridiculous as nobody could be less
smart than the Cambremers, she is not always in the picture, but,
taking her all round, she is one of the people it is more or less
possible to talk to."

No sooner had Robert's letter of introduction reached them than the
Cambremers, whether from a snobbishness that made them anxious to
oblige Saint-Loup, even indirectly, or from gratitude for what he had
done for one of their nephews at Doncières, or (what was most likely)
from kindness of heart and traditions of hospitality, had written long
letters insisting that I should stay with them, or, if I preferred to
be more independent, offering to find me lodgings. When Saint-Loup had
pointed out that I should be staying at the Grand Hotel, Balbec, they
replied that at least they would expect a call from me as soon as I
arrived and, if I did not appear, would come without fail to hunt me
out and invite me to their garden parties.

No doubt there was no essential connexion between Mme. Putbus's maid
and the country round Balbec; she would not be for me like the peasant
girl whom, as I strayed alone along the Méséglise way, I had so often
sought in vain to evoke, with all the force of my desire.

But I had long since given up trying to extract from a woman as it
might be the square root of her unknown quantity, the mystery of which
a mere introduction was generally enough to dispel. Anyhow at Balbec,
where I had not been for so long, I should have this advantage,
failing the necessary connexion which did not exist between the place
and this particular woman, that my sense of reality would not be
destroyed by familiarity, as in Paris, where, whether in my own home
or in a bedroom that I already knew, pleasure indulged in with a woman
could not give me for one instant, amid everyday surroundings, the
illusion that it was opening the door for me to a new life. (For if
habit is a second nature, it prevents us from knowing our original
nature, whose cruelties it lacks and also its enchantments.) Now this
illusion I might perhaps feel in a strange place, where one's
sensibility is revived by a ray of sunshine, and where my ardour would
be raised to a climax by the lady's maid whom I desired: we shall see,
in the course of events, not only that this woman did not come to
Balbec, but that I dreaded nothing so much as the possibility of her
coming, so that the principal object of my expedition was neither
attained, nor indeed pursued. It was true that Mme. Putbus was not to
be at the Verdurins' so early in the season; but these pleasures which
we have chosen beforehand may be remote, if their coming is assured,
and if, in the interval of waiting, we can devote ourselves to the
pastime of seeking to attract, while powerless to love. Moreover, I
was not going to Balbec in the same practical frame of mind as before;
there is always less egoism in pure imagination than in recollection;
and I knew that I was going to find myself in one of those very places
where fair strangers most abound; a beach presents them as numerously
as a ball-room, and I looked forward to strolling up and down outside
the hotel, on the front, with the same sort of pleasure that Mme. de
Guermantes would have procured me if, instead of making other
hostesses invite me to brilliant dinner-parties, she had given my name
more frequently for their lists of partners to those of them who gave
dances. To make female acquaintances at Balbec would be as easy for
me now as it had been difficult before, for I was now as well supplied
with friends and resources there as I had been destitute of them on my
former visit.

I was roused from my meditations by the voice of the manager, to whose
political dissertations I had not been listening. Changing the
subject, he told me of the chief magistrate's joy on hearing of my
arrival, and that he was coming to pay me a visit in my room, that
very evening. The thought of this visit so alarmed me (for I was
beginning to feel tired) that I begged him to prevent it (which he
promised to do, and, as a further precaution, to post members of his
staff on guard, for the first night, on my landing). He did not seem
overfond of his staff. "I am obliged to keep running after them all
the time because they are lacking in inertia. If I was not there they
would never stir. I shall post the lift-boy on sentry outside your
door." I asked him if the boy had yet become 'head page.' "He is not
old enough yet in the house," was the answer. "He has comrades more
aged than he is. It would cause an outcry. We must act with
granulation in everything. I quite admit that he strikes a good
aptitude" (meaning attitude) "at the door of his lift. But he is still
a trifle young for such positions. With others in the place of longer
standing, it would make a contrast. He is a little wanting in
seriousness, which is the primitive quality" (doubtless, the
primordial, the most important quality). "He needs his leg screwed on
a. bit tighter" (my informant meant to say his head). "Anyhow, he can
leave it all to me. I know what I'm about. Before I won my stripes as
manager of the Grand Hotel, I smelt powder under M. Paillard." I was
impressed by this simile, and thanked the manager for having come in
person as far as Pont-à-Couleuvre. "Oh, that's nothing! The loss of
time has been quite infinite" (for infinitesimal). Meanwhile, we had
arrived.

Complete physical collapse. On the first night, as I was suffering
from cardiac exhaustion, trying to master my pain, I bent down slowly
and cautiously to take off my boots. But no sooner had I touched the
topmost button than my bosom swelled, filled with an unknown, a divine
presence, I shook with sobs, tears streamed from my eyes. The person
who came to my rescue, who saved me from barrenness of spirit, was the
same who, years before, in a moment of identical distress and
loneliness, in a moment when I was no longer in any way myself, had
come in, and had restored me to myself, for that person was myself and
more than myself (the container that is greater than the contents,
which it was bringing to me). I had just perceived, in my memory,
bending over my weariness, the tender, preoccupied, dejected face of
my grandmother, as she had been on that first evening of our arrival,
the face not of that grandmother whom I was astonished—and reproached
myself—to find that I regretted so little and who was no more of her
than just her name, but of my own true grandmother, of whom, for the
first time since that afternoon in the Champs-Elysées on which she had
had her stroke, I now recaptured, by an instinctive and complete act
of recollection, the living reality. That reality has no existence for
us, so long as it has not been created anew by our mind (otherwise the
men who have been engaged in a Titanic conflict would all of them be
great epic poets); and so, in my insane desire to fling myself into
her arms, it was not until this moment, more than a year after her
burial, because of that anachronism which so often prevents the
calendar of facts from corresponding to that of our feelings, that I
became conscious that she was dead. I had often spoken about her in
the interval, and thought of her also, but behind my words and
thoughts, those of an ungrateful, selfish, cruel youngster, there had
never been anything that resembled my grandmother, because, in my
frivolity, my love of pleasure, my familiarity with the spectacle of
her ill health, I retained only in a potential state the memory of
what she had been. At whatever moment we estimate it, the total value
of our spiritual nature is more or less fictitious, notwithstanding
the long inventory of its treasures, for now one, now another of these
is unrealisable, whether we are considering actual treasures or those
of the imagination, and, in my own case, fully as much as the ancient
name of Guermantes, this other, how far more important item, my real
memory of my grandmother. For with the troubles of memory are closely
linked the heart's intermissions. It is, no doubt, the existence of
our body, which we may compare to a jar containing our spiritual
nature, that leads us to suppose that all our inward wealth, our past
joys, all our sorrows, are perpetually in our possession. Perhaps it
is equally inexact to suppose that they escape or return. In any case,
if they remain within us, it is, for most of the time, in an unknown
region where they are of no service to us, and where even the most
ordinary are crowded out by memories of a different kind, which
preclude any simultaneous occurrence of them in our consciousness.
But if the setting of sensations in which they are preserved be
recaptured, they acquire in turn the same power of expelling
everything that is incompatible with them, of installing alone in us
the self that originally lived them. Now, inasmuch as the self that I
had just suddenly become once again had not existed since that evening
long ago when my grandmother undressed me after my arrival at Balbec,
it was quite naturally, not at the end of the day that had just
passed, of which that self knew nothing, but—as though there were in
time different and parallel series—without loss of continuity,
immediately after the first evening at Balbec long ago, that I clung
to the minute in which my grandmother had leaned over me. The self
that I then was, that had so long disappeared, was once again so close
to me that I seemed still to hear the words that had just been spoken,
albeit they were nothing more now than illusion, as a man who is half
awake thinks he can still make out close at hand the sounds of his
receding dream. I was nothing now but the person who sought a refuge
in his grandmother's arms, sought to wipe away the traces of his
suffering by giving her kisses, that person whom I should have had as
great difficulty in imagining when I was one or other of those persons
which, for some time past, I had successively been, as the efforts,
doomed in any event to sterility, that I should now have had to make
to feel the desires and joys of any of those which, for a time at
least, I no longer was. I reminded myself how, an hour before the
moment at which my grandmother had stooped down like that, in her
dressing gown, to unfasten my boots, as I wandered along the
stiflingly hot street, past the pastry-cook's, I had felt that I could
never, in my need to feel her arms round me, live through the hour
that I had still to spend without her. And now that this same need was
reviving in me, I knew that I might wait hour after hour, that she
would never again be by my side, I had only just discovered this
because I had only just, on feeling her for the first time, alive,
authentic, making my heart swell to breaking-point, on finding her at
last, learned that I had lost her for ever. Lost for ever; I could not
understand and was struggling to bear the anguish of this
contradiction: on the one hand an existence, an affection, surviving
in me as I had known them, that is to say created for me, a love in
whose eyes everything found in me so entirely its complement, its
goal, its constant lodestar, that the genius of great men, all the
genius that might have existed from the beginning of the world would
have been less precious to my grandmother than a single one of my
defects; and on the other hand, as soon as I had lived over again that
bliss, as though it were present, feeling it shot through by the
certainty, throbbing like a physical anguish, of an annihilation that
had effaced my image of that affection, had destroyed that existence,
abolished in retrospect our interwoven destiny, made of my grandmother
at the moment when I found her again as in a mirror, a mere stranger
whom chance had allowed to spend a few years in my company, as it
might have been in anyone's else, but to whom, before and after those
years, I was, I could be nothing.

Instead of the pleasures that I had been experiencing of late, the
only pleasure that it would have been possible for me to enjoy at that
moment would have been, by modifying the past, to diminish the sorrows
and sufferings of my grandmother's life. Now, I did not recall her
only in that dressing-gown, a garment so appropriate as to have become
almost their symbol to the labours, foolish no doubt but so lovable
also, that she performed for me, gradually I began to remember all the
opportunities that I had seized, by letting her perceive, by
exaggerating if necessary my sufferings, to cause her a grief which I
imagined as being obliterated immediately by my kisses, as though my
affection had been as capable as my happiness of creating hers; and,
what was worse, I, who could conceive no other happiness now than in
finding happiness shed in my memory over the contours of that face,
moulded and bowed by love, had set to work with frantic efforts, in
the past, to destroy even its most modest pleasures, as on the day
when Saint-Loup had taken my grandmother's photograph and I, unable to
conceal from her what I thought of the ridiculous childishness of the
coquetry with which she posed for him, with her wide-brimmed hat, in a
flattering half light, had allowed myself to mutter a few impatient,
wounding words, which, I had perceived from a contraction of her
features, had carried, had pierced her; it was I whose heart they were
rending now that there was no longer possible, ever again, the
consolation of a thousand kisses.

But never should I be able to wipe out of my memory that contraction
of her face, that anguish of her heart, or rather of my own: for as
the dead exist only in us, it is ourselves that we strike without
ceasing when we persist in recalling the blows that we have dealt
them. To these griefs, cruel as they were. I clung with all my might
and main, for I realised that they were the effect of my memory of my
grandmother, the proof that this memory which I had of her was really
present within me. I felt that I did not really recall her save by
grief and should have liked to feel driven yet deeper into me these
nails which fastened the memory of her to my consciousness. I did not
seek to mitigate my suffering, to set it off, to pretend that my
grandmother was only somewhere else and momentarily invisible, by
addressing to her photograph (the one taken by Saint-Loup, which I had
beside me) words and prayers as to a person who is separated from us
but, retaining his personality, knows us and remains bound to us by an
indissoluble harmony. Never did I do this, for I was determined not
merely to suffer, but to respect the original form of my suffering, as
it had suddenly come upon me unawares, and I wished to continue to
feel it, according to its own laws, whenever those strange
contradictory impressions of survival and obliteration crossed one
another again in my mind. This painful and, at the moment,
incomprehensible impression, I knew—not, forsooth, whether I should
one day distil a grain of truth from it—but that if I ever should
succeed in extracting that grain of truth, it could only be from it,
from so singular, so spontaneous an impression, which had been neither
traced by my intellect nor attenuated by my pusillanimity, but which
death itself, the sudden revelation of death, had, like a stroke of
lightning, carved upon me, along a supernatural, inhuman channel, a
two-fold and mysterious furrow. (As for the state of forgetfulness of
my grandmother in which I had been living until that moment, I could
not even think of turning to it to extract truth from it; since in
itself it was nothing but a negation, a weakening of the mind
incapable of recreating a real moment of life and obliged to
substitute for it conventional and neutral images.) Perhaps, however,
as the instinct of preservation, the ingenuity of the mind in
safeguarding us from grief, had begun already to build upon still
smouldering ruins, to lay the first courses of its serviceable and
ill-omened structure, I relished too keenly the delight of recalling
this or that opinion held by my dear one, recalling them as though she
had been able to hold them still, as though she existed, as though I
continued to exist for her. But as soon as I had succeeded in falling
asleep, at that more truthful hour when my eyes closed to the things
of the outer world, the world of sleep (on whose frontier intellect
and will, momentarily paralysed, could no longer strive to rescue me
from the cruelty of my real impressions) reflected, refracted the
agonising synthesis of survival and annihilation, in the mysteriously
lightened darkness of my organs. World of sleep in which our inner
consciousness, placed in bondage to the disturbances of our organs,
quickens the rhythm of heart or breath because a similar dose of
terror, sorrow, remorse acts with a strength magnified an hundredfold
if it is thus injected into our veins; as soon as, to traverse the
arteries of the subterranean city, we have embarked upon the dark
current of our own blood as upon an inward Lethe meandering sixfold,
huge solemn forms appear to us, approach and glide away, leaving us in
tears. I sought in vain for my grandmother's form when I had stepped
ashore beneath the sombre portals; I knew, indeed, that she did still
exist, but with a diminished vitality, as pale as that of memory; the
darkness was increasing, and the wind; my father, who was to take me
where she was, did not appear. Suddenly my breath failed me, I felt my
heart turn to stone; I had just remembered that for week after week I
had forgotten to write to my grandmother. What must she be thinking of
me? "Great God!" I said to myself, "how wretched she must be in that
little room which they have taken for her, no bigger than what one
would take for an old servant, where she is all alone with the nurse
they have put there to look after her, from which she cannot stir, for
she is still slightly paralysed and has always refused to rise from
her bed. She must be thinking that I have forgotten her now that she
is dead; how lonely she must be feeling, how deserted! Oh, I must run
to see her, I mustn't lose a minute, I mustn't wait for my father to
come, even—but where is it, how can I have forgotten the address,
will she know me again, I wonder? How can I have forgotten her all
these months?" It is so dark, I shall not find her; the wind is
keeping me back; but look I there is my father walking ahead of me; I
call out to him: "Where is grandmother? Tell me her address. Is she
all right? Are you quite sure she has everything she wants?" "Why,"
says my father, "you need not alarm yourself. Her nurse is well
trained. We send her a trifle, from time to time, so that she can get
your grandmother anything she may need. She asks, sometimes, how you
are getting on. She was told that you were going to write a book. She
seemed pleased. She wiped away a tear." And then I fancied I could
remember that, a little time after her death, my grandmother had said
to me, crying, with a humble expression, like an old servant who has
been given notice to leave, like a stranger, in fact: "You will let me
see something of you occasionally, won't you; don't let too many years
go by without visiting me. Remember that you were my grandson, once,
and that grandmothers never forget." And seeing again that face, so
submissive, so sad, so tender, which was hers, I wanted to run to her
at once and say to her, as I ought to have said to her then: "Why,
grandmother, you can see me as often as you like, I have only you in
the world, I shall never leave you any more." What tears my silence
must have made her shed through all those months in which I have never
been to the place where she lies, what can she have been saying to
herself about me? And it is in a voice choked with tears that I too
shout to my father: "Quick, quick, her address, take me to her." But
he says: "Well... I don't know whether you will be able to see her.
Besides, you know, she is very frail now, very frail, she is not at
all herself, I am afraid you would find it rather painful. And I can't
be quite certain of the number of the avenue." "But tell me, you who
know, it is not true that the dead have ceased to exist. It can't
possibly be true, in spite of what they say, because grandmother does
exist still." My father smiled a mournful smile: "Oh, hardly at all,
you know, hardly at all. I think that it would be better if you did
not go. She has everything that she wants. They come and keep the
place tidy for her." "But she is often left alone?" "Yes, but that is
better for her. It is better for her not to think, which could only be
bad for her. It often hurts her, when she tries to think. Besides, you
know, she is quite lifeless now. I shall leave a note of the exact
address, so that you can go to her; but I don't see what good you can
do there, and I don't suppose the nurse will allow you to see her."
"You know quite well I shall always stay beside her, dear, deer, deer,
Francis Jammes, fork." But already I had retraced the dark meanderings
of the stream, had ascended to the surface where the world of living
people opens, so that if I still repeated: "Francis Jammes, deer,
deer," the sequence of these words no longer offered me the limpid
meaning and logic which they had expressed to me so naturally an
instant earlier and which I could not now recall. I could not even
understand why the word 'Aias' which my father had just said to me,
had immediately signified: "Take care you don't catch cold," without
any possible doubt. I had forgotten to close the shutters, and so
probably the daylight had awakened me. But I could not bear to have
before my eyes those waves of the sea which my grandmother could
formerly contemplate for hours on end; the fresh image of their
heedless beauty was at once supplemented by the thought that she did
not see them; I should have liked to stop my ears against their sound,
for now the luminous plenitude of the beach carved out an emptiness in
my heart; everything seemed to be saying to me, like those paths and
lawns of a public garden in which I had once lost her, long ago, when
I was still a child: "We have not seen her," and beneath the
hemisphere of the pale vault of heaven I felt myself crushed as though
beneath a huge bell of bluish glass, enclosing an horizon within which
my grandmother was not. To escape from the sight of it, I turned to
the wall, but alas what was now facing me was that partition which
used to serve us as a morning messenger, that partition which, as
responsive as a violin in rendering every fine shade of sentiment,
reported so exactly to my grandmother my fear at once of waking her
and, if she were already awake, of not being heard by her and so of
her not coming, then immediately, like a second instrument taking up
the melody, informed me that she was coming and bade me be calm. I
dared not put out my hand to that wall, any more than to a piano on
which my grandmother had played and which still throbbed from her
touch. I knew that I might knock now, even louder, that I should hear
no response, that my grandmother would never come again. And I asked
nothing better of God, if a Paradise exists, than to be able, there,
to knock upon that wall the three little raps which my grandmother
would know among a thousand, and to which she would reply with those
other raps which said: "Don't be alarmed, little mouse, I know you are
impatient, but I am just coming," and that He would let me remain with
her throughout eternity which would not be too long for us.

The manager came in to ask whether I would not like to come down. He
had most carefully supervised my 'placement' in the dining-room. As he
had seen no sign of me, he had been afraid that I might have had
another of my choking fits. He hoped that it might be only a little
'sore throats' and assured me that he had heard it said that they
could be soothed with what he called 'calyptus.'

He brought me a message from Albertine. She was not supposed to be
coming to Balbec that year but, having changed her plans, had been for
the last three days not in Balbec itself but ten minutes away by the
tram at a neighbouring watering-place. Fearing that I might be tired
after the journey, she had stayed away the first evening, but sent
word now to ask when I could see her. I inquired whether she had
called in person, not that I wished to see her, but so that I might
arrange not to see her. "Yes," replied the manager. "But she would
like it to be as soon as possible, unless you have not some quite
necessitous reasons. You see," he concluded, "that everybody here
desires you, definitively." But for my part, I wished to see nobody.

And yet the day before, on my arrival, I had felt myself recaptured by
the indolent charm of a seaside existence. The same taciturn lift-boy,
silent this time from respect and not from scorn, and glowing with
pleasure, had set the lift in motion. As I rose upon the ascending
column, I had passed once again through what had formerly been for me
the mystery of a strange hotel, in which when you arrive, a tourist
without protection or position, each old resident returning to his
room, each chambermaid passing along the eery perspective of a
corridor, not to mention the young lady from America with her
companion, on their way down to dinner, give you a look in which you
can read nothing that you would have liked to see. This time on the
contrary I had felt the entirely soothing pleasure of passing up
through an hotel that I knew, where I felt myself at home, where I had
performed once again that operation which we must always start afresh,
longer, more difficult than the turning outside in of an eyelid, which
consists in investing things with the spirit that is familiar to us
instead of their own which we found alarming. Must I always, I had
asked myself, little thinking of the sudden change of mood that was in
store for me, be going to strange hotels where I should be dining for
the first time, where Habit would not yet have killed upon each
landing, outside every door, the terrible dragon that seemed to be
watching over an enchanted life, where I should have to approach those
strange women whom fashionable hotels, casinos, watering-places, seem
to draw together and endow with a common existence.

I had found pleasure even in the thought that the boring chief
magistrate was so eager to see me, I could see, on that first evening,
the waves, the azure mountain ranges of the sea, its glaciers and its
cataracts, its elevation and its careless majesty—merely upon
smelling for the first time after so long an interval, as I washed my
hands, that peculiar odour of the over-scented soaps of the Grand
Hotel—which, seeming to belong at once to the present moment and to
my past visit, floated between them like the real charm of a
particular form of existence to which one returns only to change one's
necktie. The sheets on my bed, too fine, too light, too large,
impossible to tuck in, to keep in position, which billowed out from
beneath the blankets in moving whorls had distressed me before. Now
they merely cradled upon the awkward, swelling fulness of their sails
the glorious sunrise, big with hopes, of my first morning. But that
sun had not time to appear. In the dead of night, the awful, godlike
presence had returned to life. I asked the manager to leave me, and to
give orders that no one was to enter my room. I told him that I should
remain in bed and rejected his offer to send to the chemist's for the
excellent drug. He was delighted by my refusal for he was afraid that
other visitors might be annoyed by the smell of the 'calyptus.' It
earned me the compliment: "You are in the movement" (he meant: 'in the
right'), and the warning: "take care you don't defile yourself at the
door, I've had the lock 'elucidated' with oil; if any of the servants
dares to knock at your door, he'll be beaten 'black and white.' And
they can mark my words, for I'm not a repeater" (this evidently meant
that he did not say a thing twice). "But wouldn't you care for a drop
of old wine, just to set you up; I have a pig's head of it downstairs"
(presumably hogshead). "I shan't bring it to you on a silver dish like
the head of Jonathan, and I warn you that it is not Château-Lafite,
but it is virtuously equivocal" (virtually equivalent). "And as it's
quite light, they might fry you a little sole." I declined everything,
but was surprised to hear the name of the fish (sole) pronounced like
that of the King of Israel, Saul, by a man who must have ordered so
many in his life.

Despite the manager's promises, they brought me in a little later the
turned down card of the Marquise de Cambremer. Having come over to see
me, the old lady had sent to inquire whether I was there and when she
heard that I had arrived only the day before, and was unwell, had not
insisted, but (not without stopping, doubtless, at the chemist's or
the haberdasher's, while the footman jumped down from the box and went
in to pay a bill or to give an order) had driven back to Féterne, in
her old barouche upon eight springs, drawn by a pair of horses. Not
infrequently did one hear the rumble and admire the pomp of this
carriage in the streets of Balbec and of various other little places
along the coast, between Balbec and Féterne. Not that these halts
outside shops were the object of these excursions. It was on the
contrary some tea-party or garden-party at the house of some squire or
functionary, socially quite unworthy of the Marquise. But she,
although completely overshadowing, by her birth and wealth, the petty
nobility of the district, was in her perfect goodness and simplicity
of heart so afraid of disappointing anyone who had sent her an
invitation that she would attend all the most insignificant social
gatherings in the neighbourhood. Certainly, rather than travel such a
distance to listen, in the stifling heat of a tiny drawing-room, to a
singer who generally had no voice and whom in her capacity as the lady
bountiful of the countryside and as a famous musician she would
afterwards be compelled to congratulate with exaggerated warmth, Mme.
de Cambremer would have preferred to go for a drive or to remain in
her marvellous gardens at Féterne, at the foot of which the drowsy
waters of a little bay float in to die amid the flowers. But she knew
that the probability of her coming had been announced by the host,
whether he was a noble or a free burgess of Maineville-la Teinturière
or of Chattoncourt-l'Orgueilleux. And if Mme. de Cambremer had driven
out that afternoon without making a formal appearance at the party,
any of the guests who had come from one or other of the little places
that lined the coast might have seen and heard the Marquise's
barouche, which would deprive her of the excuse that she had not been
able to get away from Féterne. On the other hand, these hosts might
have seen Mme. de Cambremer, time and again, appear at concerts given
in houses which, they considered, were no place for her; the slight
depreciation caused thereby, in their eyes, to the position of the too
obliging Marquise vanished as soon as it was they who were
entertaining her, and it was with feverish anxiety that they kept
asking themselves whether or not they were going to have her at their
'small party.' What an allaying of the doubts and fears of days if,
after the first song had been sung by the daughter of the house or by
some amateur on holiday in the neighbourhood, one of the guests
announced (an infallible sign that the Marquise was coming to the
party) that he had seen the famous barouche and pair drawn up outside
the watchmaker's or the chemist's! Thereupon Mme. de Cambremer (who
indeed was to enter before long followed by her daughter-in-law, the
guests who were staying with her at the moment and whom she had asked
permission, granted with such joy, to bring) shone once more with
undiminished lustre in the eyes of her host and hostess, to whom the
hoped-for reward of her coming had perhaps been the determining if
unavowed cause of the decision they had made a month earlier: to
burden themselves with the trouble and expense of an afternoon party.
Seeing the Marquise present at their gathering, they remembered no
longer her readiness to attend those given by their less deserving
neighbours, but the antiquity of her family, the splendour of her
house, the rudeness of her daughter-in-law, born Legrandin, who by her
arrogance emphasised the slightly insipid good-nature of the dowager.
Already they could see in their mind's eye, in the social column of
the _Gaulois_, the paragraph which they would draft themselves in the
family circle, with all the doors shut and barred, upon 'the little
corner of Brittany which is at present a whirl of gaiety, the select
party from which the guests could hardly tear themselves away,
promising their charming host and hostess that they would soon pay
them another visit.' Day after day they watched for the newspaper to
arrive, worried that they had not yet seen any notice in it of their
party, and afraid lest they should have had Mme. de Cambremer for
their other guests alone and not for the whole reading public. At
length the blessed day arrived: "The season is exceptionally brilliant
this year at Balbec. Small afternoon concerts are the fashion...."
Heaven be praised, Mme. de Cambremer's name was spelt correctly, and
included 'among others we may mention' but at the head of the list.
All that remained was to appear annoyed at this journalistic
indiscretion which might get them into difficulties with people whom
they had not been able to invite, and to ask hypocritically in Mme. de
Cambremer's hearing who could have been so treacherous as to send the
notice, upon which the Marquise, every inch the lady bountiful, said:
"I can understand your being annoyed, but I must say I am only too
delighted that people should know I was at your party."

On the card that was brought me, Mme. de Cambremer had scribbled the
message that she was giving an afternoon party 'the day after
tomorrow.' To be sure, as recently as the day before yesterday, tired
as I was of the social round, it would have been a real pleasure to me
to taste it, transplanted amid those gardens in which there grew in
the open air, thanks to the exposure of Féterne, fig trees, palms,
rose bushes extending down to a sea as blue and calm often as the
Mediterranean, upon which the host's little yacht sped across, before
the party began, to fetch from the places on the other side of the bay
the most important guests, served, with its awnings spread to shut out
the sun, after the party had assembled, as an open air refreshment
room, and set sail again in the evening to take back those whom it had
brought. A charming luxury, but so costly that it was partly to meet
the expenditure that it entailed that Mme. de Cambremer had sought to
increase her income in various ways, and notably by letting, for the
first time, one of her properties very different from Féterne: la
Raspelière. Yes, two days earlier, how welcome such a party, peopled
with minor nobles all unknown to me, would have been to me as a change
from the 'high life' of Paris. But now pleasures had no longer any
meaning for me. And so I wrote to Mme. de Cambremer to decline, just
as, an hour ago, I had put off Albertine: grief had destroyed in me
the possibility of desire as completely as a high fever takes away
one's appetite.... My mother was to arrive on the morrow. I felt that
I was less unworthy to live in her company, that I should understand
her better, now that an alien and degrading existence had wholly given
place to the resurging, heartrending memories that wreathed and
ennobled my soul, like her own, with their crown of thorns. I thought
so: in reality there is a world of difference between real griefs,
like my mother's, which literally crush out our life for years if not
for ever, when we have lost the person we love—and those other
griefs, transitory when all is said, as mine was to be, which pass as
quickly as they have been slow in coming, which we do not realise
until long after the event, because, in order to feel them, we need
first to understand them; griefs such as so many people feel, from
which the grief that was torturing me at this moment differed only in
assuming the form of unconscious memory.

That I was one day to experience a grief as profound as that of my
mother, we shall find in the course of this narrative, but it was
neither then nor thus that I imagined it. Nevertheless, like a
principal actor who ought to have learned his part and to have been in
his place long beforehand but has arrived only at the last moment and,
having read over once only what he has to say, manages to 'gag' so
skilfully when his cue comes that nobody notices his unpunctuality, my
new-found grief enabled me, when my mother came, to talk to her as
though it had existed always. She supposed merely that the sight of
these places which I had visited with my grandmother (which was not at
all the case) had revived it. For the first time then, and because I
felt a sorrow which was nothing compared with hers, but which opened
my eyes, I realised and was appalled to think what she must be
suffering. For the first time I understood that the fixed and tearless
gaze (which made Françoise withhold her sympathy) that she had worn
since my grandmother's death had been arrested by that
incomprehensible contradiction of memory and nonexistence. Besides,
since she was, although still in deep mourning, more fashionably
dressed in this strange place, I was more struck by the transformation
that had occurred in her. It is not enough to say that she had lost
all her gaiety; melted, congealed into a sort of imploring image, she
seemed to be afraid of shocking by too sudden a movement, by too loud
a tone, the sorrowful presence that never parted from her. But, what
struck me most of all, when I saw her cloak of crape, was—what had
never occurred to me in Paris—that it was no longer my mother that I
saw before me, but my grandmother. As, in royal and princely
families, upon the death of the head of the house his son takes his
title and, from being Duc d'Orléans, Prince de Tarente or Prince des
Laumes, becomes King of France, Duc de la Trémoïlle, Duc de
Guermantes, so by an accession of a different order and more remote
origin, the dead man takes possession of the living who becomes his
image and successor, carries on his interrupted life. Perhaps the
great sorrow that follows, in a daughter such as Mamma, the death of
her mother only makes the chrysalis break open a little sooner,
hastens the metamorphosis and the appearance of a person whom we carry
within us and who, but for this crisis which annihilates time and
space, would have come more gradually to the surface. Perhaps, in our
regret for her who is no more, there is a sort of auto-suggestion
which ends by bringing out on our features resemblances which
potentially we already bore, and above all a cessation of our most
characteristically personal activity (in my mother, her common sense,
the sarcastic gaiety that she inherited from her father) which we did
not shrink, so long as the beloved was alive, from exercising, even at
her expense, and which counterbalanced the traits that we derived
exclusively from her. Once she is dead, we should hesitate to be
different, we begin to admire only what she was, what we ouiselves
already were only blended with something else, and what in future we
are to be exclusively. It is in this sense (and not in that other, so
vague, so false, in which the phrase is generally used) that we may
say that death is not in vain, that the dead man continues to react
upon us. He reacts even more than a living man because, true reality
being discoverable only by the mind, being the object of a spiritual
operation, we acquire a true knowledge only of things that we are
obliged to create anew by thought, things that are hidden' from us in
everyday life.... Lastly, in our mourning for our dead we pay an
idolatrous worship to the things that they liked. Not only could not
my mother bear to be parted from my grandmother's bag, become more
precious than if it had been studded with sapphires and diamonds, from
her muff, from all those garments which served to enhance their
personal resemblance, but even from the volumes of Mme. de Sévigné
which my grandmother took with her everywhere, copies which my mother
would not have exchanged for the original manuscript of the letters.
She had often teased my grandmother who could never write to her
without quoting some phrase of Mme. de Sévigné or Mme. de Beausergent.
In each of the three letters that I received from Mamma before her
arrival at Balbec, she quoted Mme. de Sévigné to me, as though those
three letters had been written not by her to me but by my grandmother
and to her. She must at once go out upon the front to see that beach
of which my grandmother had spoken to her every day in her letters.
Carrying her mother's sunshade, I saw her from my window advance, a
sable figure, with timid, pious steps, over the sands that beloved
feet had trodden before her, and she looked as though she were going
down to find a corpse which the waves would cast up at her feet. So
that she should not have to dine by herself, I was to join her
downstairs. The chief magistrate and the barrister's widow asked to be
introduced to her. And everything that was in any way connected with
my grandmother was so precious to her that she was deeply touched,
remembered ever afterwards with gratitude what the chief magistrate
had said to her, just as she was hurt and indignant that, the
barrister's wife had not a word to say in memory of the dead. In
reality, the chief magistrate was no more concerned about my
grandmother than the barrister's wife. The heartfelt words of the one
and the other's silence, for all that my mother imagined so vast a
difference between them, were but alternative ways of expressing that
indifference which we feel towards the dead. But I think that my
mother found most comfort in the words in which, quite involuntarily,
I conveyed to her a little of my own anguish. It could not but make
Mamma happy (notwithstanding all her affection for myself), like
everything else that guaranteed my grandmother survival in our hearts.
Daily after this my mother went down and sat upon the beach, so as to
do exactly what her mother had done, and read her mother's two
favourite books, the _Memoirs_ of Madame de Beausergent and the
_Letters_ of Madame de Sévigné. She, like all the rest of us, could
not bear to hear the latter lady called the 'spirituelle Marquise' any
more than to hear La Fontaine called 'le Bonhomme.' But when, in
reading the _Letters_, she came upon the words: 'My daughter,' she
seemed to be listening to her mother's voice.

She had the misfortune, upon one of these pilgrimages during which she
did not like to be disturbed, to meet upon the beach a lady from
Combray, accompanied by her daughters. Her name was, I think, Madame
Poussin. But among ourselves we always referred to her as the 'Pretty
Kettle of Fish,' for it was by the perpetual repetition of this phrase
that she warned her daughters of the evils that they were laying up
for themselves, saying for instance if one of them was rubbing her
eyes: "When you go and get ophthalmia, that will be a pretty kettle of
fish." She greeted my mother from afar with slow and melancholy bows,
a sign not of condolence but of the nature of her social training. We
might never have lost my grandmother, or had any reason to be anything
but happy. Living in comparative retirement at Combray within the
walls of her large garden, she could never find anything soft enough
to her liking, and subjected to a softening process the words and even
the proper names of the French language. She felt 'spoon' to be too
hard a word to apply to the piece of silver which measured out her
syrups, and said, in consequence, 'spune'; she would have been afraid
of hurting the feelings of the sweet singer of Télémaque by calling
him bluntly Fénelon—as I myself said with a clear conscience, having
had as a friend the dearest and cleverest of men, good and gallant,
never to be forgotten by any that knew him, Bertrand de Fénelon—and
never said anything but 'Fénelon,' feeling that the acute accent added
a certain softness. The far from soft son-in-law of this Madame
Poussin, whose name I have forgotten, having been a lawyer at Combray,
ran off with the contents of the safe, and relieved my uncle among
others of a considerable sum of money. But most of the people of
Combray were on such friendly terms with the rest of the family that
no coolness ensued and her neighbours said merely that they were sorry
for Madame Poussin. She never entertained, but whenever people passed
by her railings they would stop to admire the delicious shade of her
trees', which was the only thing that could be made out. She gave us
no trouble at Balbec, where I encountered her only once, at a moment
when she was saying to a daughter who was biting her nails: "When they
begin to fester, that will be a pretty kettle of fish."

While Mamma sat reading on the beach I remained in my room by myself.
I recalled the last weeks of my grandmother's life, and everything
connected with them, the outer door of the flat which had been propped
open when I went out with her for the last time. In contrast to all
this the rest of the world seemed scarcely real and my anguish
poisoned everything in it. Finally my mother insisted upon my going
out. But at every step, some forgotten view of the casino, of the
street along which, as I waited until she was ready, that first
evening, I had walked as far as the monument to Duguay-Trouin,
prevented me, like a wind against which it is hopeless to struggle,
from going farther; I lowered my eyes in order not to see. And after I
had recovered my strength a little I turned back towards the hotel,
the hotel in which I knew that it was henceforth impossible that,
however long I might wait, I should find my grandmother, whom I had
found there before, on the evening of our arrival. As it was the first
time that I had gone out of doors, a number of servants whom I had not
yet seen were gazing at me curiously. Upon the very threshold of the
hotel a young page took off his cap to greet me and at once put it on
again. I supposed that Aimé had, to borrow his own expression, 'given
him the office' to treat me with respect. But I saw a moment later
that, as some one else entered the hotel, he doffed it again. The fact
of the matter was that this young man had no other occupation in life
than to take off and put on his cap, and did it to perfection. Having
realised that he was incapable of doing anything else and that in this
art he excelled, he practised it as often as was possible daily, which
won him a discreet but widespread regard from the visitors, coupled
with great regard from the hall porter upon whom devolved the duty of
engaging the boys and who, until this rare bird alighted, had never
succeeded in finding one who did not receive notice within a week,
greatly to the astonishment of Aimé who used to say: "After all, in
that job they've only got to be polite, which can't be so very
difficult." The manager required in addition that they should have
what he called a good 'presence,' meaning thereby that they should not
be absent from their posts, or perhaps having heard the word
'presence' used of personal appearance. The appearance of the lawn
behind the hotel had been altered by the creation of several
flower-beds and by the removal not only of an exotic shrub but of the
page who, at the time of my former visit, used to provide an external
decoration with the supple stem of his figure crowned by the curious
colouring of his hair. He had gone with a Polish countess who had
taken him as her secretary, following the example of his two elder
brothers and their typist sister, torn from the hotel by persons of
different race and sex who had been attracted by their charm. The
only one remaining was the youngest, whom nobody wanted, because he
squinted. He was highly delighted when the Polish countess or the
protectors of the other two brothers came on a visit to the hotel at
Balbec. For, albeit he was jealous of his brothers, he was fond of
them and could in this way cultivate his family affections for a few
weeks in the year. Was not the Abbess of Fontevrault accustomed,
deserting her nuns for the occasion, to come and partake of the
hospitality which Louis XIV offered to that other Mortemart, his
mistress, Madame de Montespan? The boy was still in his first year at
Balbec; he did not as yet know me, but having heard his comrades of
longer standing supplement the word 'Monsieur,' when they addressed
me, with my surname, he copied them from the first with an air of
satisfaction, whether at shewing his familiarity with a person whom he
supposed to be well-known, or at conforming with a custom of which
five minutes earlier he had never heard but which he felt it to be
indispensable that he should not fail to observe. I could quite well
appreciate the charm that this great 'Palace' might have for certain
persons. It was arranged like a theatre, and a numerous cast filled it
to the doors with animation. For all that the visitor was only a sort
of spectator, he was perpetually taking part in the performance, and
that not as in one of those theatres where the actors perform a play
among the audience, but as though the life of the spectator were going
on amid the sumptuous fittings of the stage. The lawn-tennis player
might come in wearing a white flannel blazer, the porter would have
put on a blue frock coat with silver braid before handing him his
letters. If this lawn-tennis player did not choose to walk upstairs,
he was equally involved with the actors in having by his side, to
propel the lift, its attendant no less richly attired. The corridors
on each landing engulfed a flying band of nymphlike chambermaids, fair
visions against the sea, at whose modest chambers the admirers of
feminine beauty arrived by cunning detours. Downstairs, it was the
masculine element that predominated and made this hotel, in view of
the extreme and effortless youth of the servants, a sort of
Judaeo-Christian tragedy given bodily form and perpetually in
performance. And so I could not help repeating to myself, when I saw
them, not indeed the lines of Racine that had come into my head at the
Princesse de Guermantes's while M. de Vaugoubert stood watching young
secretaries of embassy greet M. de Charlus, but other lines of Racine,
taken this time not from _Esther_ but from _Athalie_: for in the
doorway of the hall, what in the seventeenth century was called the
portico, 'a flourishing race' of young pages clustered, especially at
tea-time, like the young Israelites of Racine's choruses. But I do not
believe that one of them could have given even the vague answer that
Joas finds to satisfy Athalie when she inquires of the infant Prince:
"What is your office, then?" for they had none. At the most, if one
had asked of any of them, like the new Queen: "But all this race, what
do they then, imprisoned in this place?" he might have said: "I watch
the solemn pomp and bear my part." Now and then one of the young
supers would approach some more important personage, then this young
beauty would rejoin the chorus, and, unless it were the moment for a
spell of contemplative relaxation, they would proceed with their
useless, reverent, decorative, daily evolutions. For, except on their
'day off,' 'reared in seclusion from the world' and never crossing the
threshold, they led the same ecclesiastical existence as the Levites
in _Athalie_, and as I gazed at that 'young and faithful troop'
playing at the foot of the steps draped with sumptuous carpets, I felt
inclined to ask myself whether I were entering the Grand Hotel at
Balbec or the Temple of Solomon.

I went straight up to my room. My thoughts kept constantly turning to
the last days of my grandmother's illness, to her sufferings which I
lived over again, intensifying them with that element which is even
harder to endure than the sufferings of other people, and is added to
them by our merciless pity; when we think that we are merely reviving
the pains of a beloved friend, our pity exaggerates them; but perhaps
it is our pity that is in the right, more than the sufferers' own
consciousness of their pains, they being blind to that tragedy of
their own existence which pity sees and deplores. Certainly my pity
would have taken fresh strength and far exceeded my grandmother's
sufferings had I known then what I did not know until long afterwards,
that my grandmother, on the eve of her death, in a moment of
consciousness and after making sure that I was not in the room, had
taken Mamma's hand, and, after pressing her fevered lips to it, had
said: "Farewell, my child, farewell for ever." And this may perhaps
have been the memory upon which my mother never ceased to gaze so
fixedly. Then more pleasant memories returned to me. She was my
grandmother and I was her grandson. Her facial expressions seemed
written in a language intended for me alone; she was everything in my
life, other people existed merely in relation to her, to the judgment
that she would pass upon them; but no, our relations were too fleeting
to have been anything but accidental. She no longer knew me, I should
never see her again. We had not been created solely for one another,
she was a stranger to me. This stranger was before my eyes at the
moment in the photograph taken of her by Saint-Loup. Mamma, who had
met Albertine, insisted upon my seeing her, because of the nice things
that she had said about my grandmother and myself. I had accordingly
made an appointment with her. I told the manager that she was coming,
and asked him to let her wait for me in the drawing-room. He informed
me that he had known her for years, her and her friends, long before
they had attained 'the age of purity' but that he was annoyed with
them because of certain things that they had said about the hotel.
"They can't be very 'gentlemanly' if they talk like that. Unless
people have been slandering them." I had no difficulty in guessing
that 'purity' here meant 'puberty.' As I waited until it should be
time to go down and meet Albertine, I was keeping my eyes fixed, as
upon a picture which one ceases to see by dint of staring at it, upon
the photograph that Saint-Loup had taken, when all of a sudden I
thought once again: "It's grandmother, I am her grandson" as a man who
has lost his memory remembers his name, as a sick man changes his
personality. Françoise came in to tell me that Albertine was there,
and, catching sight of the photograph: "Poor Madame; it's the very
image of her, even the beauty spot on her cheek; that day the Marquis
took her picture, she was very poorly, she had been taken bad twice.
'Whatever happens, Françoise,' she said, 'you must never let my
grandson know.' And she kept it to herself, she was always bright with
other people. When she was by herself, though, I used to find that she
seemed to be in rather monotonous spirits now and then. But that soon
passed away. And then she said to me, she said: 'If anything were to
happen to me, he ought to have a picture of me to keep. And I have
never had one done in my life.' So then she sent me along with a
message to the Marquis, and he was never to let you know that it was
she who had asked him, but could he take her photograph. But when I
came back and told her that he would, she had changed her mind again,
because she was looking so poorly. 'It would be even worse,' she said
to me, 'than no picture at all.' But she was a clever one, she was,
and in the end she got herself up so well in that big shady hat that
it didn't shew at all when she was out of the sun. She was very glad
to have that photograph, because at that time she didn't think she
would ever leave Balbec alive. It was no use my saying to her:
'Madame, it's wrong to talk like that, I don't like to hear Madame
talk like that,' she had got it into her head. And, lord, there were
plenty days when she couldn't eat a thing. That was why she used to
make Monsieur go and dine away out in the country with M. le Marquis.
Then, instead of going in to dinner, she would pretend to be reading a
book, and as soon as the Marquis's carriage had started, up she would
go to bed. Some days she wanted to send word to Madame, to come down
and see her in time. And then she was afraid of alarming her, as she
had said nothing to her about it. 'It will be better for her to stay
with her husband, don't you see, Françoise.'" Looking me in the face,
Françoise asked me all of a sudden if I was 'feeling indisposed.' I
said that I was not; whereupon she: "And you make me waste my time
talking to you. Your visitor has been here all this time. I must go
down and tell her. She is not the sort of person to have here. Why, a
fast one like that, she may be gone again by now. She doesn't like to
be kept waiting. Oh, nowadays, Mademoiselle Albertine, she's
somebody!" "You are quite wrong, she is a very respectable person, too
respectable for this place. But go and tell her that I shan't be able
to see her to-day."

What compassionate declamations I should have provoked from Françoise
if she had seen me cry. I carefully hid myself from her. Otherwise I
should have had her sympathy. But I gave her mine. We do not put
ourselves sufficiently in the place of these poor maidservants who
cannot bear to see us cry, as though crying were bad for us; or bad,
perhaps, for them, for Françoise used to say to me when I was a child:
"Don't cry like that, I don't like to see you crying like that." We
dislike highfalutin language, asseverations, we are wrong, we close
our hearts to the pathos of the countryside, to the legend which the
poor servant girl, dismissed, unjustly perhaps, for theft, pale as
death, grown suddenly more humble than if it were a crime merely to be
accused, unfolds, invoking her father's honesty, her mother's
principles, her grandam's counsels. It is true that those same
servants who cannot bear our tears will have no hesitation in letting
us catch pneumonia, because the maid downstairs likes draughts and it
would not be polite to her to shut the windows. For it is necessary
that even those who are right, like Françoise, should be wrong also,
so that Justice may be made an impossible thing. Even the humble
pleasures of servants provoke either the refusal or the ridicule of
their masters. For it is always a mere nothing, but foolishly
sentimental, unhygienic. And so, they are in a position to say: "How
is it that I ask for only this one thing in the whole year, and am not
allowed it." And yet the masters will allow them something far more
difficult, which was not stupid and dangerous for the servants—or for
themselves. To be sure, the humility of the wretched maid, trembling,
ready to confess the crime that she has not committed, saying "I shall
leave to-night if you wish it," is a thing that nobody can resist.
But we must learn also not to remain unmoved, despite the solemn,
menacing fatuity of the things that she says, her maternal heritage
and the dignity of the family 'kailyard,' before an old cook draped in
the honour of her life and of her ancestry, wielding her broom like a
sceptre, donning the tragic buskin, stifling her speech with sobs,
drawing herself up with majesty. That afternoon, I remembered or
imagined scenes of this sort which I associated with our old servant,
and from then onwards, in spite of all the harm that she might do to
Albertine, I loved Françoise with an affection, intermittent it is
true, but of the strongest kind, the kind that is founded upon pity.

To be sure, I suffered agonies all that day, as I sat gazing at my
grandmother's photograph. It tortured me. Not so acutely, though, as
the visit I received that evening from the manager. After I had spoken
to him about my grandmother, and he had reiterated his condolences, I
heard him say (for he enjoyed using the words that he pronounced
wrongly): "Like the day when Madame your grandmother had that sincup,
I wanted to tell you about it, because of the other visitors, don't
you know, it might have given the place a bad name. She ought really
to have left that evening. But she begged me to say nothing about it
and promised me that she wouldn't have another sincup, or the first
time she had one, she would go. The floor waiter reported to me that
she had had another. But, lord, you were old friends that we try to
please, and so long as nobody made any complaint." And so my
grandmother had had syncopes which she had never mentioned to me.
Perhaps at the very moment when I was being most beastly to her, when
she was obliged, amid her pain, to see that she kept her temper, so as
not to anger me, and her looks, so as not to be turned out of the
hotel. 'Sincup' was a word which, so pronounced, I should never have
imagined, which might perhaps, applied to other people, have struck me
as ridiculous, but which in its strange sonorous novelty, like that of
an original discord, long retained the faculty of arousing in me the
most painful sensations.

Next day I went, at Mamma's request, to lie down for a little on the
sands, or rather among the dunes, where one is hidden by their folds,
and I knew that Albertine and her friends would not be able to find
me. My drooping eyelids allowed but one kind of light to pass, all
rosy, the light of the inner walls of the eyes. Then they shut
altogether. Whereupon my grandmother appeared to me, seated in an
armchair. So feeble she was, she seemed to be less alive than other
people. And yet I could hear her breathe; now and again she made a
sign to shew that she had understood what we were saying, my father
and I. But in vain might I take her in my arms, I failed utterly to
kindle a spark of affection in her eyes, a flush of colour in her
cheeks. Absent from herself, she appeared somehow not to love me, not
to know me, perhaps not to see me. I could not interpret the secret of
her indifference, of her dejection, of her silent resentment. I drew
my father aside. "You can see, all the same," I said to him, "there's
no doubt about it, she understands everything perfectly. It is a
perfect imitation of life. If we could have your cousin here, who
maintains that the dead don't live. Why, she's been dead for more than
a year now, and she's still alive. But why won't she give me a kiss?"
"Look her poor head is drooping again." "But she wants to go, now, to
the Champs-Elysées." "It's madness!" "You really think it can do her
any harm, that she can die any further? It isn't possible that she no
longer loves me. I keep on hugging her, won't she ever smile at me
again?" "What can you expect, when people are dead they are dead."

A few days later I was able to look with pleasure at the photograph
that Saint-Loup had taken of her; it did not revive the memory of what
Françoise had told me, because that memory had never left me and I was
growing used to it. But with regard to the idea that I had received of
the state of her health—so grave, so painful—on that day, the
photograph, still profiting by the ruses that my grandmother had
adopted, which succeeded in taking me in even after they had been
disclosed to me, shewed me her so smart, so care-free, beneath the hat
which partly hid her face, that I saw her looking less unhappy and in
better health than I had imagined. And yet, her cheeks having
unconsciously assumed an expression of their own, livid, haggard, like
the expression of an animal that feels that it has been marked down
for slaughter, my grandmother had an air of being under sentence of
death, an air involuntarily sombre, unconsciously tragic, which passed
unperceived by me but prevented Mamma from ever looking at that
photograph, that photograph which seemed to her a photograph not so
much of her mother as of her mother's disease, of an insult that the
disease was offering to the brutally buffeted face of my grandmother.

Then one day I decided to send word to Albertine that I would see her
presently. This was because, on a morning of intense and premature
heat, the myriad cries of children at play, of bathers disporting
themselves, of newsvendors, had traced for me in lines of fire, in
wheeling, interlacing flashes, the scorching beach which the little
waves came up one after another to sprinkle with their coolness; then
had begun the symphonic concert mingled with the splashing of the
water, through which the violins hummed like a swarm of bees that had
strayed out over the sea. At once I had longed to hear again
Albertine's laughter, to see her friends, those girls outlined against
the waves who had remained in my memory the inseparable charm, the
typical flora of Balbec; and I had determined to send a line by
Françoise to Albertine, making an appointment for the following week,
while, gently rising, the sea as each wave uncurled completely buried
in layers of crystal the melody whose phrases appeared to be separated
from one another like those angel lutanists which on the roof of the
Italian cathedral rise between the peaks of blue porphyry and foaming
jasper. But on the day on which Albertine came, the weather had turned
dull and cold again, and moreover I had no opportunity of hearing her
laugh; she was in a very bad temper. "Balbec is deadly dull this
year," she said to me. "I don't mean to stay any longer than I can
help. You know I've been here since Easter, that's more than a month.
There's not a soul here. You can imagine what fun it is."
Notwithstanding the recent rain and a sky that changed every moment,
after escorting Albertine as far as Epreville, for she was, to borrow
her expression, 'on the run' between that little watering-place, where
Mme. Bontemps had her villa, and Parville, where she had been taken
'en pension' by Rosemonde's family, I went off by myself in the
direction of the highroad that Mme. de Villeparisis's carriage had
taken when we went for a drive with my grandmother; pools of water
which the sun, now bright again, had not dried made a regular quagmire
of the ground, and I thought of my grandmother who, in the old days,
could not walk a yard without covering herself with mud. But on
reaching the road I found a dazzling spectacle. Where I had seen with
my grandmother in the month of August only the green leaves and, so to
speak, the disposition of the apple-trees, as far as the eye could
reach they were in full bloom, marvellous in their splendour, their
feet in the mire beneath their ball-dresses, taking no precaution not
to spoil the most marvellous pink satin that was ever seen, which
glittered in the sunlight; the distant horizon of the sea gave the
trees the background of a Japanese print; if I raised my head to gaze
at the sky through the blossom, which made its serene blue appear
almost violent, the trees seemed to be drawing apart to reveal the
immensity of their paradise. Beneath that azure a faint but cold
breeze set the blushing bouquets gently trembling. Blue tits came and
perched upon the branches and fluttered among the flowers, indulgent,
as though it had been an amateur of exotic art and colours who had
artificially created this living beauty. But it moved one to tears
because, to whatever lengths the artist went in the refinement of his
creation, one felt that it was natural, that these apple-trees were
there in the heart of the country, like peasants, upon one of the
highroads of France. Then the rays of the sun gave place suddenly to
those of the rain; they streaked the whole horizon, caught the line of
apple-trees in their grey net. But they continued to hold aloft their
beauty, pink and blooming, in the wind that had turned icy beneath the
drenching rain: it was a day in spring.





CHAPTER II


The mysteries of Albertine—The girls whom she sees reflected in the
glass—The other woman—The lift-boy—Madame de Cambremer—The
pleasures of M. Nissim Bernard—Outline of the strange character of
Morel—M. de Charlus dines with the Verdurins.


IN my fear lest the pleasure I found in this solitary excursion might
weaken my memory of my grandmother, I sought to revive this by
thinking of some great mental suffering that she had undergone; in
response to my appeal that suffering tried to build itself in my
heart, threw up vast pillars there; but my heart was doubtless too
small for it, I had not the strength to bear so great a grief, my
attention was distracted at the moment when it was approaching
completion, and its arches collapsed before joining as, before they
have perfected their curve, the waves of the sea totter and break.

And yet, if only from my dreams when I was asleep, I might have
learned that my grief for my grandmother's death was diminishing, for
she appeared in them less crushed by the idea that I had formed of her
non-existence. I saw her an invalid still, but on the road to
recovery, I found her in better health. And if she made any allusion
to what she had suffered, I stopped her mouth with my kisses and
assured her that she was now permanently cured. I should have liked to
call the sceptics to witness that death is indeed a malady from which
one recovers. Only, I no longer found in my grandmother the rich
spontaneity of old times. Her words were no more than a feeble, docile
response, almost a mere echo of mine; she was nothing more than the
reflexion of my own thoughts.

Incapable as I still was of feeling any fresh physical desire,
Albertine was beginning nevertheless to inspire in me a desire for
happiness. Certain dreams of shared affection, always floating on the
surface of our minds, ally themselves readily by a sort of affinity
with the memory (provided that this has already become slightly vague)
of a woman with whom we have taken our pleasure. This sentiment
recalled to me aspects of Albertine's face, more gentle, less gay,
quite different from those that would have been evoked by physical
desire; and as it was also less pressing than that desire I would
gladly have postponed its realisation until the following winter,
without seeking to see Albertine again at Balbec, before her
departure. But even in the midst of a grief that is still keen
physical desire will revive. From my bed, where I was made to spend
hours every day resting, I longed for Albertine to come and resume our
former amusements. Do we not see, in the very room in which they have
lost a child, its parents soon come together again to give the little
angel a baby brother? I tried to distract my mind from this desire by
going to the window to look at that day's sea. As in the former year,
the seas, from one day to another, were rarely the same. Nor, however,
did they at all resemble those of that first year, whether because we
were now in spring with its storms, or because even if I had come down
at the same time as before, the different, more changeable weather
might have discouraged from visiting this coast certain seas,
indolent, vaporous and fragile, which I had seen throughout long,
scorching days, asleep upon the beach, their bluish bosoms, only,
faintly stirring, with a soft palpitation, or, as was most probable,
because my eyes, taught by Elstir to retain precisely those elements
that before I had deliberately rejected, would now gaze for hours at
what in the former year they had been incapable of seeing. The
contrast that used then to strike me so forcibly between the country
drives that I took with Mme. de Villeparisis and this proximity,
fluid, inaccessible, mythological, of the eternal Ocean, no longer
existed for me. And there were days now when, on the contrary, the sea
itself seemed almost rural. On the days, few and far between, of
really fine weather, the heat had traced upon the waters, as it might
be across country, a dusty white track, at the end of which the
pointed mast of a fishing-boat stood up like a village steeple. A tug,
of which one could see only the funnel, was smoking in the distance
like a factory amid the fields, while alone against the horizon a
convex patch of white, sketched there doubtless by a sail but
apparently a solid plastered surface, made one think of the sunlit
wall of some isolated building, an hospital or a school. And the
clouds and the wind, on days when these were added to the sun,
completed if not the error of judgment, at any rate the illusion of
the first glance, the suggestion that it aroused in the imagination.
For the alternation of sharply defined patches of colour like those
produced in the country by the proximity of different crops, the
rough, yellow, almost muddy irregularities of the marine surface, the
banks, the slopes that hid from sight a vessel upon which a crew of
nimble sailors seemed to be reaping a harvest, all this upon stormy
days made the ocean a thing as varied, as solid, as broken, as
populous, as civilised as the earth with its carriage roads over which
I used to travel, and was soon to be travelling again. And once,
unable any longer to hold out against my desire, instead of going back
to bed I put on my clothes and started off to Incarville, to find
Albertine. I would ask her to come with me to Douville, where I would
pay calls at Féterne upon Mme. de Cambremer and at la Raspelière upon
Mme. Verdurin. Albertine would wait for me meanwhile upon the beach
and we would return together after dark. I went to take the train on
the local light railway, of which I had picked up, the time before,
from Albertine and her friends all the nicknames current in the
district, where it was known as the _Twister_ because of its
numberless windings, the _Crawler_ because the train never seemed to
move, the _Transatlantic_ because of a horrible siren which it sounded
to clear people off the line, the _Decauville_ and the _Funi_, albeit
there was nothing funicular about it but because it climbed the cliff,
and, although not, strictly speaking, a Decauville, had a 60
centimetre gauge, the _B. A. G._ because it ran between Balbec and
Grattevast _via_ Angerville, the _Tram_ and the _T. S. N._ because it
was a branch of the Tramways of Southern Normandy. I took my seat in a
compartment in which I was alone; it was a day of glorious sunshine,
and stiflingly hot; I drew down the blue blind which shut off all but
a single ray of sunlight. But immediately I beheld my grandmother, as
she had appeared sitting in the train, on our leaving Paris for
Balbec, when, in her sorrow at seeing me drink beer, she had preferred
not to look, to shut her eyes and pretend to be asleep. I, who in my
childhood had been unable to endure her anguish when my grandfather
tasted brandy, I had inflicted this anguish upon her, not merely of
seeing me accept, at the invitation of another, a drink which she
regarded as bad for me, I had forced her to leave me free to swill it
down to my heart's content, worse still, by my bursts of passion, my
choking fits, I had forced her to help, to advise me to do so, with a
supreme resignation of which I saw now in my memory the mute,
despairing image, her eyes closed to shut out the sight. So vivid a
memory had, like the stroke of a magic wand, restored the mood that I
had been gradually outgrowing for some time past; what had I to do
with Rosemonde when my lips were wholly possessed by the desperate
longing to kiss a dead woman, what had I to say to the Cambremers and
Verdurins when my heart was beating so violently because at every
moment there was being renewed in it the pain that my grandmother had
suffered. I could not remain in the compartment. As soon as the train
stopped at Maineville-la-Teinturière, abandoning all my plans, I
alighted. Maineville had of late acquired considerable importance and
a reputation all its own, because a director of various casinos, a
caterer in pleasure, had set up, just outside it, with a luxurious
display of bad taste that could vie with that of any smart hotel, an
establishment to which we shall return anon, and which was, to put it
briefly, the first brothel for 'exclusive' people that it had occurred
to anyone to build upon the coast of France. It was the only one.
True, every port has its own, but intended for sailors only, and for
lovers of the picturesque whom it amuses to see, next door to the
primeval parish church, the bawd, hardly less ancient, venerable and
moss-grown, standing outside her ill-famed door, waiting for the
return of the fishing fleet.

Hurrying past the glittering house of 'pleasure,' insolently erected
there despite the protests which the heads of families had addressed
in vain to the mayor, I reached the cliff and followed its winding
paths in the direction of Balbec. I heard, without responding to it,
the appeal of the hawthorns. Neighbours, in humbler circumstances, of
the blossoming apple trees, they found them very coarse, without
denying the fresh complexion of the rosy-petalled daughters of those
wealthy brewers of cider. They knew that, with a lesser dowry, they
were more sought after, and were attractive enough by themselves in
their tattered whiteness.

On my return, the hotel porter handed me a black-bordered letter in
which the Marquis and the Marquise de Gonneville, the Vicomte and the
Vicomtesse d'Amfreville, the Comte and the Comtesse de Berneville, the
Marquis and the Marquise de Graincourt, the Comte d'Amenoncourt, the
Comtesse de Maineville, the Comte and the Comtesse de Franquetot, the
Comtesse de Chaverny _née_ d'Aigleville, begged to announce, and from
which I understood at length why it had been sent to me when I caught
sight of the names of the Marquise de Cambremer née du Mes nil la
Guichard, the Marquis and the Marquise de Cambremer, and saw that the
deceased, a cousin of the Cambremers, was named
Eléonore-Euphrasie-Humbertine de Cambremer, Comtesse de Criquetot. In
the whole extent of this provincial family, the enumeration of which
filled the closely printed lines, not a single commoner, and on the
other hand not a single title that one knew, but the entire
muster-roll of the nobles of the region who made their names—those of
all the interesting spots in the neighbourhood—ring out their joyous
endings in _ville_, in _court_, sometimes on a duller note (in _tot_).
Garbed in the roof-tiles of their castle or in the roughcast of their
parish church, their nodding heads barely reaching above the vault of
the nave or banqueting hall, and then only to cap themselves with the
Norman lantern or the dovecot of the pepperpot turret, they gave the
impression of having sounded the rallying call to all the charming
villages straggling or scattered over a radius of fifty leagues, and
to have paraded them in massed formation, without one absentee, one
intruder, on the compact, rectangular draught-board of the
aristocratic letter edged with black.

My mother had gone upstairs to her room, meditating the phrase of
Madame de Sévigné: "I see nothing of the people who seek to distract
me from you; the truth of the matter is that they are seeking to
prevent me from thinking of you, and that annoys me."—because the
chief magistrate had told her that she ought to find some distraction.
To me he whispered: "That's the Princesse de Parme!" My fears were
dispelled when I saw that the woman whom the magistrate pointed out to
me bore not the slightest resemblance to Her Royal Highness. But as
she had engaged a room in which to spend the night after paying a
visit to Mme. de Luxembourg, the report of her coming had the effect
upon many people of making them take each newcomer for the Princesse
de Parme—and upon me of making me go and shut myself up in my attic.

I had no wish to remain there by myself. It was barely four o'clock. I
asked Françoise to go and find Albertine, so that she might spend the
rest of the afternoon with me.

It would be untrue, I think, to say that there were already symptoms
of that painful and perpetual mistrust which Albertine was to inspire
in me, not to mention the special character, emphatically Gomorrhan,
which that mistrust was to assume. Certainly, even that afternoon—but
this was not the first time—I grew anxious as I was kept waiting.
Françoise, once she had started, stayed away so long that I began to
despair. I had not lighted the lamp. The daylight had almost gone. The
wind was making the flag over the casino flap. And, fainter still in
the silence of the beach over which the tide was rising, and like a
voice rendering and enhancing the troubling emptiness of this
restless, unnatural hour, a little barrel organ that had stopped
outside the hotel was playing Viennese waltzes. At length Françoise
arrived, but unaccompanied. "I have been as quick as I could but she
wouldn't come because she didn't think she was looking smart enough.
If she was five minutes painting herself and powdering herself, she
was an hour by the clock. You'll be having a regular scentshop in
here. She's coming, she stayed behind to tidy herself at the glass. I
thought I should find her here." There was still a long time to wait
before Albertine appeared. But the gaiety, the charm that she shewed
on this occasion dispelled my sorrow. She informed me (in
contradiction of what she had said the other day) that she would be
staying for the whole season and asked me whether we could not
arrange, as in the former year, to meet daily. I told her that at the
moment I was too melancholy and that I would rather send for her from
time to time at the last moment, as I did in Paris. "If ever you're
feeling worried, or feel that you want me, do not hesitate," she told
me, "to send for me, I shall come immediately, and if you are not
afraid of its creating a scandal in the hotel, I shall stay as long as
you like." Françoise, in bringing her to me, had assumed the joyous
air she wore whenever she had gone out of her way to please me and had
been successful. But Albertine herself contributed nothing to her
joy, and the very next day Françoise was to greet me with the profound
observation: "Monsieur ought not to see that young lady. I know quite
well the sort she is, she'll land you in trouble." As I escorted
Albertine to the door I saw in the lighted dining-room the Princesse
de Parme. I merely gave her a glance, taking care not to be seen. But
I must say that I found a certain grandeur in the royal politeness
which had made me smile at the Guermantes'. It is a fundamental rule
that sovereign princes are at home wherever they are, and this rule is
conventionally expressed in obsolete and useless customs such as that
which requires the host to carry his hat in his hand, in his own
house, to shew that he is not in his own home but in the Prince's. Now
the Princesse de Parme may not have formulated this idea to herself,
but she was so imbued with it that all her actions, spontaneously
invented to suit the circumstances, pointed to it. When she rose from
table she handed a lavish tip to Aimé, as though he had been there
solely for her and she were rewarding, before leaving a country house,
a footman who had been detailed to wait upon her. Nor did she stop at
the tip, but with a gracious smile bestowed on him a few friendly,
flattering words, with a store of which her mother had provided her.
Another moment, and she would have told him that, just as the hotel
was perfectly managed, so Normandy was a garden of roses and that she
preferred France to any other country in the world. Another coin
slipped from the Princess's fingers, for the wine waiter, for whom she
had sent and to whom she made a point of expressing her satisfaction
like a general after an inspection. The lift-boy had come up at that
moment with a message for her; he too received a little speech, a
smile and a tip, all this interspersed with encouraging and humble
words intended to prove to them that she was only one of themselves.
As Aimé, the wine waiter, the lift-boy and the rest felt that it would
be impolite not to grin from ear to ear at a person who smiled at
them, she was presently surrounded by a cluster of servants with whom
she chatted kindly; such ways being unfamiliar in smart hotels, the
people who passed by, not knowing who she was, thought they beheld a
permanent resident at Balbec, who, because of her humble origin, or
for professional reasons (she was perhaps the wife of an agent for
champagne) was less different from the domestics than the really smart
visitors. As for me, I thought of the palace at Parma, of the
counsels, partly religious, partly political, given to this Princess,
who behaved towards the lower orders as though she had been obliged to
conciliate them in order to reign over them one day. All the more, as
if she were already reigning.

I went upstairs again to my room, but I was not alone there. I could
hear some one softly playing Schumann. No doubt it happens at times
that people, even those whom we love best, become saturated with the
melancholy or irritation that emanates from us. There is nevertheless
an inanimate object which is capable of a power of exasperation to
which no human being will ever attain: to wit, a piano.

Albertine had made me take a note of the dates on which she would be
going away for a few days to visit various girl friends, and had made
me write down their addresses as well, in case I should want her on
one of those evenings, for none of them lived very far away. This
meant that when I tried to find her, going from one girl to another,
she became more and more entwined in ropes of flowers. I must confess
that many of her friends—I was not yet in love with her—gave me, at
one watering-place or another, moments of pleasure. These obliging
young comrades did not seem to me to be very many. But recently I have
thought it over, their names have recurred to me. I counted that, in
that one season, a dozen conferred on me their ephemeral favours. A
name came back to me later, which made thirteen. I then, with almost a
child's delight in cruelty, dwelt upon that number. Alas, I realised
that I had forgotten the first of them all, Albertine who no longer
existed and who made the fourteenth.

I had, to resume the thread of my narrative, written down the names
and addresses of the girls with whom I should find her upon the days
when she was not to be at Incarville, but privately had decided that I
would devote those days rather to calling upon Mme. Verdurin. In any
case, our desire for different women varies in intensity. One evening
we cannot bear to let one out of our sight who, after that, for the
next month or two, will never enter our mind. Then there is the law of
change, for a study of which this is not the place, under which, after
an over-exertion of the flesh, the woman whose image haunts our
momentary senility is one to whom we would barely give more than a
kiss on the brow. As for Albertine, I saw her seldom, and only upon
the very infrequent evenings when I felt that I could not live without
her. If this desire seized me when she was too far from Balbec for
Françoise to be able to go and fetch her, I used to send the lift-boy
to Egreville, to La Sogne, to Saint-Frichoux, asking him to finish his
work a little earlier than usual. He would come into my room, but
would leave the door open for, albeit he was conscientious at his
'job' which was pretty hard, consisting in endless cleanings from five
o'clock in the morning, he could never bring himself to make the
effort to shut a door, and, if one were to remark to him that it was
open, would turn back and, summoning up all his strength, give it a
gentle push. With the democratic pride that marked him, a pride to
which, in more liberal careers, the members of a profession that is at
all numerous never attain, barristers, doctors and men of letters
speaking simply of a 'brother' barrister, doctor or man of letters,
he, employing, and rightly, a term that is confined to close
corporations like the Academy, would say to me in speaking of a page
who was in charge of the lift upon alternate days: "I shall get my
_colleague_ to take my place." This pride did not prevent him from
accepting, with a view to increasing what he called his 'salary,'
remuneration for his errands, a fact which had made Françoise take a
dislike to him: "Yes, the first time you see him you would give him
the sacrament without confession, but there are days when his tongue
is as smooth as a prison door. It's your money he's after." This was
the category in which she had so often included Eulalie, and in
which, alas (when I think of all the trouble that was one day to come
of it), she already placed Albertine, because she saw me often asking
Mamma, on behalf of my impecunious friend, for trinkets and other
little presents, which Françoise held to be inexcusable because Mme.
Bontemps had only a general servant. A moment later the lift-boy,
having removed what I should have called his livery and he called his
tunic, appeared wearing a straw hat, carrying a cane, holding himself
stiffly erect, for his mother had warned him never to adopt the
'working-class' or 'pageboy' style. Just as, thanks to books, all
knowledge is open to a work-ing man, who ceases to be such when he has
finished his work, so, thanks to a 'boater' hat and a pair of gloves,
elegance became accessible to the lift-boy who, having ceased for the
evening to take the visitors upstairs, imagined himself, like a young
surgeon who has taken off his overall, or Serjeant Saint-Loup out of
uniform, a typical young man about town. He was not for that matter
lacking in ambition, or in talent either in manipulating his machine
and not bringing you to a standstill between two floors. But his
vocabulary was defective. I credited him with ambition because he said
in speaking of the porter, under whom he served: "My porter," in the
same tone in which a man who owned what the page would have called a
'private mansion' in Paris would have referred to his footman. As for
the lift-boy's vocabulary, it is curious that anybody who heard
people, fifty times a day, calling for the 'lift,' should never
himself call it anything but a 'left.' There were certain things about
this boy that were extremely annoying: whatever I might be saying to
him he would interrupt with a phrase: "I should say so!" or "I say!"
which seemed either to imply that my remark was so obvious that
anybody would have thought of it, or else to take all the credit for
it to himself, as though it were he that was drawing my attention to
the subject. "I should say so!" or "I say!" exclaimed with the utmost
emphasis, issued from his lips every other minute, over matters to
which he had never given a thought, a trick which irritated me so much
that I immediately began to say the opposite to shew him that he knew
nothing about it. But to my second assertion, albeit it was
incompatible with the first, he replied none the less stoutly: "I
should say so!" "I say!" as though these words were inevitable. I
found it difficult, also, to forgive him the trick of employing
certain terms proper to his calling, which would therefore have
sounded perfectly correct in their literal sense, in a figurative
sense only, which gave them an air of feeble witticism, for instance
the verb to pedal. He never used it when he had gone anywhere on his
bicycle. But if, on foot, he had hurried to arrive somewhere in time,
then, to indicate that he had walked fast, he would exclaim: "I should
say I didn't half pedal!" The lift-boy was on the small side, clumsily
built and by no means good looking. This did not prevent him, whenever
one spoke to him of some tall, slim, handsome young man, from saying:
"Oh, yes, I know, a fellow who is just my height." And one day when I
was expecting him to bring me the answer to a message, hearing
somebody come upstairs, I had in my impatience opened the door of my
room and caught sight of a page as beautiful as Endymion, with
incredibly perfect features, who was bringing a message to a lady whom
I did not know. When the lift-boy returned, in telling him how
impatiently I had waited for the answer, I mentioned to him that I had
thought I heard him come upstairs but that it had turned out to be a
page from the Hôtel de Normandie. "Oh, yes, I know," he said, "they
have only the one, a boy about my build. He's so like me in face, too,
that we're always being mistaken; anybody would think he was my
brother." Lastly, he always wanted to appear to have understood you
perfectly from the first second, which meant that as soon as you asked
him to do anything he would say: "Yes, yes, yes, yes, I understand all
that," with a precision and a tone of intelligence which for some time
deceived me; but other people, as we get to know them, are like a
metal dipped in an acid bath, and we see them gradually lose their
good qualities (and their bad qualities too, at times). Before giving
him my instructions, I saw that he had left the door open; I pointed
this out to him, I was afraid that people might hear us; he acceded to
my request and returned, having reduced the gap. "Anything to oblige.
But there's nobody on this floor except us two." Immediately I heard
one, then a second, then a third person go by. This annoyed me partly
because of the risk of my being overheard, but more still because I
could see that it did not in the least surprise him and was a
perfectly normal occurrence. "Yes, that'll be the maid next door going
for her things. Oh, that's of no importance, it's the bottler putting
away his keys. No, no, it's nothing, you can say what you want, it's
my colleague just going on duty." Then, as the reasons that all these
people had for passing did not diminish my dislike of the thought that
they might overhear me, at a formal order from me he went, not to shut
the door, which was beyond the strength of this bicyclist who longed
for a 'motor,' but to push it a little closer to. "Now we shall be
quite quiet." So quiet were we that an American lady burst in and
withdrew with apologies for having mistaken the number of her room.
"You are going to bring this young lady back with you," I told him,
after first going and banging the door with all my might (which
brought in another page to see whether a window had been left open).
"You remember the name: Mlle. Albertine Simonet. Anyhow, it's on the
envelope. You need only say to her that it's from me. She will be
delighted to come," I added, to encourage him and preserve a scrap of
my own self-esteem. "I should say so!" "Not at all, there is not the
slightest reason to suppose that she will be glad to come. It's a
great nuisance getting here from Berneville." "I understand!" "You
will tell her to come with you." "Yes, yes, yes, yes, I understand
perfectly," he replied, in that sharp, precise tone which had long
ceased to make a 'good impression' upon me because I knew that it was
almost mechanical and covered with its apparent clearness plenty of
uncertainty and stupidity. "When will you be back?" "Haven't any too
much time," said the lift-boy, who, carrying to extremes the
grammatical rule that forbids the repetition of personal pronouns
before coordinate verbs, omitted the pronoun altogether. "Can go there
all right. Leave was stopped this afternoon, because there was a
dinner for twenty at luncheon. And it was my turn off duty to-day. So
it's all right if I go out a bit this evening. Take my bike with me.
Get there in no time." And an hour later he reappeared and said:
"Monsieur's had to wait, but the young lady's come with me. She's down
below." "Oh, thanks very much; the porter won't be cross with me?"
"Monsieur Paul? Doesn't even know where I've been. The head of the
door himself can't say a word." But once, after I had told him: "You
absolutely must bring her back with you," he reported to me with a
smile: "You know, I couldn't find her. She's not there. Couldn't wait
any longer; was afraid of getting it like my colleague who was 'missed
from the hotel" (for the lift-boy, who used the word 'rejoin' of a
profession which one joined for the first time, "I should like to
rejoin the post-office," to make up for this, or to mitigate the
calamity, were his own career at stake, or to insinuate it more
delicately and treacherously were the victim some one else, elided the
prefix and said: "I know he's been 'missed"). It was not with any evil
intent that he smiled, but from sheer timidity. He thought that he was
diminishing the magnitude of his crime by making a joke of it. In the
same way, if he had said to me: "_You know_, I couldn't find her,"
this did not mean that he really thought that I knew it already. On
the contrary, he was all too certain that I did not know it, and, what
was more, was afraid to tell me. And so he said 'you know' to ward off
the terror which menaced him as he uttered the words that were to
bring me the knowledge. We ought never to lose our tempers with people
who, when we find fault with them, begin to titter. They do so not
because they are laughing at us, but because they are trembling lest
we should be angry. Let us shew all pity and tenderness to those who
laugh. For all the world like a stroke, the lift-boy's anxiety had
wrought in him not merely an apoplectic flush but an alteration in his
speech which had suddenly become familiar. He wound up by telling me
that Albertine was not at Egreville, that she would not be coming back
there before nine o'clock, and that if betimes (which meant, by
chance) she came back earlier, my message would be given her, and in
any case she would be with me before one o'clock in the morning.*

[* Translator's note: In the French text of _Sodome et Gomorrhe_, Volume
I ends at this point.]





It was not this evening, however, that my cruel mistrust began to take
solid form. No, to make no mystery about it, although the incident did
not occur until some weeks later, it arose out of a remark made by
Cottard. Albertine and her friends had insisted that day upon
dragging me to the casino at Incarville where, as luck would have it,
I should not have joined them (having intended to go and see Mme.
Verdurin who had invited me again and again), had I not been held up
at Incarville itself by a breakdown of the tram which it would take a
considerable time to repair. As I strolled up and down waiting for the
men to finish working at it, I found myself all of a sudden face to
face with Doctor Cottard, who had come to Incarville to see a patient.
I almost hesitated to greet him as he had not answered any of my
letters. But friendship does not express itself in the same way in
different people. Not having been brought up to observe the same fixed
rules of behaviour as well-bred people, Cottard was full of good
intentions of which one knew nothing, even denying their existence,
until the day when he had an opportunity of displaying them. He
apologised, had indeed received my letters, had reported my
whereabouts to the Verdurins who were most anxious to see me and whom
he urged me to go and see. He even proposed to take me to them there
and then, for he was waiting for the little local train to take him
back there for dinner. As I hesitated and he had still some time
before his train ( for there was bound to be still a considerable
delay), I made him come with me to the little casino, one of those
that had struck me as being so gloomy on the evening of my first
arrival, now filled with the tumult of the girls, who, in the absence
of male partners, were dancing together. Andrée came sliding along the
floor towards me; I was meaning to go off with Cottard in a moment to
the Verdurins', when I definitely declined his offer, seized by an
irresistible desire to stay with Albertine. The fact was, I had just
heard her laugh. And her laugh at once suggested the rosy flesh, the
fragrant portals between which it had just made its way, seeming also,
as strong, sensual and revealing as the scent of geraniums, to carry
with it some microscopic particles of their substance, irritant and
secret.

One of the girls, a stranger to me, sat down at the piano, and Andrée
invited Albertine to waltz with her. Happy in the thought that I was
going to remain in this little casino with these girls, I remarked to
Cottard how well they danced together. But he, taking the professional
point of view of a doctor and with an ill-breeding which overlooked
the fact that they were my friends, although he must have seen me
shaking hands with them, replied: "Yes, but parents are very rash to
allow their daughters to form such habits. I should certainly never
let mine come here. Are they nice-looking, though? I can't see their
faces. There now, look," he went on, pointing to Albertine and Andrée
who were waltzing slowly, tightly clasped together, "I have left my
glasses behind and I don't see very well, but they are certainly
keenly roused. It is not sufficiently known that women derive most
excitement from their breasts. And theirs, as you see, are completely
touching." And indeed the contact had been unbroken between the
breasts of Andrée and of Albertine. I do not know whether they heard
or guessed Cottard's observation, but they gently broke the contact
while continuing to waltz. At that moment Andrée said something to
Albertine, who laughed, the same deep and penetrating laugh that I had
heard before. But all that it wafted to me this time was a feeling of
pain; Albertine appeared to be revealing by it, to be making Andrée
share some exquisite, secret thrill. It rang out like the first or the
last strains of a ball to which one has not been invited. I left the
place with Cottard, distracted by his conversation, thinking only at
odd moments of the scene I had just witnessed. This does not mean that
Cottard's conversation was interesting. It had indeed, at that moment,
become bitter, for we had just seen Doctor du Boulbon go past without
noticing us. He had come down to spend some time on the other side of
Balbec bay, where he was greatly in demand. Now, albeit Cottard was in
the habit of declaring that he did no professional work during the
holidays, he had hoped to build up a select practice along the coast,
a hope which du Boulbon's presence there doomed to disappointment.
Certainly, the Balbec doctor could not stand in Cottard's way. He was
merely a thoroughly conscientious doctor who knew everything, and to
whom you could not mention the slightest irritation of the skin
without his immediately prescribing, in a complicated formula, the
ointment, lotion or liniment that would put you right. As Marie
Gineste used to say, in her charming speech, he knew how to 'charm'
cuts and sores. But he was in no way eminent. He had indeed caused
Cottard some slight annoyance. The latter, now that he was anxious to
exchange his Chair for that of Therapeutics, had begun to specialise
in toxic actions. These, a perilous innovation in medicine, give an
excuse for changing the labels in the chemists' shops, where every
preparation is declared to be in no way toxic, unlike its substitutes,
and indeed to be disintoxicant. It is the fashionable cry; at the most
there may survive below in illegible lettering, like the faint trace
of an older fashion, the assurance that the preparation has been
carefully disinfected. Toxic actions serve also to reassure the
patient, who learns with joy that his paralysis is merely a toxic
disturbance. Now, a Grand Duke who had come for a few days to Balbec
and whose eye was extremely swollen had sent for Cottard who, in
return for a wad of hundred-franc notes (the Professor refused to see
anyone for less), had put down the inflammation to a toxic condition
and prescribed a disintoxicant treatment. As the swelling did not go
down, the Grand Duke fell back upon the general practitioner of
Balbec, who in five minutes had removed a speck of dust. The following
day, the swelling had gone. A celebrated specialist in nervous
diseases was, however, a more dangerous rival. He was a rubicund,
jovial person, since, for one thing, the constant society of nervous
wrecks did not prevent him from enjoying excellent health, but also so
as to reassure his patients by the hearty merriment of his 'Good
morning' and 'Good-bye,' while quite ready to lend the strength of his
muscular arms to fastening them in strait-waistcoats later on.
Nevertheless, whenever you spoke to him at a party, whether of
politics or of literature, he would listen to you with a kindly
attention, as though he were saying: "What is it all about?" without
at once giving an opinion, as though it were a matter for
consultation. But anyhow he, whatever his talent might be, was a
specialist. And so the whole of Cottard's rage was heaped upon du
Boulbon. But I soon bade good-bye to the Verdurins' professional
friend, and returned to Balbec, after promising him that I would pay
them a visit before long.

The mischief that his remarks about Albertine and Andrée had done me
was extreme, but its worst effects were not immediately felt by me, as
happens with those forms of poisoning which begin to act only after a
certain time.

Albertine, on the night after the lift-boy had gone in search of her,
did not appear, notwithstanding his assurances. Certainly, personal
charm is a less frequent cause of love than a speech such as: "No,
this evening I shall not be free." We barely notice this speech if we
are with friends; we are gay all the evening, a certain image never
enters our mind; during those hours it remains dipped in the necessary
solution; when we return home we find the plate developed and
perfectly clear. We become aware that life is no longer the life which
we would have surrendered for a trifle the day before, because, even
if we continue not to fear death, we no longer dare think of a
parting.

From, however, not one o'clock in the morning (the limit fixed by the
lift-boy), but three o'clock, I no longer felt as in former times the
anguish of seeing the chance of her coming diminish. The certainty
that she would not now come brought me a complete, refreshing calm;
this night was simply a night like all the rest during which I did not
see her, such was the idea from which I started. After which, the
thought that I should see her in the morning, or some other day,
outlining itself upon the blank which I submissively accepted, became
pleasant. Sometimes, during these nights of waiting, our anguish is
due to a drug which we have taken. The sufferer, misinterpreting his
own symptoms, thinks that he is anxious about the woman who fails to
appear. Love is engendered in these cases, as are certain nervous
maladies, by the inaccurate explanation of a state of discomfort. An
explanation which it is useless to correct, at any rate so far as love
is concerned, a sentiment which (whatever its cause) is invariably in
error.

Next day, when Albertine wrote to me that she had only just got back
to Epreville, and so had not received my note in time, and was coming,
if she might, to see me that evening, behind the words of her letter,
as behind those that she had said to me once over the telephone, I
thought I could detect the presence of pleasures, of people whom she
had preferred to me. Once again, I was stirred from head to foot by
the painful longing to know what she could have been doing, by the
latent love which we always carry within us; I almost thought for a
moment that it was going to attach me to Albertine, but it confined
itself to a stationary throbbing, the last echo of which died away
without the machine's having been set in motion.

I had failed during my first visit to Balbec—and perhaps, for that
matter, Andrée had failed equally—to understand Albertine's
character. I had put it down as frivolous, but had not known whether
our combined supplications might not succeed in keeping her with us
and making her forego a garden-party, a donkey ride, a picnic. During
my second visit to Balbec, I began to suspect that this frivolity was
only for show, the garden-party a mere screen, if not an invention.
She shewed herself in various colours in the following incident (by
which I mean the incident as seen by me, from my side of the glass
which was by no means transparent, and without my having any means of
determining what reality there was on the other side). Albertine was
making me the most passionate protestations of affection. She looked
at the time because she had to go and call upon a lady who was at
home, it appeared, every afternoon at five o'clock, at Infreville.
Tormented by suspicion, and feeling at the same time far from well, I
asked Albertine, I implored her to remain with me. It was impossible
(and indeed she could wait only five minutes longer) because it would
annoy the lady who was far from hospitable, highly susceptible and,
said Albertine, a perfect nuisance. "But one can easily cut a call."
"No, my aunt has always told me that the chief thing is politeness."
"But I have so often seen you being impolite." "It's not the same
thing, the lady would be angry with me and would say nasty things
about me to my aunt. I'm pretty well in her bad books already. She
expects me to go and see her." "But if she's at home every day?" Here
Albertine, feeling that she was caught, changed her line of argument.
"So she is at home every day. But to-day I've made arrangements to
meet some other girls there. It will be less boring that way." "So
then, Albertine, you prefer this lady and your friends to me, since,
rather than miss paying an admittedly boring call, you prefer to leave
me here alone, sick and wretched?" "I don't care if it is boring. I'm
going for their sake. I shall bring them home in my trap. Otherwise
they won't have any way of getting back." I pointed out to Albertine
that there were trains from Infreville up to ten o'clock at night.
"Quite true, but don't you see, it is possible that we may be asked to
stay to dinner. She is very hospitable." "Very well then, you won't."
"I should only make my aunt angry." "Besides, you can dine with her
and catch the ten o'clock train." "It's cutting it rather fine." "Then
I can never go and dine in town and come back by train. But listen,
Albertine. We are going to do something quite simple, I feel that the
fresh air will do me good; since you can't give up your lady, I am
going to come with you to Infreville. Don't be alarmed, I shan't go as
far as the Tour Elisabeth" (the lady's villa), "I shall see neither
the lady nor your friends." Albertine started as though she had
received a violent blow. For a moment, she was unable to speak. She
explained that the sea bathing was not doing her any good. "If you
don't want me to come with you?" "How can you say such a thing, you
know there's nothing I enjoy more than going out with you." A sudden
change of tactics had occurred. "Since we are going for a drive
together," she said to me, "why not go out in the other direction, we
might dine together. It would be so nice. After all, that side of
Balbec is much the prettier. I'm getting sick of Infreville and all
those little spinach-bed places." "But your aunt's friend will be
annoyed if you don't go and see her." "Very well, let her be." "No, it
is wrong to annoy people." "But she won't even notice that I'm not
there, she has people every day; I can go to-morrow, the next day,
next week, the week after, it's exactly the same." "And what about
your friends?" "Oh, they've cut me often enough. It's my turn now."
"But from the side you suggest there's no train back after nine."
"Well, what's the matter with that? Nine will do perfectly. Besides,
one need never think about getting back. We can always find a cart, a
bike, if the worse comes to the worst, we have legs." "We can always
find, Albertine, how you go on! Out Infreville way, where the villages
run into one another, well and good. But the other way, it's a very
different matter." "That way too. I promise to bring you back safe and
sound." I felt that Albertine was giving up for my sake some plan
arranged beforehand of which she refused to tell me, and that there
was some one else who would be as unhappy as I was. Seeing that what
she had intended to do was out of the question, since I insisted upon
accompanying her, she gave it up altogether. She knew that the loss
was not irremediable. For, like all women who have a number of irons
in the fire, she had one resource that never failed: suspicion and
jealousy. Of course she did not seek to arouse them, quite the
contrary. But lovers are so suspicious that they instantly scent out
falsehood. With the result that Albertine, being no better than anyone
else, knew by experience (without for a moment imagining that she owed
her experience to jealousy) that she could always be certain of
meeting people again after she had failed to keep an appointment. The
stranger whom she was deserting for me would be hurt, would love her
all the more for that (though Albertine did not know that this was the
reason), and, so as not to prolong the agony, would return to her of
his own accord, as I should have done. But I had no desire either to
give pain to another, or to tire myself, or to enter upon the terrible
course of investigation, of multiform, unending vigilance. "No,
Albertine, I do not wish to spoil your pleasure, go to your lady at
Infreville, or rather to the person you really mean to see, it is all
the same to me. The real reason why I am not coming with you is that
you do not wish it, the outing you would be taking with me is not the
one you meant to take, which is proved by your having contradicted
yourself at least five times without noticing it." Poor Albertine was
afraid that her contradictions, which she had not noticed, had been
more serious than they were. Not knowing exactly what fibs she had
told me: "It is quite on the cards that I did contradict myself. The
sea air makes me lose my head altogether. I'm always calling things by
the wrong names." And (what proved to me that she would not, now,
require many tender affirmations to make me believe her) I felt a stab
in my heart as I listened to this admission of what I had but faintly
imagined. "Very well, that's settled, I'm off," she said in a tragic
tone, not without looking at the time to see whether she was making
herself late for the other person, now that I had provided her with an
excuse for not spending the evening with myself. "It's too bad of you.
I alter all my plans to spend a nice, long evening with you, and it's
you that won't have it, and you accuse me of telling lies. I've never
known you to be so cruel. The sea shall be my tomb. I will never see
you any more." (My heart leaped at these words, albeit I was certain
that she would come again next day, as she did.) "I shall drown
myself, I shall throw myself into the water." "Like Sappho." "There
you go, insulting me again. You suspect not only what I say but what I
do." "But, my lamb, I didn't mean anything, I swear to you, you know
Sappho flung herself into the sea." "Yes, yes, you have no faith in
me." She saw that it was twenty minutes to the hour by the clock; she
was afraid of missing her appointment, and choosing the shortest form
of farewell (for which as it happened she apologised by coming to see
me again next day, the other person presumably not being free then),
she dashed from the room, crying: "Good-bye for ever," in a
heartbroken tone. And perhaps she was heartbroken. For knowing what
she was about at that moment better than I, being at the same time
more strict and more indulgent towards herself than I was towards her,
she may all the same have had a fear that I might refuse to see her
again after the way in which she had left me. And I believe that she
was attached to me, so much so that the other person was more jealous
than I was.

Some days later, at Balbec, while we were in the ballroom of the
casino, there entered Bloch's sister and cousin, who had both turned
out quite pretty, but whom I refrained from greeting on account of my
girl friends, because the younger one, the cousin, was notoriously
living with the actress whose acquaintance she had made during my
first visit. Andrée, at a murmured allusion to this scandal, said to
me: "Oh! About that sort of thing I'm like Albertine; there's nothing
we both loathe so much as that sort of thing." As for Albertine, on
sitting down to talk to me upon the sofa, she had turned her back on
the disreputable pair. I had noticed, however, that, before she
changed her position, at the moment when Mlle. Bloch and her cousin
appeared, my friend's eyes had flashed with that sudden, close
attention which now and again imparted to the face of this frivolous
girl a serious, indeed a grave air, and left her pensive afterwards.
But Albertine had at once turned towards myself a gaze which
nevertheless remained singularly fixed and meditative. Mlle. Bloch and
her cousin having finally left the room after laughing and shouting in
a loud and vulgar manner, I asked Albertine whether the little fair
one (the one who was so intimate with the actress) was not the girl
who had won the prize the day before in the procession of flowers. "I
don't know," said Albertine, "is one of them fair? I must confess they
don't interest me particularly, I have never looked at them. Is one of
them fair?" she asked her three girl friends with a detached air of
inquiry. When applied to people whom Albertine passed every day on the
front, this ignorance seemed to me too profound to be genuine. "They
didn't appear to be looking at us much either," I said to Albertine,
perhaps (on the assumption, which I did not however consciously form,
that Albertine loved her own sex), to free her from any regret by
pointing out to her that she had not attracted the attention of these
girls and that, generally speaking, it is not customary even for the
most vicious of women to take an interest in girls whom they do not
know. "They weren't looking at us!" was Albertine's astonished reply.
"Why, they did nothing else the whole time." "But you can't possibly
tell," I said to her, "you had your back to them." "Very well, and
what about that?" she replied, pointing out to me, set in the wall in
front of us, a large mirror which I had not noticed and upon which I
now realised that my friend, while talking to me, had never ceased to
fix her troubled, preoccupied eyes.

Ever since the day when Cottard had accompanied me into the little
casino at Incarville, albeit I did not share the opinion that he had
expressed, Albertine had seemed to me different; the sight of her made
me lose my temper. I myself had changed, quite as much as she had
changed in my eyes. I had ceased to bear her any good will; to her
face, behind her back when there was a chance of my words being
repeated to her, I spoke of her in the most insulting language. There
were, however, intervals of calmer feeling. One day I learned that
Albertine and Andrée had both accepted an invitation to Elstir's.
Feeling certain that this was in order that they might, on the return
journey, amuse themselves like schoolgirls on holiday by imitating the
manners of fast young women, and in so doing find an unmaidenly
pleasure the thought of which wrung my heart, without announcing my
intention, to embarrass them and to deprive Albertine of the pleasure
on which she was reckoning, I paid an unexpected call at his studio.
But I found only Andrée there. Albertine had chosen another day when
her aunt was to go there with her. Then I said to myself that Cottard
must have been mistaken; the favourable impression that I received
from Andrée's presence there without her friend remained with me and
made me feel more kindly disposed towards Albertine. But this feeling
lasted no longer than the healthy moments of delicate people subject
to passing maladies, who are prostrated again by the merest trifle.
Albertine incited Andrée to actions which, without going very far,
were perhaps not altogether innocent; pained by this suspicion, I
managed in the end to repel it. No sooner was I healed of it than it
revived under another form. I had just seen Andrée, with one of those
graceful gestures that came naturally to her, lay her head coaxingly
on Albertine's shoulder, kiss her on the throat, half shutting her
eyes; or else they had exchanged a glance; a remark had been made by
somebody who had seen them going down together to bathe: little
trifles such as habitually float in the surrounding atmosphere where
the majority of people absorb them all day long without injury to
their health or alteration of their mood, but which have a morbid
effect and breed fresh sufferings in a nature predisposed to receive
them. Sometimes even without my having seen Albertine again, without
anyone's having spoken to me about her, there would flash from my
memory some vision of her with Gisèle in an attitude which had seemed
to me innocent at the time; it was enough now to destroy the peace of
mind that I had managed to recover, I had no longer any need to go and
breathe dangerous germs outside, I had, as Cottard would have said,
supplied my own toxin. I thought then of all that I had been told
about Swann's love for Odette, of the way in which Swann had been
tricked all his life. Indeed, when I come to think of it, the
hypothesis that made me gradually build up the whole of Albertine's
character and give a painful interpretation to every moment of a life
that I could not control in its entirety, was the memory, the rooted
idea of Mme. Swann's character, as it had been described to me. These
accounts helped my imagination, in after years, to take the line of
supposing that Albertine might, instead of being a good girl, have had
the same immorality, the same faculty of deception as a reformed
prostitute, and I thought of all the sufferings that would in that
case have been in store for me had I ever really been her lover.

One day, outside the Grand Hotel, where we were gathered on the front,
I had just been addressing Albertine in the harshest, most humiliating
language, and Rosemonde was saying: "Oh, how you have changed your
mind about her; why, she used to be everything, it was she who ruled
the roost, and now she isn't even fit to be thrown to the dogs." I was
beginning, in order to make my attitude towards Albertine still more
marked, to say all the nicest things I could think of to Andrée, who,
if she was tainted with the same vice, seemed to me to have more
excuse for it since she was sickly and neurasthenic, when we saw
emerging at the steady trot of its pair of horses into the street at
right angles to the front, at the corner of which we were standing,
Mme. de Cambremer's barouche. The chief magistrate who, at that
moment, was advancing towards us, sprang back upon recognising the
carriage, in order not to be seen in our company; then, when he
thought that the Marquise's eye might catch his, bowed to her with an
immense sweep of his hat. But the carriage, instead of continuing, as
might have been expected, along the Rue de la Mer, disappeared through
the gate of the hotel. It was quite ten minutes later when the
lift-boy, out of breath, came to announce to me: "It's the Marquise de
Camembert, she's come here to see Monsieur. I've been up to the room,
I looked in the reading-room, I couldn't find Monsieur anywhere.
Luckily I thought of looking on the beach." He had barely ended this
speech when, followed by her daughter-in-law and by an extremely
ceremonious gentleman, the Marquise advanced towards me, coming on
probably from some afternoon tea-party in the neighbourhood, and bowed
down not so much by age as by the mass of costly trinkets with which
she felt it more sociable and more befitting her rank to cover
herself, in order to appear as 'well dressed' as possible to the
people whom she went to visit. It was in fact that 'landing' of the
Cambremers at the hotel which my grandmother had so greatly dreaded
long ago when she wanted us not to let Legrandin know that we might
perhaps be going to Balbec. Then Mamma used to laugh at these fears
inspired by an event which she considered impossible. And here it was
actually happening, but by different channels and without Legrandin's
having had any part in it. "Do you mind my staying here, if I shan't
be in your way?" asked Albertine (in whose eyes there lingered,
brought there by the cruel things I had just been saying to her, a
pair of tears which I observed without seeming to see them, but not
without rejoicing inwardly at the sight), "there is something I want
to say to you." A hat with feathers, itself surmounted by a sapphire
pin, was perched haphazard upon Mme. de Cambremer's wig, like a badge
the display of which was necessary but sufficient, its place
immaterial, its elegance conventional and its stability superfluous.
Notwithstanding the heat, the good lady had put on a jet cloak, like a
dalmatic, over which hung an ermine stole the wearing of which seemed
to depend not upon the temperature and season, but upon the nature of
the ceremony. And on Mme. de Cambremer's bosom a baronial torse,
fastened to a chain, dangled like a pectoral cross. The gentleman was
an eminent lawyer from Paris, of noble family, who had come down to
spend a few days with the Cambremers. He was one of those men whom
their vast professional experience inclines to look down upon their
profession, and who say, for instance: "I know that I am a good
pleader, so it no longer amuses me to plead," or: "I'm no longer
interested in operating, I know that I'm a good operator." Men of
intelligence, _artists_, they see themselves in their maturity, richly
endowed by success, shining with that intellect, that artistic nature
which their professional brethren recognise in them and which confer
upon them a kind of taste and discernment. They form a passion for the
paintings not of a great artist, but of an artist who nevertheless is
highly distinguished, and spend upon the purchase of his work the
large sums that their career procures for them. Le Sidaner was the
artist chosen by the Cambremers' friend, who incidentally was a
delightful person. He talked well about books, but not about the books
of the true masters, those who have mastered themselves. The only
irritating habit that this amateur displayed was his constant use of
certain ready made expressions, such as 'for the most part,' which
gave an air of importance and incompleteness to the matter of which he
was speaking. Madame de Cambremer had taken the opportunity, she told
me, of a party which some friends of hers had been giving that
afternoon in the Balbec direction to come and call upon me, as she had
promised Robert de Saint-Loup. "You know he's coming down to these
parts quite soon for a few days: His uncle Charlus is staying near
here with his sister-in-law, the Duchesse de Luxembourg, and M. de
Saint-Loup means to take the opportunity of paying his aunt a visit
and going to see his old regiment, where he is very popular, highly
respected. We often have visits from officers who are never tired of
singing his praises. How nice it would be if you and he would give us
the pleasure of coming together to Féterne." I presented Albertine and
her friends. Mme. de Cambremer introduced us all to her
daughter-in-law. The latter, so frigid towards the petty nobility with
whom her seclusion at Féterne forced her to associate, so reserved, so
afraid of compromising herself, held out her hand to me with a radiant
smile, safe as she felt herself and delighted at seeing a friend of
Robert de Saint-Loup, whom he, possessing a sharper social intuition
than he allowed to appear, had mentioned to her as being a great
friend of the Guermantes. So, unlike her mother-in-law, Mme. de
Cambremer employed two vastly different forms of politeness. It was at
the most the former kind, dry, insupportable, that she would have
conceded me had I met her through her brother Legrandin. But for a
friend of the Guermantes she had not smiles enough. The most
convenient room in the hotel for entertaining visitors was the
reading-room, that place once so terrible into which I now went a
dozen times every day, emerging freely, my own master, like those
mildly afflicted lunatics who have so long been inmates of an asylum
that the superintendent trusts them with a latchkey. And so I offered
to take Mme. de Cambremer there. And as this room no longer filled me
with shyness and no longer held any charm for me, since the faces of
things change for us like the faces of people, it was without the
slightest emotion that I made this suggestion. But she declined it,
preferring to remain out of doors, and we sat down in the open air, on
the terrace of the hotel. I found there and rescued a volume of Madame
de Sévigné which Mamma had not had time to carry off in her
precipitate flight, when she heard that visitors had called for me.
No less than my grandmother, she dreaded these invasions of strangers,
and, in her fear of being too late to escape if she let herself be
seen, would fly from the room with a rapidity which always made my
father and me laugh at her. Madame de Cambremer carried in her hand,
with the handle of a sunshade, a number of embroidered bags, a
hold-all, a gold purse from which there dangled strings of garnets,
and a lace handkerchief. I could not help thinking that it would be
more convenient for her to deposit them on a chair; but I felt that it
would be unbecoming and useless to ask her to lay aside the ornaments
of her pastoral visitation and her social priesthood. We gazed at the
calm sea upon which, here and there, a few gulls floated like white
petals. Because of the 'mean level' to which social conversation
reduces us and also of our desire to attract not by means of those
qualities of which we are ourselves unaware but of those which, we
suppose, ought to be appreciated by the people who are with us, I
began instinctively to talk to Mme. de Cambremer _née_ Legrandin in the
strain in which her brother might have talked. "They appear," I said,
referring to the gulls, "as motionless and as white as water-lilies."
And indeed they did appear to be offering a lifeless object to the
little waves which tossed them about, so much so that the waves, by
contrast, seemed in their pursuit of them to be animated by a
deliberate intention, to have acquired life. The dowager Marquise
could not find words enough to do justice to the superb view of the
sea that we had from Balbec, or to say how she envied it, she who from
la Raspelière (where for that matter she was not living that year) had
only such a distant glimpse of the waves. She had two remarkable
habits, due at once to her exalted passion for the arts (especially
for the art of music), and to her want of teeth. Whenever she talked
of aesthetic subjects her salivary glands—like those of certain
animals when in rut—became so overcharged that the old lady's
edentulous mouth allowed to escape from the corners of her faintly
moustached lips a trickle of moisture for which that was not the
proper place. Immediately she drew it in again with a deep sigh, like
a person recovering his breath. Secondly, if her subject were some
piece of music of surpassing beauty, in her enthusiasm she would raise
her arms and utter a few decisive opinions, vigorously chewed and at a
pinch issuing from her nose. Now it had never occurred to me that the
vulgar beach at Balbec could indeed offer a 'seascape,' and Mme. de
Cambremer's simple words changed my ideas in that respect. On the
other hand, as I told her, I had always heard people praise the
matchless view from la Raspelière, perched on the summit of the hill,
where, in a great drawing-room with two fireplaces, one whole row of
windows swept the gardens, and, through the branches of the trees, the
sea as far as Balbec and beyond it, and the other row the valley. "How
nice of you to say so, and how well you put it: the sea through the
branches. It is exquisite, one would say ... a painted fan." And I
gathered from a deep breath intended to catch the falling spittle and
dry the moustaches, that the compliment was sincere. But the Marquise
_née_ Legrandin remained cold, to shew her contempt not for my words
but for those of her mother-in-law. Besides, she not only despised the
other's intellect but deplored her affability, being always afraid
that people might not form a sufficiently high idea of the Cambremers.
"And how charming the name is," said I. "One would like to know the
origin of all those names." "That one I can tell you," the old lady
answered modestly. "It is a family place, it came from my grandmother
Arrachepel, not an illustrious family, but a decent and very old
country stock." "What! Not illustrious!" her daughter-in-law tartly
interrupted her. "A whole window in Bayeux cathedral is filled with
their arms, and the principal church at Avranches has their tombs. If
these old names interest you," she added, "you've come a year too
late. We managed to appoint to the living of Criquetot, in spite of
all the difficulties about changing from one diocese to another, the
parish priest of a place where I myself have some land, a long way
from here, Combray, where the worthy cleric felt that he was becoming
neurasthenic. Unfortunately, the sea air was no good to him at his
age; his neurasthenia grew worse and he has returned to Combray. But
he amused himself while he was our neighbour in going about looking up
all the old charters, and he compiled quite an interesting little
pamphlet on the place names of the district. It has given him a fresh
interest, too, for it seems he is spending his last years in writing a
great work upon Combray and its surroundings. I shall send you his
pamphlet on the surroundings of Féterne. It is worthy of a
Benedictine. You will find the most interesting things in it about our
old Raspelière, of which my mother-in-law speaks far too modestly."
"In any case, this year," replied the dowager Mme. de Cambremer, "la
Raspelière is no longer ours and does not belong to me. But I can see
that you have a painter's instincts; I am sure you sketch, and I
should so like to shew you Féterne, which is far finer than la
Raspelière." For as soon as the Cambremers had let this latter
residence to the Verdurins, its commanding situation had at once
ceased to appear to them as it had appeared for so many years past,
that is to say to offer the advantage, without parallel in the
neighbourhood, of looking out over both sea and valley, and had on the
other hand, suddenly and retrospectively, presented the drawback that
one had always to go up or down hill to get to or from it. In short,
one might have supposed that if Mme. de Cambremer had let it, it was
not so much to add to her income as to spare her horses. And she
proclaimed herself delighted at being able at last to have the sea
always so close at hand, at Féterne, she who for so many years
(forgetting the two months that she spent there) had seen it only from
up above and as though in a panorama. "I am discovering it at my age,"
she said, "and how I enjoy it! It does me a world of good. I would let
la Raspelière for nothing so as to be obliged to live at Féterne."

"To return to more interesting topics," went on Legrandin's sister,
who addressed the old Marquise as 'Mother,' but with the passage of
years had come to treat her with insolence, "you mentioned
water-lilies: I suppose you know Claude Monet's pictures of them. What
a genius! They interest me particularly because near Combray, that
place where I told you I had some land...." But she preferred not to
talk too much about Combray. "Why! That must be the series that
Elstir told us about, the greatest painter of this generation,"
exclaimed Albertine, who had said nothing so far. "Ah! I can see that
this young lady loves the arts," cried Mme. de Cambremer and, drawing
a long breath, recaptured a trail of spittle. "You will allow me to
put Le Sidaner before him, Mademoiselle," said the lawyer, smiling
with the air of an expert. And, as he had enjoyed, or seen people
enjoy, years ago, certain 'daring' work by Elstir, he added: "Elstir
was gifted, indeed he was one of the advance guard, but for some
reason or other he never kept up, he has wasted his life." Mme. de
Cambremer disagreed with the lawyer, so far as Elstir was concerned,
but, greatly to the annoyance of her guest, bracketed Monet with Le
Sidaner. It would be untrue to say that she was a fool; she was
overflowing with a kind of intelligence that meant nothing to me. As
the sun was beginning to set, the seagulls were now yellow, like the
water-lilies on another canvas of that series by Monet. I said that I
knew it, and (continuing to copy the diction of her brother, whom I
had not yet dared to name) added that it was a pity that she had not
thought of coming a day earlier, for, at the same hour, there would
have been a Poussin light for her to admire. Had some Norman squireen,
unknown to the Guermantes, told her that she ought to have come a day
earlier, Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin would doubtless have drawn
herself up with an offended air. But I might have been far more
familiar still, and she would have been all smiles and sweetness; I
might in the warmth of that fine afternoon devour my fill of that rich
honey cake which Mme. de Cambremer so rarely was and which took the
place of the dish of pastry that it had not occurred to me to offer my
guests. But the name of Poussin, without altering the amenity of the
society lady, called forth the protests of the connoisseur. On hearing
that name, she produced six times in almost continuous succession that
little smack of the tongue against the lips which serves to convey to
a child who is misbehaving at once a reproach for having begun and a
warning not to continue. "In heaven's name, after a painter like
Monet, who is an absolute genius, don't go and mention an old hack
without a vestige of talent, like Poussin. I don't mind telling you
frankly that I find him the deadliest bore. I mean to say, you can't
really call that sort of thing painting. Monet, Degas, Manet, yes,
there are painters if you like! It is a curious thing," she went on,
fixing a scrutinous and ecstatic gaze upon a vague point in space
where she could see what was in her mind, "it is a curious thing, I
used at one time to prefer Manet. Nowadays, I still admire Manet, of
course, but I believe I like Monet even more. Oh! The _Cathedrals_!"
She was as scrupulous as she was condescending in informing me of the
evolution of her taste. And one felt that the phases through which
that taste had evolved were not, in her eyes, any less important than
the different manners of Monet himself. Not that I had any reason to
feel flattered by her taking me into her confidence as to her
preferences, for even in the presence of the narrowest of provincial
ladies she could not remain for five minutes without feeling the need
to confess them. When a noble dame of Avranches, who would have been
incapable of distinguishing between Mozart and Wagner, said in Mme. de
Cambremer's hearing: "We saw nothing of any interest while we were in
Paris, we went once to the Opéra-Comique, they were doing _Pelléas et
Mélisande_, it's dreadful stuff," Mme. de Cambremer not only boiled
with rage but felt obliged to exclaim: "Not at all, it's a little
gem," and to 'argue the point.' It was perhaps a Combray habit which
she had picked up from my grandmother's sisters, who called it
'fighting in the good cause,' and loved the dinner-parties at which
they knew all through the week that they would have to defend their
idols against the Philistines. Similarly, Mme. de Cambremer liked to
'fly into a passion' and wrangle about art, as other people do about
politics. She stood up for Debussy as she would have stood up for a
woman friend whose conduct had been criticised. She must however have
known very well that when she said: "Not at all, it's a little gem,"
she could not improvise in the other lady, whom she was putting in her
place, the whole progressive development of artistic culture on the
completion of which they would come naturally to an agreement without
any need of discussion. "I must ask Le Sidaner what he thinks of
Poussin," the lawyer remarked to me. "He's a regular recluse, never
opens his mouth, but I know how to get things out of him."

"Anyhow," Mme. de Cambremer went on, "I have a horror of sunsets,
they're so romantic, so operatic. That is why I can't abide my
mother-in-law's house, with its tropical plants. You will see it, it's
just like a public garden at Monte-Carlo. That's why I prefer your
coast, here. It is more sombre, more sincere; there's a little lane
from which one doesn't see the sea. On rainy days, there's nothing but
mud, it's a little world apart. It's just the same at Venice, I detest
the Grand Canal and I don't know anything so touching as the little
alleys. But it's all a question of one's surroundings." "But," I
remarked to her, feeling that the only way to rehabilitate Poussin in
Mme. de Cambremer's eyes was to inform her that he was once more in
fashion, "M. Degas assures us that he knows nothing more beautiful
than the Poussins at Chantilly." "Indeed? I don't know the ones at
Chantilly," said Mme. de Cambremer who had no wish to differ from
Degas, "but I can speak about the ones in the Louvre, which are
appalling." "He admires them immensely too." "I must look at them
again. My impressions of them are rather distant," she replied after a
moment's silence, and as though the favourable opinion which she was
certain, before very long, to form of Poussin would depend, not upon
the information that I had just communicated to her, but upon the
supplementary and, this time, final examination that she intended to
make of the Poussins in the Louvre in order to be in a position to
change her mind. Contenting myself with what was a first step towards
retraction since, if she did not yet admire the Poussins, she was
adjourning the matter for further consideration, in order not to keep
her on tenterhooks any longer, I told her mother-in-law how much I had
heard of the wonderful flowers at Féterne. In modest terms she spoke
of the little presbytery garden that she had behind the house, into
which in the mornings, by simply pushing open a door, she went in her
wrapper to feed her peacocks, hunt for new-laid eggs, and gather the
zinnias or roses which, on the sideboard, framing the creamed eggs or
fried fish in a border of flowers, reminded her of her garden paths.
"It is true, we have a great many roses," she told me, "our rose
garden is almost too near the house, there are days when it makes my
head ache. It is nicer on the terrace at la Raspelière where the
breeze carries the scent of the roses, but it is not so heady." I
turned to her daughter-in-law. "It is just like _Pelléas_," I said to
her, to gratify her taste for the modern, "that scent of roses wafted
up to the terraces. It is so strong in the score that, as I suffer
from hay-fever and rose-fever, it sets me sneezing every time I listen
to that scene."

"What a marvellous thing _Pelléas_ is," cried Mme. de Cambremer, "I'm
mad about it;" and, drawing closer to me with the gestures of a savage
woman seeking to captivate me, using her fingers to pick out imaginary
notes, she began to hum something which, I supposed, represented to
her the farewells of _Pelléas_, and continued with a vehement
persistence as though it had been important that Mme. de Cambremer
should at that moment remind me of that scene or rather should prove
to me that she herself remembered it. "I think it is even finer than
_Parsifal_," she added, "because in _Parsifal_ the most beautiful
things are surrounded with a sort of halo of melodious phrases, which
are bad simply because they are melodious." "I know, you are a great
musician, Madame," I said to the dowager. "I should so much like to
hear you play." Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin gazed at the sea so as not
to be drawn into the conversation. Being of the opinion that what her
mother-in-law liked was not music at all, she regarded the talent, a
sham talent according to her, though in reality of the very highest
order that the other was admitted to possess as a technical
accomplishment devoid of interest. It was true that Chopin's only
surviving pupil declared, and with justice, that the Master's style of
playing, his 'feeling' had been transmitted, through herself, to Mme.
de Cambremer alone, but to play like Chopin was far from being a
recommendation in the eyes of Legrandin's sister, who despised nobody
so much as the Polish composer. "Oh! They are flying away," exclaimed
Albertine, pointing to the gulls which, casting aside for a moment
their flowery incognito, were rising in a body towards the sun. "Their
giant wings from walking hinder them," quoted Mme. de Cambremer,
confusing the seagull with the albatross. "I do love them; I used to
see them at Amsterdam," said Albertine. "They smell of the sea, they
come and breathe the salt air through the paving stones even." "Oh! So
you have been in Holland, you know the Vermeers?" Mme. de Cambremer
asked imperiously, in the tone in which she would have said: "You know
the Guermantes?" for snobbishness in changing its subject does not
change its accent. Albertine replied in the negative, thinking that
they were living people. But her mistake was not apparent. "I should
be delighted to play to you," Mme. de Cambremer said to me. "But you
know I only play things that no longer appeal to your generation. I
was brought up in the worship of Chopin," she said in a lowered tone,
for she was afraid of her daughter-in-law, and knew that to the
latter, who considered that Chopin was not music, playing him well or
badly were meaningless terms. She admitted that her mother-in-law had
technique, was a finished pianist. "Nothing will ever make me say that
she is a musician," was Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin's conclusion.
Because she considered herself 'advanced,' because (in matters of art
only) "one could never move far enough to the Left," she said, she
maintained not merely that music progressed, but that it progressed
along one straight line, and that Debussy was in a sense a
super-Wagner, slightly more advanced again than Wagner. She did not
take into account the fact that if Debussy was not as independent of
Wagner as she herself was to suppose in a few years' time, because we
must always make use of the weapons that we have captured to free
ourselves finally from the foe whom we have for the moment
overpowered, he was seeking nevertheless, after the feeling of satiety
that people were beginning to derive from work that was too complete,
in which everything was expressed, to satisfy an opposite demand.
There were theories of course, to support this reaction for the time
being, like those theories which, in politics, come to the support of
the laws against religious communities, of wars in the East (unnatural
teaching, the Yellow Peril, etc., etc.). People said that an age of
speed required rapidity in art, precisely as they might have said that
the next war could not last longer than a fortnight, or that the
coming of railways would kill the little places beloved of the
coaches, which the motor-car, for all that, was to restore to favour.
Composers were warned not to strain the attention of their audience,
as though we had not at our disposal different degrees of attention,
among which it rests precisely with the artist himself to arouse the
highest. For the people who yawn with boredom after ten lines of a
mediocre article have journeyed year after year to Bayreuth to listen
to the Ring. Besides, the day was to come when, for a season, Debussy
would be pronounced as trivial as Massenet, and the trills of
Mélisande degraded to the level of Manon's. For theories and schools,
like microbes and corpuscles, devour one another and by their warfare
ensure the continuity of existence. But that time was still to come.

As on the Stock Exchange, when a rise occurs, a whole group of
securities benefit by it, so a certain number of despised composers
were gaining by the reaction, either because they did not deserve such
scorn, or simply—which enabled one to be original when one sang their
praises—because they had incurred it. And people even went the length
of seeking out, in an isolated past, men of independent talent upon
whose reputation the present movement did not seem calculated to have
any influence, but of whom one of the new masters was understood to
have spoken favourably. Often it was because a master, whoever he may
be, however exclusive his school, judges in the light of his own
untutored instincts, does justice to talent wherever it be found, or
rather not so much to talent as to some agreeable inspiration which he
has enjoyed in the past, which reminds him of a precious moment in his
adolescence. Or, it may be, because certain artists of an earlier
generation have in some fragment of their work realised something that
resembles what the master has gradually become aware that he himself
meant at one time to create. Then he sees the old master as a sort of
precursor; he values in him, under a wholly different form, an effort
that is momentarily, partially fraternal. There are bits of Turner in
the work of Poussin, we find a phrase of Flaubert in Montesquieu.
Sometimes, again, this rumoured predilection of the Master was due to
an error, starting heaven knows where and circulated through the
school. But in that case the name mentioned profited by the auspices
under which it was introduced in the nick of time, for if there is an
element of free will, some genuine taste expressed in the master's
choice, the schools themselves go only by theory. Thus it is that the
mind, following its habitual course which advances by digression,
inclining first in one direction, then in the other, had brought back
into the light of day a number of works to which the need for justice,
or for a renewal of standards, or the taste of Debussy, or his
caprice, or some remark that he had perhaps never made had added the
works of Chopin. Commended by the judges in whom one had entire
confidence, profiting by the admiration that was aroused by _Pelléas_,
they had acquired a fresh lustre, and even the people who had not
heard them again were so anxious to admire them that they did so in
spite of themselves, albeit preserving the illusion of free will. But
Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin spent part of the year in the country.
Even in Paris, being an invalid, she was largely confined to her own
room. It is true that the drawbacks of this mode of existence were
noticeable chiefly in her choice of expressions which she supposed to
be fashionable and which would have been more appropriate to the
written language, a distinction that she did not perceive, for she
derived them more from reading than from conversation. The latter is
not so necessary for an exact knowledge of current opinion as of the
latest expressions. Unfortunately this revival of the _Nocturnes_ had
not yet been announced by the critics. The news of it had been
transmitted only by word of mouth among the 'younger' people. It
remained unknown to Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin. I gave myself the
pleasure of informing her, but by addressing my remark to her
mother-in-law, as when at billiards in order to hit a ball one aims at
the cushion, that Chopin, so far from being out of date, was Debussy's
favourite composer. "Indeed, that's quaint," said the daughter-in-law
with a subtle smile as though it had been merely a deliberate paradox
on the part of the composer of _Pelléas_. Nevertheless it was now
quite certain that in future she would always listen to Chopin with
respect and even pleasure. Moreover my words which had sounded the
hour of deliverance for the dowager produced on her face an expression
of gratitude to myself and above all of joy. Her eyes shone like the
eyes of Latude in the play entitled _Latude, or Thirty-five Years in
Captivity_, and her bosom inhaled the sea air with that dilatation
which Beethoven has so well described in _Fidelio_, at the point where
his prisoners at last breathe again 'this life-giving air.' As for the
dowager, I thought that she was going to press her hirsute lips to my
cheek. "What, you like Chopin? He likes Chopin, he likes Chopin," she
cried with a nasal trumpet-tone of passion; she might have been
saying: "What, you know Mme. de Franquetot too?" with this difference,
that my relations with Mme. de Franquetot would have left her
completely indifferent, whereas my knowledge of Chopin plunged her in
a sort of artistic delirium. Her salivary super-secretion no longer
sufficed. Not having attempted even to understand the part played by
Debussy in the rediscovery of Chopin, she felt only that my judgment
of him was favourable. Her musical enthusiasm overpowered her.
"Elodie! Elodie! He likes Chopin!" her bosom rose and she beat the air
with her arms. "Ah! I knew at once that you were a musician," she
cried. "I can quite understand an artist such as you are liking him.
He's so lovely!" And her voice was as pebbly as if, to express her
ardour for Chopin, she had copied Demosthenes and filled her mouth
with all the shingle on the beach. Then came the turn of the tide,
reaching as far as her veil which she had not time to lift out of
harm's way and which was flooded; and lastly the Marquise wiped away
with her embroidered handkerchief the tidemark of foam in which the
memory of Chopin had steeped her moustaches.

"Good heavens," Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin remarked to me, "I'm
afraid my mother-in-law's cutting it rather fine, she's forgotten that
we've got my Uncle de Ch'nouville dining. Besides, Cancan doesn't like
to be kept waiting." The word 'Cancan' was beyond me, and I supposed
that she might perhaps be referring to a dog. But as for the
Ch'nouville relatives, the explanation was as follows. With the lapse
of time the young Marquise had outgrown the pleasure that she had once
found in pronouncing their name in this manner. And yet it was the
prospect of enjoying that pleasure that had decided her choice of a
husband. In other social circles, when one referred to the Chenouville
family, the custom was (whenever, that is to say, the particle was
preceded by a word ending in a vowel sound, for otherwise you were
obliged to lay stress upon the _de_, the tongue refusing to utter
Madam' d'Ch'nonceaux) that it was the mute _e_ of the particle that
was sacrificed. One said: "Monsieur d'Chenouville." The Cambremer
tradition was different, but no less imperious. It was the mute _e_ of
Chenouville that was suppressed. Whether the name was preceded by _mon
cousin_ or by _ma cousine_, it was always _de Ch'nouville_ and never
_de Chenouville_. (Of the father of these Chenouvilles, one said 'our
Uncle' for they were not sufficiently 'smart set' at Féterne to
pronounce the word 'Unk' like the Guermantes, whose deliberate jargon,
suppressing consonants and naturalising foreign words, was as
difficult to understand as Old French or a modern dialect.) Every
newcomer into the family circle at once received, in the matter of the
Ch'nouvilles, a lesson which Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin had not
required. When, paying a call one day, she had heard a girl say: "My
Aunt d'Uzai," "My Unk de Rouan," she had not at first recognised the
illustrious names which she was in the habit of pronouncing: Uzès, and
Rohan, she had felt the astonishment, embarrassment and shame of a
person who sees before him on the table a recently invented implement
of which he does not know the proper use and with which he dares not
begin to eat. But during that night and the next day she had
rapturously repeated: "My Aunt Uzai," with that suppression of the
final _s_, a suppression that had stupefied her the day before, but
which it now seemed to her so vulgar not to know that, one of her
friends having spoken to her of a bust of the Duchesse d'Uzès, Mlle.
Legrandin had answered her crossly, and in an arrogant tone: "You
might at least pronounce her name properly: Mme. d'Uzai." From that
moment she had realised that, by virtue of the transmutation of solid
bodies into more and more subtle elements, the considerable and so
honourably acquired fortune that she had inherited from her father,
the finished education that she had received, her regular attendance
at the Sorbonne, whether at Caro's lectures or at Brunetiere's, and at
the Lamoureux concerts, all this was to be rendered volatile, to find
its utmost sublimation in the pleasure of being able one day to say:
"My Aunt d'Uzai." This did not exclude the thought that she would
continue to associate, in the earlier days, at least, of her married
life, not indeed with certain women friends whom she liked and had
resigned herself to sacrificing, but with certain others whom she did
not like and to whom she looked forward to being able to say (since
that, after all, was why she was marrying): "I must introduce you to
my Aunt d'Uzai," and, when she saw that such an alliance was beyond
her reach, "I must introduce you to my Aunt de Ch'nouville," and "I
shall ask you to dine to meet the Uzai." Her marriage to M. de
Cambremer had procured for Mlle. Legrandin the opportunity to use the
former of these phrases but not the latter, the circle in which her
parents-in-law moved not being that which she had supposed and of
which she continued to dream. After saying to me of Saint-Loup
(adopting for the occasion one of his expressions, for if in talking
to her I used those expressions of Legrandin, she by a reverse
suggestion answered me in Robert's dialect which she did not know to
be borrowed from Rachel), bringing her thumb and forefinger together
and half-shutting her eyes as though she were gazing at something
infinitely delicate which she had succeeded in capturing: "He has a
charming quality of mind," she began to extol him with such warmth
that one might have supposed that she was in love with him (it had
indeed been alleged that, some time back, when he was at Doncières,
Robert had been her lover), in reality simply that I might repeat her
words to him, and ended up with: "You are a great friend of the
Duchesse de Guermantes. I am an invalid, I never go anywhere, and I
know that she sticks to a close circle of chosen friends, which I do
think so wise of her, and so I know her very slightly, but I know she
is a really remarkable woman." Aware that Mme. de Cambremer barely
knew her, and anxious to reduce myself to her level, I avoided the
subject and answered the Marquise that the person whom I did know well
was her brother, M. Legrandin. At the sound of his name she assumed
the same evasive air as myself over the name of Mme. de Guermantes,
but combined with it an expression of annoyance, for she supposed that
I had said this with the object of humiliating not myself but her. Was
she gnawed by despair at having been born a Legrandin? So at least her
husband's sisters and sisters-in-law asserted, ladies of the
provincial nobility who knew nobody and nothing, and were jealous of
Mme. de Cambremer's intelligence, her education, her fortune, the
physical attractions that she had possessed before her illness. "She
can think of nothing else, that is what is killing her," these
slanderers would say whenever they spoke of Mme. de Cambremer to no
matter whom, but preferably to a plebeian, whether, were he conceited
and stupid, to enhance, by this affirmation of the shamefulness of a
plebeian origin, the value of the affability that they were shewing
him, of, if he were shy and clever and applied the remark to himself,
to give themselves the pleasure, while receiving him hospitably, of
insulting him indirectly. But if these ladies thought that they were
speaking the truth about their sister-in-law, they were mistaken. She
suffered not at all from having been born Legrandin, for she had
forgotten the fact altogether. She was annoyed at my reminding her of
it, and remained silent as though she had not understood, not thinking
it necessary to enlarge upon or even to confirm my statement.

"Our cousins are not the chief reason for our cutting short our
visit," said the dowager Mme. de Cambremer, who was probably more
satiated than her daughter-in-law with the pleasure to be derived from
saying 'Ch'nouville.' "But, so as not to bother you with too many
people, Monsieur," she went on, indicating the lawyer, "was afraid to
bring his wife and son to the hotel. They are waiting for us on the
beach, and they will be growing impatient." I asked for an exact
description of them and hastened in search of them. The wife had a
round face like certain flowers of the ranunculus family, and a large
vegetable growth at the corner of her eye. And as the generations of
mankind preserve their characteristic like a family of plants, just as
on the blemished face of his mother, an identical mole, which might
have helped one in classifying a variety of the species, protruded
below the eye of the son. The lawyer was touched by my civility to his
wife and son. He shewed an interest in the subject of my stay at
Balbec. "You must find yourself rather out of your element, for the
people here are for the most part foreigners." And he kept his eye on
me as he spoke, for, not caring for foreigners, albeit he had many
foreign clients, he wished to make sure that I was not hostile to his
xenophobia, in which case he would have beaten a retreat saying: "Of
course, Mme. X—— may be a charming woman. It's a question of
principle." As at that time I had no definite opinion about
foreigners, I shewed no sign of disapproval; he felt himself to be on
safe ground. He went so far as to invite me to come one day, in Paris,
to see his collection of Le Sidaner, and to bring with me the
Cambremers, with whom he evidently supposed me to be on intimate
terms. "I shall invite you to meet Le Sidaner," he said to me,
confident that from that moment I would live only in expectation of
that happy day. "You shall see what a delightful man he is. And his
pictures will enchant you. Of course, I can't compete with the great
collectors, but I do believe that I am the one that possesses the
greatest number of his favourite canvases. They will interest you all
the more, coming from Balbec, since they are marine subjects, for the
most part, at least." The wife and son, blessed with a vegetable
nature, listened composedly. One felt that their house in Paris was a
sort of temple of Le Sidaner. Temples of this sort are not without
their use. When the god has doubts as to his own merits, he can easily
stop the cracks in his opinion of himself with the irrefutable
testimony of people who have devoted their lives to his work.

At a signal from her daughter-in-law, Mme. de Cambremer prepared to
depart, and said to me: "Since you won't come and stay at Féterne,
won't you at least come to luncheon, one day this week, to-morrow for
instance?" And in her bounty, to make the invitation irresistible, she
added: "You will _find_ the Comte de Crisenoy," whom I had never lost,
for the simple reason that I did not know him. She was beginning to
dazzle me with yet further temptations, but stopped short. The chief
magistrate who, on returning to the hotel, had been told that she was
on the premises had crept about searching for her everywhere, then
waited his opportunity, and pretending to have caught sight of her by
chance, came up now to greet her. I gathered that Mme. de Cambremer
did not mean to extend to him the invitation to luncheon that she had
just addressed to me. And yet he had known her far longer than I,
having for years past been one of the regular guests at the afternoon
parties at Féterne whom I used so to envy during my former visit to
Balbec. But old acquaintance is not the only thing that counts in
society. And hostesses are more inclined to reserve their luncheons
for new acquaintances who still whet their curiosity, especially when
they arrive preceded by a glowing and irresistible recommendation like
Saint-Loup's of me. Mme. de Cambremer decided that the chief
magistrate could not have heard what she was saying to me, but, to
calm her guilty conscience, began addressing him in the kindest tone.
In the sunlight that flooded, on the horizon, the golden coastline,
invisible as a rule, of Rivebelle, we could just make out, barely
distinguishable from the luminous azure, rising from the water, rosy,
silvery, faint, the little bells that were sounding the angelus round
about Féterne. "That is rather _Pelléas_, too," I suggested to Mme. de
Cambremer-Legrandin. "You know the scene I mean." "Of course I do!"
was what she said; but "I haven't the faintest idea" was the message
proclaimed by her voice and features which did not mould themselves to
the shape of any recollection and by a smile that floated without
support in the air. The dowager could not get over her astonishment
that the sound of the bells should carry so far, and rose, reminded of
the time. "But, as a rule," I said, "we never see that part of the
coast from Balbec, nor hear it either. The weather must have changed
and enlarged the horizon in more ways than one. Unless, that is to
say, the bells have come to look for you, since I see that they are
making you leave; to you they are a dinner bell." The chief
magistrate, little interested in the bells, glanced furtively along
the front, on which he was sorry to see so few people that evening.
"You are a true poet," said Mme. de Cambremer to me. "One feels you
are so responsive, so artistic, come, I will play you Chopin," she
went on, raising her arms with an air of ecstasy and pronouncing the
words in a raucous voice like the shifting of shingle on the beach.
Then came the deglutition of spittle, and the old lady instinctively
wiped the stubble of her moustaches with her handkerchief. The chief
magistrate did me, unconsciously, a great service by offering the
Marquise his arm to escort her to her carriage, a certain blend of
vulgarity, boldness and love of ostentation prompting him to actions
which other people would have hesitated to risk, and which are by no
means unsuccessful in society. He was, moreover, and had been for
years past far more in the habit of these actions than myself. While
blessing him for what he did I did not venture to copy him, and walked
by the side of Mme. de Cambremer-Legrandin who insisted upon seeing
the book that I had in my hand. The name of Madame de Sévigné drew a
grimace from her; and using a word which she had seen in certain
newspapers, but which, used in speech and given a feminine form, and
applied to a seventeenth century writer, had an odd effect, she asked
me: "Do you think her really masterly?" The Marquise gave her footman
the address of a pastry-cook where she had to call before taking the
road, rosy with the evening haze, through which loomed one beyond
another the dusky walls of cliff. She asked her old coachman whether
one of the horses which was apt to catch cold had been kept warm
enough, whether the other's shoe were not hurting him. "I shall write
to you and make a definite engagement," she murmured to me. "I heard
you talking about literature to my daughter-in-law, she's a darling,"
she went on, not that she really thought so, but she had acquired the
habit—and kept it up in her kindness of heart—of saying so, in order
that her son might not appear to have married for money. "Besides,"
she added with a final enthusiastic gnashing of her teeth, "she's so
harttissttick!" With this she stepped into her carriage, nodding her
head, holding the crook of her sunshade aloft like a crozier, and set
off through the streets of Balbec, overloaded with the ornaments of
her priesthood, like an old Bishop on a confirmation tour.

"She has asked you to luncheon," the chief magistrate said to me
sternly when the carriage had passed out of sight and I came indoors
with the girls. "We're not on the best of terms just now. She feels
that I neglect her. Gad, I'm easy enough to get on with. If anybody
needs me, I'm always there to say: Adsum! But they tried to force my
hand. That, now," he went on with an air of subtlety, holding up his
finger as though making and arguing a distinction, "that is a thing I
do not allow. It is a threat to the liberty of my holidays. I was
obliged to say: Stop! You seem to be in her good books. When you reach
my age you will see that society is a very trumpery thing, and you
will be sorry you attached so much importance to these trifles. Well,
I am going to take a turn before dinner. Good-bye, children," he
shouted back at us, as though he were already fifty yards away.

When I had said good-bye to Rosemonde and Gisèle, they saw with
astonishment that Albertine was staying behind instead of accompanying
them. "Why, Albertine, what are you doing, don't you know what time it
is?" "Go home," she replied in a tone of authority. "I want to talk to
him," she added, indicating myself with a submissive air. Rosemonde
and Gisèle stared at me, filled with a new and strange respect. I
enjoyed the feeling that, for a moment at least, in the eyes even of
Rosemonde and Gisèle, I was to Albertine something more important than
the time, than her friends, and might indeed share solemn secrets with
her into which it was impossible for them to be admitted. "Shan't we
see you again this evening?" "I don't know, it will depend on this
person. Anyhow, to-morrow." "Let us go up to my room," I said to her,
when her friends had gone. We took the lift; she remained silent in
the boy's presence. The habit of being obliged to resort to personal
observation and deduction in order to find out the business of their
masters, those strange beings who converse among themselves and do not
speak to them, develops in 'employees' (as the lift-boy styled
servants), a stronger power of divination than the 'employer'
possesses. Our organs become atrophied or grow stronger or more
subtle, accordingly as our need of them increases or diminishes. Since
railways came into existence, the necessity of not missing the train
has taught us to take account of minutes whereas among the ancient
Romans, who not only had a more cursory science of astronomy but led
less hurried lives, the notion not of minutes but even of fixed hours
barely existed. And so the lift-boy had gathered and meant to inform
his comrades that Albertine and I were preoccupied. But he talked to
us without ceasing because he had no tact. And yet I could see upon
his face, in place of the customary expression of friendliness and joy
at taking me up in his lift, an air of extraordinary depression and
uneasiness. As I knew nothing of the cause of this, in an attempt to
distract his thoughts, and albeit I was more preoccupied than
Albertine, I told him that the lady who had just left was called the
Marquise de Cambremer and not de Camembert. On the landing at which we
were pausing at the moment, I saw, carrying a pair of pails, a hideous
chambermaid who greeted me with respect, hoping for a tip when I left.
I should have liked to know if she were the one whom I had so ardently
desired on the evening of my first arrival at Balbec, but I could
never arrive at any certainty. The lift-boy swore to me with the
sincerity of most false witnesses, but without shedding his expression
of despair, that it was indeed by the name of Camembert that the
Marquise had told him to announce her. And as a matter of fact it was
quite natural that he should have heard her say a name which he
already knew. Besides, having those very vague ideas of nobility, and
of the names of which titles are composed, which are shared by many
people who are not lift-boys, the name Camembert had seemed to him all
the more probable inasmuch as, that cheese being universally known, it
was not in the least surprising that people should have acquired a
marquisate from so glorious a distinction, unless it were the
marquisate that had bestowed its renown upon the cheese. Nevertheless
as he saw that I refused to admit that I might be mistaken, and as he
knew that masters like to see their most futile whims obeyed and their
most obvious lies accepted, he promised me like a good servant that in
future he would say Cambremer. It is true that none of the shopkeepers
in the town, none of the peasants in the district, where the name and
persons of the Cambremers were perfectly familiar, could ever have
made the lift-boy's mistake. But the staff of the 'Grand Hotel of
Balbec' were none of them natives. They came direct, with the
furniture and stock, from Biarritz, Nice and Monte-Carlo, one division
having been transferred to Deauville, another to Dinard and the third
reserved for Balbec.

But the lift-boy's pained anxiety continued to grow. That he should
thus forget to shew his devotion to me by the customary smiles, some
misfortune must have befallen him. Perhaps he had been ''missed.' I
made up my mind in that case to try to secure his reinstatement, the
manager having promised to ratify all my wishes with regard to his
staff. "You can always do just what you like, I rectify everything in
advance." Suddenly, as I stepped out of the lift, I guessed the
meaning of the boy's distress, his panic-stricken air. Because
Albertine was with me, I had not given him the five francs which I was
in the habit of slipping into his hand when I went up. And the idiot,
instead of understanding that I did not wish to make a display of
generosity in front of a third person, had begun to tremble, supposing
that it was all finished, that I would never give him anything again.
He imagined that I was 'on the rocks' (as the Duc de Guermantes would
have said), and the supposition inspired him with no pity for myself
but with a terrible selfish disappointment. I told myself that I was
less unreasonable than my mother thought when I dared not, one day,
refrain from giving the extravagant but feverishly awaited sum that I
had given the day before. But at the same time the meaning that I had
until then, and without a shadow of doubt, ascribed to his habitual
expression of joy, in which I had no hesitation in seeing a sign of
devotion, seemed to me to have become less certain. Seeing the
lift-boy ready, in his despair, to fling himself down from the fifth
floor of the hotel, I asked myself whether, if our respective social
stations were to be altered, in consequence let us say of a
revolution, instead of politely working his lift for me, the boy,
grown independent, would not have flung me down the well, and whether
there was not, in certain of the lower orders, more duplicity than in
society, where, no doubt, people reserve their offensive remarks until
we are out of earshot, but where their attitude towards us would not
be insulting if we were reduced to poverty.

One cannot however say that, in the Balbec hotel, the lift-boy was the
most commercially minded. From this point of view the staff might be
divided into two categories; on the one hand, those who drew
distinctions between the visitors, and were more grateful for the
modest tip of an old nobleman (who, moreover, was in a position to
relieve them from 28 days of military service by saying a word for
them to General de Beautreillis) than for the thoughtless liberalities
of a cad who by his very profusion revealed a want of practice which
only to his face did they call generosity. On the other hand, those
to whom nobility, intellect, fame, position, manners were non-existent,
concealed under a cash valuation. For these there was but a single
standard, the money one has, or rather the money one bestows. Possibly
Aimé himself, albeit pretending, in view of the great number of hotels
in which he had served, to a great knowledge of the world, belonged to
this latter category. At the most he would give a social turn, shewing
that he knew who was who, to this sort of appreciation, as when he
said of the Princesse de Luxembourg: "There's a pile of money among
that lot?" (the question mark at the end being to ascertain the facts
or to check such information as he had already ascertained, before
supplying a client with a 'chef for Paris, or promising him a table on
the left, by the door, with a view of the sea, at Balbec). In spite of
this, and albeit not free from sordid considerations, he would not
have displayed them with the fatuous despair of the lift-boy. And yet,
the latter's artlessness helped perhaps to simplify things. It is the
convenience of a big hotel, of a house such as Rachel used at one time
to frequent, that, without any intermediary, the face, frozen stiff
until that moment, of a servant or a woman, at the sight of a
hundred-franc note, still more of one of a thousand, even although it
is being given to some one else, will melt in smiles and offers of
service. Whereas in the dealings, in the relations between lover and
mistress, there are too many things interposed between money and
docility. So many things that the very people upon whose faces money
finally evokes a smile are often incapable of following the internal
process that links them together, believe themselves to be, and indeed
are more refined. Besides, it rids polite conversation of such
speeches as: "There's only one thing left for me to do, you will find
me to-morrow in the mortuary." And so one meets in polite society few
novelists, or poets, few of all those sublime creatures who speak of
the things that are not to be mentioned.

As soon as we were alone and had moved along the corridor, Albertine
began: "What is it, you have got against me?" Had my harsh treatment
of her been painful to myself? Had it been merely an unconscious ruse
on my part, with the object of bringing my mistress to that attitude
of fear and supplication which would enable me to interrogate her, and
perhaps to find out which of the alternative hypotheses that I had
long since formed about her was correct? However that may be, when I
heard her question, I suddenly felt the joy of one who attains to a
long desired goal. Before answering her, I escorted her to the door
of my room. Opening it, I scattered the roseate light that was
flooding the room and turning the white muslin of the curtains drawn
for the night to golden damask. I went across to the window; the gulls
had settled again upon the waves; but this time they were pink. I drew
Albertine's attention to them. "Don't change the subject," she said,
"be frank with me." I lied. I declared to her that she must first
listen to a confession, that of my passionate admiration, for some
time past, of Andrée, and I made her this confession with a simplicity
and frankness worthy of the stage, but seldom employed in real life
except for a love which people do not feel. Harking back to the
fiction I had employed with Gilberte before my first visit to Balbec,
but adapting its terms, I went so far (in order to make her more ready
to believe me when I told her now that I was not in love with her) as
to let fall the admission that at one time I had been on the point of
falling in love with her, but that too long an interval had elapsed,
that she could be nothing more to me now than a good friend and
comrade, and that even if I wished to feel once again a more ardent
sentiment for her it would be quite beyond my power. As it happened,
in taking my stand thus before Albertine on these protestations of
coldness towards her, I was merely—because of a particular
circumstance and with a particular object in view—making more
perceptible, accentuating more markedly, that dual rhythm which love
adopts in all those who have too little confidence in themselves to
believe that a woman can ever fall in love with them, and also that
they themselves can genuinely fall in love with her. They know
themselves well enough to have observed that in the presence of the
most divergent types of woman they felt the same hopes, the same
agonies, invented the same romances, uttered the same words, to have
deduced therefore that their sentiments, their actions bear no close
and necessary relation to the woman they love, but pass by her,
spatter her, surround her, like the waves that break round upon the
rocks, and their sense of their own instability increases still
further their misgivings that this woman, by whom they would so fain
be loved, is not in love with them. Why should chance have brought it
about, when she is simply an accident placed so as to catch the
ebullience of our desire, that we should ourselves be the object of
the desire that is animating her? And so, while we feel the need to
pour out before her all those sentiments, so different from the merely
human sentiments that our neighbour inspires in us, those so highly
specialised sentiments which are a lover's, after we have taken a step
forward, in avowing to her whom we love our affection for her, our
hopes, overcome at once by the fear of offending her, ashamed too that
the speech we have addressed to her was not composed expressly for
her, that it has served us already, will serve us again for others,
that if she does not love us she cannot understand us and we have
spoken in that case with the want of taste, of modesty shewn by the
pedant who addresses an ignorant audience in subtle phrases which are
not for them, this fear, this shame bring into play the
counter-rhythm, the reflux, the need, even by first drawing back,
hotly denying the affection we have already confessed, to resume the
offensive, and to recapture her esteem, to dominate her; the double
rhythm is perceptible in the various periods of a single love affair,
in all the corresponding periods of similar love affairs, in all those
people whose self-analysis outweighs their self-esteem. If it was
however somewhat more vigorously accentuated than usual in this speech
which I was now preparing to make to Albertine, that was simply to
allow me to pass more speedily and more emphatically to the alternate
rhythm which should sound my affection.

As though it must be painful to Albertine to believe what I was saying
to her as to the impossibility of my loving her again, after so long
an interval, I justified what I called an eccentricity of my nature by
examples taken from people with whom I had, by their fault or my own,
allowed the time for loving them to pass, and been unable, however
keenly I might have desired it, to recapture it. I thus appeared at
one and the same time to be apologising to her, as for a want of
courtesy, for this inability to begin loving her again, and to be
seeking to make her understand the psychological reasons for that
incapacity as though they had been peculiar to myself. But by
explaining myself in this fashion, by dwelling upon the case of
Gilberte, in regard to whom the argument had indeed been strictly true
which was becoming so far from true when applied to Albertine, all
that I did was to render my assertions as plausible as I pretended to
believe that they were not. Feeling that Albertine appreciated what
she called my 'frank speech' and recognising in my deductions the
clarity of the evidence, I apologised for the former by telling her
that I knew that the truth was always unpleasant and in this instance
must seem to her incomprehensible. She, on the contrary, thanked me
for my sincerity and added that so far from being puzzled she
understood perfectly a state of mind so frequent and so natural.

This avowal to Albertine of an imaginary sentiment for Andrée, and,
towards herself, an indifference which, that it might appear
altogether sincere and without exaggeration, I assured her
incidentally, as though by a scruple of politeness, must not be taken
too literally, enabled me at length, without any fear of Albertine's
suspecting me of loving her, to speak to her with a tenderness which I
had so long denied myself and which seemed to me exquisite. I almost
caressed my confidant; as I spoke to her of her friend whom I loved,
tears came to my eyes. But, coming at last to the point, I said to her
that she knew what love meant, its susceptibilities, its sufferings,
and that perhaps, as the old friend that she now was, she might feel
it in her heart to put a stop to the bitter grief that she was causing
me, not directly, since it was not herself that I loved, if I might
venture to repeat that without offending her, but indirectly by
wounding me in my love for Andrée. I broke off to admire and point out
to Albertine a great bird, solitary and hastening, which far out in
front of us, lashing the air with the regular beat of its wings, was
passing at full speed over the beach stained here and there with
reflexions like little torn scraps of red paper, and crossing it from
end to end without slackening its pace, without diverting its
attention, without deviating from its path, like an envoy carrying far
afield an urgent and vital message. "He at least goes straight to the
point!" said Albertine in a tone of reproach. "You say that because
you don't know what it is I was going to tell you. But it is so
difficult that I prefer to give it up; I am certain that I should make
you angry; and then all that will have happened will be this: I shall
be in no way better off with the girl I really love and I shall have
lost a good friend." "But when I swear to you that I will not be
angry." She had so sweet, so wistfully docile an air, as though her
whole happiness depended on me, that I could barely restrain myself
from kissing—with almost the same kind of pleasure that I should have
taken in kissing my mother—this novel face which no longer presented
the startled, blushing expression of a rebellious and perverse kitten
with its little pink, tip-tilted nose, but seemed, in the fulness of
its crushing sorrow, moulded in broad, flattened, drooping slabs of
pure goodness. Making an abstraction of my love as of a chronic mania
that had no connexion with her, putting myself in her place, I let my
heart be melted before this honest girl, accustomed to being treated
in a friendly and loyal fashion, whom the good comrade that she might
have supposed me had been pursuing for weeks past with persecutions
which had at last arrived at their culminating point. It was because I
placed myself at a standpoint that was purely human, external to both
of us, at which my jealous love dissolved, that I felt for Albertine
that profound pity, which would have been less profound if I had not
loved her. However, in that rhythmical oscillation which leads from a
declaration to a quarrel (the surest, the most certainly perilous way
of forming by opposite and successive movements a knot which will not
be loosed and attaches us firmly to a person by the strain of the
movement of withdrawal which constitutes one of the two elements of
the rhythm), of what use is it to analyse farther the refluences of
human pity, which, the opposite of love, though springing perhaps
unconsciously from the same cause, produces in every case the same
effects? When we count up afterwards the total amount of all that we
have done for a woman, we often discover that the actions prompted by
the desire to shew that we love her, to make her love us, to win her
favours, bulk little if any greater than those due to the human need
to repair the wrongs that we have done to the creature whom we love,
from a mere sense of moral duty, as though we were not in love with
her. "But tell me, what on earth have I done?" Albertine asked me.
There was a knock at the door; it was the lift-boy; Albertine's aunt,
who was passing the hotel in a carriage, had stopped on the chance of
finding her there, to take her home. Albertine sent word that she
could not come, that they were to begin dinner without her, that she
could not say at what time she would return. "But won't your aunt be
angry?" "What do you suppose? She will understand all right." And so,
at this moment at least, a moment such as might never occur again—a
conversation with myself was proved by this incident to be in
Albertine's eyes a thing of such self-evident importance that it must
be given precedence over everything, a thing to which, referring no
doubt instinctively to a family code, enumerating certain crises in
which, when the career of M. Bontemps was at stake, a journey had been
made without a thought, my friend never doubted that her aunt would
think it quite natural to see her sacrifice the dinner-hour. That
remote hour which she passed without my company, among her own people,
Albertine, having brought it to me, bestowed it on me; I might make
what use of it I chose. I ended by making bold to tell her what had
been reported to me about her way of living, and that notwithstanding
the profound disgust that I felt for women tainted with that vice, I
had not given it a thought until I had been told the name of her
accomplice, and that she could readily understand, loving Andrée as I
did, the grief that, the news had caused me. It would have been more
tactful perhaps to say that I had been given the names of other women
as well, in whom I was not interested. But the sudden and terrible
revelation that Cottard had made to me had entered my heart to
lacerate it, complete in itself but without accretions. And just as,
before that moment, it would never have occurred to me that Albertine
was in love with Andrée, or at any rate could find pleasure in
caressing her, if Cottard had not drawn my attention to their attitude
as they waltzed together, so I had been incapable of passing from that
idea to the idea, so different for me, that Albertine might have, with
other women than Andrée, relations for which affection could not be
pleaded in excuse. Albertine, before even swearing to me that it was
not true, shewed, like everyone upon learning that such things are
being said about him, anger, concern, and, with regard to the unknown
slanderer, a fierce curiosity to know who he was and a desire to be
confronted with him so as to be able to confound him. But she assured
me that she bore me, at least, no resentment. "If it had been true, I
should have told you. But Andrée and I both loathe that sort of thing.
We have not lived all these years without seeing women with cropped
hair who behave like men and do the things you mean, and nothing
revolts us more." Albertine gave me merely her word, a peremptory word
unsupported by proof. But this was just what was best calculated to
calm me, jealousy belonging to that family of sickly doubts which are
better purged by the energy than by the probability of an affirmation.
It is moreover the property of love to make us at once more
distrustful and more credulous, to make us suspect, more readily than
we should suspect anyone else, her whom we love, and be convinced more
easily by her denials. We must be in love before we can care that all
women are not virtuous, which is to say before we can be aware of the
fact, and we must be in love too before we can hope, that is to say
assure ourselves that some are. It is human to seek out what hurts us
and then at once to seek to get rid of it. The statements that are
capable of so relieving us seem quite naturally true, we are not
inclined to cavil at a sedative that acts. Besides, however multiform
may be the person with whom we are in love, she can in any case offer
us two essential personalities accordingly as she appears to us as
ours, or as turning her desires in another direction. The former of
these personalities possesses the peculiar power which prevents us
from believing in the reality of the other, the secret remedy to heal
the sufferings that this latter has caused us. The beloved object is
successively the malady and the remedy that suspends and aggravates
it. No doubt, I had long since been prepared, by the strong impression
made on my imagination and my faculty for emotion by the example of
Swann, to believe in the truth of what I feared rather than of what I
should have wished. And so the comfort brought me by Albertine's
affirmations came near to being jeopardised for a moment, because I
was reminded of the story of Odette. But I told myself that, if it was
only right to allow for the worst, not only when, in order to
understand Swann's sufferings, I had tried to put myself in his place,
but now, when I myself was concerned, in seeking the truth as though
it referred to some one else, still I must not, out of cruelty to
myself, a soldier who chooses the post not where he can be of most use
but where he is most exposed, end in the mistake of regarding one
supposition as more true than the rest, simply because it was more
painful. Was there not a vast gulf between Albertine, a girl of good,
middle-class parentage, and Odette, a courtesan bartered by her mother
in her childhood? There could be no comparison of their respective
credibility. Besides, Albertine had in no respect the same interest in
lying to me that Odette had had in lying to Swann. Moreover to him
Odette had admitted what Albertine had just denied. I should therefore
be guilty of an error in reasoning as serious—though in the opposite
direction—as that which had inclined me towards a certain hypothesis
because it had caused me less pain than the rest, were I not to take
into account these material differences in their positions, but to
reconstruct the real life of my mistress solely from what I had been
told about the life of Odette. I had before me a new Albertine, of
whom I had already, it was true, caught more than one glimpse towards
the end of my previous visit to Balbec, frank and honest, an Albertine
who had, out of affection for myself, forgiven me my suspicions and
tried to dispel them. She made me sit down by her side upon my bed. I
thanked her for what she had said to me, assured her that our
reconciliation was complete, and that I would never be horrid to her
again. I suggested to her that she ought, at the same time, to go home
to dinner. She asked me whether I was not glad to have her with me.
Drawing my head towards her for a caress which she had never before
given me and which I owed perhaps to the healing of our rupture, she
passed her tongue lightly over my lips which she attempted to force
apart. At first I kept them tight shut. "You are a great bear!" she
informed me.

I ought to have left the place that evening and never set eyes on her
again. I felt even then that in a love which is not reciprocated—I
might as well say, in love, for there are people for whom there is no
such thing as reciprocated love—we can enjoy only that simulacrum of
happiness which had been given me at one of those unique moments in
which a woman's good nature, or her caprice, or mere chance, bring to
our desires, in perfect coincidence, the same words, the same actions
as if we were really loved. The wiser course would have been to
consider with curiosity, to possess with delight that little parcel of
happiness failing which I should have died without ever suspecting
what it could mean to hearts less difficult to please or more highly
favoured; to suppose that it formed part of a vast and enduring
happiness of which this fragment only was visible to me, and—lest the
next day should expose this fiction—not to attempt to ask for any
fresh favour after this, which had been due only to the artifice of an
exceptional moment. I ought to have left Balbec, to have shut myself
up in solitude, to have remained so in harmony with the last
vibrations of the voice which I had contrived to render amorous for an
instant, and of which I should have asked nothing more than that it
might never address another word to me; for fear lest, by an
additional word which now could only be different, it might shatter
with a discord the sensitive silence in which, as though by the
pressure of a pedal, there might long have survived in me the
throbbing chord of happiness.

Soothed by my explanation with Albertine, I began once again to live
in closer intimacy with my mother. She loved to talk to me gently
about the days in which my grandmother had been younger. Fearing that
I might reproach myself with the sorrows with which I had perhaps
darkened the close of my grandmother's life, she preferred to turn
back to the years when the first signs of my dawning intelligence had
given my grandmother a satisfaction which until now had always been
kept from me. We talked of the old days at Combray. My mother reminded
me that there at least I used to read, and that at Balbec I might well
do the same, if I was not going to work. I replied that, to surround
myself with memories of Combray and of the charming coloured plates, I
should like to read again the _Thousand and One Nights_. As, long ago
at Combray, when she gave me books for my birthday, so it was in
secret, as a surprise for me, that my mother now sent for both the
_Thousand and One Nights_ of Galland and the _Thousand Nights and a
Night_ of Mardrus. But, after casting her eye over the two
translations, my mother would have preferred that I should stick to
Galland's, albeit hesitating to influence me because of the respect
that she felt for intellectual liberty, her dread of interfering with
my intellectual life and the feeling that, being a woman, on the one
hand she lacked, or so she thought, the necessary literary equipment,
and on the other hand ought not to condemn because she herself was
shocked by it the reading of a young man. Happening upon certain of
the tales, she had been revolted by the immorality of the subject and
the crudity of the expression. But above all, preserving, like
precious relics, not only the brooch, the sunshade, the cloak, the
volume of Madame de Sévigné, but also the habits of thought and speech
of her mother, seeking on every occasion the opinion that she would
have expressed, my mother could have no doubt of the horror with which
my grandmother would have condemned Mardrus's book. She remembered
that at Combray while before setting out for a walk, Méséglise way, I
was reading Augustin Thierry, my grandmother, glad that I should be
reading, and taking walks, was indignant nevertheless at seeing him
whose name remained enshrined in the hemistich: 'Then reignèd Mérovée'
called Merowig, refused to say 'Carolingians' for the 'Carlovingians'
to which she remained loyal. And then I told her what my grandmother
had thought of the Greek names which Bloch, following Leconte de
Lisle, gave to the gods of Homer, going so far, in the simplest
matters, as to make it a religious duty, in which he supposed literary
talent to consist, to adopt a Greek system of spelling. Having
occasion, for instance, to mention in a letter that the wine which
they drank at his home was real nectar, he would write 'real nektar,'
with a _k_, which enabled him to titter at the mention of Lamartine.
And if an _Odyssey_ from which the names of Ulysses and Minerva were
missing was no longer the _Odyssey_ to her, what would she have said
upon seeing corrupted even upon the cover the title of her _Thousand
and One Nights_, upon no longer finding, exactly transcribed as she
had all her life been in the habit of pronouncing them, the immortally
familiar names of Scheherazade, of Dinarzade, in which, debaptised
themselves (if one may use the expression of Musulman tales), the
charming Caliph and the powerful Genies were barely recognisable,
being renamed, he the 'Khalifat' and they the 'Gennis.' Still, my
mother handed over both books to me, and I told her that I would read
them on the days when I. felt too tired to go out.

These days were not very frequent, however. We used to go out
picnicking as before in a band, Albertine, her friends and myself, on
the cliff or to the farm called Marie-Antoinette. But there were times
when Albertine bestowed on me this great pleasure. She would say to
me: "To-day I want to be alone with you for a little, it will be nicer
if we are just by ourselves." Then she would give out that she was
busy, not that she need furnish any explanation, and so that the
others, if they went all the same, without us, for an excursion and
picnic, might not be able to find us, we would steal away like a pair
of lovers, all by ourselves to Bagatelle or the Cross of Heulan, while
the band, who would never think of looking for us there and never went
there, waited indefinitely, in the hope of seeing us appear, at
Marie-Antoinette. I recall the hot weather that we had then, when from
the brow of each of the farm-labourers toiling in the sun a drop of
sweat would fall, vertical, regular, intermittent, like the drop of
water from a cistern, and alternate with the fall of the ripe fruit
dropping from the tree in the adjoining 'closes'; they have remained,
to this day, with that mystery of a woman's secret, the most
substantial part of every love that offers itself to me. A woman who
has been mentioned to me and to whom I would not give a moment's
thought—I upset all my week's engagements to make her acquaintance,
if it is a week of similar weather, and I am to meet her in some
isolated farmhouse. It is no good my knowing that this kind of
weather, this kind of assignation are not part of her, they are still
the bait, which I know all too well, by which I allow myself to be
tempted and which is sufficient to hook me. I know that this woman, in
cold weather, in a town, I might perhaps have desired, but without the
accompaniment of a romantic sentiment, without becoming amorous; my
love for her is none the less keen as soon as, by force of
circumstances, it has enthralled me—it is only the more melancholy,
as in the course of life our sentiments for other people become, in
proportion as we become more clearly aware of the ever smaller part
that they play in our life and that the new love which we would like
to be so permanent, cut short in the same moment as life itself, will
be the last.

There were still but a few people at Balbec, hardly any girls.
Sometimes I saw some girl resting upon the beach, devoid of charm, and
yet apparently identified by various features as one whom I had been
in despair at not being able to approach at the moment when she
emerged with her friends from the riding school or gymnasium. If it
was the same (and I took care not to mention the matter to Albertine),
then the girl that I had thought so exciting did not exist. But I
could not arrive at any certainty, for the face of any one of these
girls did not fill any space upon the beach, did not offer a permanent
form, contracted, dilated, transformed as it was by my own
observation, the uneasiness of my desire or a sense of comfort that
was self-sufficient, by the different clothes that she was wearing,
the rapidity of her movements or her immobility. All the same, two or
three of them seemed to me adorable. Whenever I saw one of these, I
longed to take her away along the Avenue des Tamaris, or among the
sandhills, better still upon the cliff. But, albeit into desire, as
opposed to indifference, there enters already that audacity which is a
first stage, if only unilateral, towards realisation, all the same,
between my desire and the action that my request to be allowed to kiss
her would have been, there was all the indefinite blank of hesitation,
of timidity. Then I went into the pastrycook's bar, I drank, one after
another, seven or eight glasses of port wine. At once, instead of the
impassable gulf between my desire and action, the effect of the
alcohol traced a line that joined them together. No longer was there
any room for hesitation or fear. It seemed to me that the girl was
about to fly into my arms. I went up to her, the words came
spontaneously to my lips: "I should like to go for a walk with you.
You wouldn't care to go along the cliff, we shan't be disturbed behind
the little wood that keeps the wind off the wooden bungalow that is
empty just now?" All the difficulties of life were smoothed away,
there was no longer any obstacle to the conjunction of our two bodies.
No obstacle for me, at least. For they had not been volatilised for
her, who had not been drinking port wine. Had she done so, had the
outer world lost some of its reality in her eyes, the long cherished
dream that would then have appeared to her to be suddenly realisable
might perhaps have been not at all that of falling into my arms.

Not only were the girls few in number but at this season which was not
yet 'the season' they stayed but a short time. There is one I remember
with a reddish skin, green eyes and a pair of ruddy cheeks, whose
slight symmetrical face resembled the winged seeds of certain trees. I
cannot say what breeze wafted her to Balbec or what other bore her
away. So sudden was her removal that for some days afterwards I was
haunted by a grief which I made bold to confess to Albertine when I
realised that the girl had gone for ever.

I should add that several of them were either girls whom I did not
know at all or whom I had not seen for years. Often, before addressing
them, I wrote to them. If their answer allowed me to believe in the
possibility of love, what joy! We cannot, at the outset of our
friendship with a woman, even if that friendship is destined to come
to nothing, bear to part from those first letters that we have
received from her. We like to have them beside us all the time, like a
present of rare flowers, still quite fresh, at which we cease to gaze
only to draw them closer to us and smell them. The sentence that we
know by heart, it is pleasant to read again, and in those that we have
committed less accurately to memory we like to verify the degree of
affection in some expression. Did she write: 'Your dear letter'? A
slight marring of our bliss, which must be ascribed either to our
having read too quickly, or to the illegible handwriting of our
correspondent; she did not say: 'Your dear letter' but 'From your
letter.' But the rest is so tender. Oh, that more such flowers may
come to-morrow. Then that is no longer enough, we must with the
written words compare the writer's eyes, her face. We make an
appointment, and—without her having altered, perhaps—whereas we
expected, from the description given us or our personal memory, to
meet the fairy Viviane, we encounter Puss-in-Boots. We make an
appointment, nevertheless, for the following day, for it is, after
all, _she_, and the person we desired is she. And these desires for a
woman of whom we have been dreaming do not make beauty of form and
feature essential. These desires are only the desire for a certain
person; vague as perfumes, as styrax was the desire of Prothyraia,
saffron the ethereal desire, aromatic scents the desire of Hera, myrrh
the perfume of the Magi, manna the desire of Nike, incense the perfume
of the sea. But these perfumes that are sung in the Orphic hymns are
far fewer in number than the deities they worship. Myrrh is the
perfume of the Magi, but also of Protogonos, Neptune, Nereus, Leto;
incense is the perfume of the sea, but also of the fair Dike, of
Themis, of Circe, of the Nine Muses, of Eos, of Mnemosyné, of the Day,
of Dikaiosyne. As for styrax, manna and aromatic scents, it would be
impossible to name all the deities that inhale them, so many are they.
Amphietes has all the perfumes except incense, and Gaia rejects only
beans and aromatic scents. So was it with these desires for different
girls that I felt. Fewer in number than the girls themselves, they
changed into disappointments and regrets closely similar one to
another. I never wished for myrrh. I reserved it for Jupien and for
the Prince de Guermantes, for it is the desire of Protogonos "of
twofold sex, who roars like a bull, of countless orgies, memorable,
unspeakable, descending, joyous, to the sacrifices of the
Orgiophants."

But presently the season was in full swing; every day there was some
fresh arrival, and for the sudden increase in the frequency of my
outings, which took the place of the charmed perusal of the _Thousand
and One Nights_, there was a reason devoid of pleasure which poisoned
them all. The beach was now peopled with girls, and, since the idea
suggested to me by Cottard had not indeed furnished me with fresh
suspicions but had rendered me sensitive and weak in that quarter and
careful not to let any suspicion take shape in my mind, as soon as a
young woman arrived at Balbec, I began to feel ill at ease, I proposed
to Albertine the most distant excursions, in order that she might not
make the newcomer's acquaintance, and indeed, if possible, might not
set eyes on her. I dreaded naturally even more those women whose
dubious ways were remarked or their bad reputation already known; I
tried to persuade my mistress that this bad reputation had no
foundation, was a slander, perhaps, without admitting it to myself,
from a fear, still unconscious, that she might seek to make friends
with the depraved woman or regret her inability to do so, because of
me, or might conclude from the number of examples that a vice so
widespread was not to be condemned. In denying the guilt of each of
them, my intention was nothing less than to pretend that sapphism did
not exist. Albertine adopted my incredulity as to the viciousness of
this one or that. "No, I think it's just a pose, she wants to look
the part." But then, I regretted almost that I had pleaded the other's
innocence, for it distressed me that Albertine, formerly so severe,
could believe that this 'part' was a thing so flattering, so
advantageous, that a woman innocent of such tastes could seek to 'look
it.' I would have liked to be sure that no more women were coming to
Balbec; I trembled when I thought that, as it was almost time for Mme.
Putbus to arrive at the Verdurins', her maid, whose tastes Saint-Loup
had not concealed from me, might take it into her head to come down to
the beach, and, if it were a day on which I was not with Albertine,
might seek to corrupt her. I went the length of asking myself whether,
as Cottard had made no secret of the fact that the Verdurins thought
highly of me and, while not wishing to appear, as he put it, to be
running after me, would give a great deal to have me come to their
house, I might not, on the strength of promises to bring all the
Guermantes in existence to call on them in Paris, induce Mme.
Verdurin, upon some pretext or other, to inform Mme. Putbus that it
was impossible to keep her there any longer and make her leave the
place at once. Notwithstanding these thoughts, and as it was chiefly
the presence of Andrée that was disturbing me, the soothing effect
that Albertine's words had had upon me still to some extent
persisted—I knew moreover that presently I should have less need of
it, as Andrée would be leaving the place with Rosemonde and Gisèle
just about the time when the crowd began to arrive and would be
spending only a few weeks more with Albertine. During these weeks,
moreover, Albertine seemed to have planned everything that she did,
everything that she said, with a view to destroying my suspicions if
any remained, or to prevent them from reviving. She contrived never to
be left alone with Andrée, and insisted, when we came back from an
excursion, upon my accompanying her to her door, upon my coming to
fetch her when we were going anywhere. Andrée meanwhile took just as
much trouble on her side, seemed to avoid meeting Albertine. And this
apparent understanding between them was not the only indication that
Albertine must have informed her friend of our conversation and have
asked her to be so kind as to calm my absurd suspicions.

About this time there occurred at the Grand Hotel a scandal which was
not calculated to modify the intensity of my torment. Bloch's cousin
had for some time past been indulging, with a retired actress, in
secret relations which presently ceased to satisfy them. That they
should be seen seemed to them to add perversity to their pleasure,
they chose to flaunt their perilous sport before the eyes of all the
world. They began with caresses, which might, after all, be set down
to a friendly intimacy, in the card-room, by the baccarat-table. Then
they grew more bold. And finally, one evening, in a corner that was
not even dark of the big ball-room, on a sofa, they made no more
attempt to conceal what they were doing than if they had been in bed.
Two officers who happened to be near, with their wives, complained to
the manager. It was thought for a moment that their protest would be
effective. But they had this against them that, having come over for
the evening from Netteholme, where they were staying, they could not
be of any use to the manager. Whereas, without her knowing it even,
and whatever remarks the manager may have made to her, there hovered
over Mlle. Bloch the protection of M. Nissim Bernard. I must explain
why. M. Nissim Bernard carried to their highest pitch the family
virtues. Every year he took a magnificent villa at Balbec for his
nephew, and no invitation would have dissuaded him from going home to
dine at his own table, which was in reality theirs. But he never took
his luncheon at home. Every day at noon he was at the Grand Hotel.
The fact of the matter was that he was keeping, as other men keep a
chorus-girl from the opera, an embryo waiter of much the same type as
the pages of whom we have spoken, and who made us think of the young
Israelites in _Esther_ and _Athalie_. It is true that the forty years'
difference in age between M. Nissim Bernard and the young waiter
ought to have preserved the latter from a contact that was scarcely
pleasant. But, as Racine so wisely observes in those same choruses:

  Great God, with what uncertain tread
  A budding virtue 'mid such perils goes!
  What stumbling-blocks do lie before a soul
  That seeks Thee and would fain be innocent.

The young waiter might indeed have been brought up 'remote from the
world' in the Temple-Caravanserai of Balbec, he had not followed the
advice of Joad:

  In riches and in gold put not thy trust.

He had perhaps justified himself by saying: "The wicked cover the
earth." However that might be, and albeit M. Nissim Bernard had not
expected so rapid a conquest, on the very first day,

  Were't in alarm, or anxious to caress,
  He felt those childish arms about him thrown.

And by the second day, M. Nissim Bernard having taken the young waiter
out,

  The dire assault his innocence destroyed.

From that moment the boy's life was altered. He might indeed carry
bread and salt, as his superior bade him, his whole face sang:

  From flowers to flowers, from joys to keener joys
  Let our desires now range.
  Uncertain is our tale of fleeting years.
  Haste we then to enjoy this life!
  Honours and fame are the reward
  Of blind and meek obedience.
  For moping innocence
  Who now would raise his voice!

Since that day, M. Nissim Bernard had never failed to come and occupy
his seat at the luncheon-table (as a man would occupy his in the
stalls who was keeping a dancer, a dancer in this case of a distinct
and special type, which still awaits its Degas). It was M. Nissim
Bernard's delight to follow over the floor of the restaurant and down
the remote vista to where beneath her palm the cashier sat enthroned,
the evolutions of the adolescent hurrying in service, in the service
of everyone, and, less than anyone, of M. Nissim Bernard, now that the
latter was keeping him, whether because the young chorister did not
think it necessary to display the same friendliness to a person by
whom he supposed himself to be sufficiently well loved, or because
that love annoyed him or he feared lest, if discovered, it might make
him lose other opportunities. But this very coldness pleased M. Nissim
Bernard, because of all that it concealed; whether from Hebraic
atavism or from profanation of the Christian spirit, he took a
singular pleasure, were it Jewish or Catholic, in the Racinian
ceremony. Had it been a real performance of _Esther_ or _Athalie_, M.
Bernard would have regretted that the gulf of centuries must prevent
him from making the acquaintance of the author, Jean Racine, so that
he might obtain for his protégé a more substantial part. But as the
luncheon ceremony came from no author's pen, he contented himself with
being on good terms with the manager and Aimé, so that the 'young
Israelite' might be promoted to the coveted post of under-waiter, or
even full waiter to a row of tables. The post of wine waiter had been
offered him. But M. Bernard made him decline it, for he would no
longer have been able to come every day to watch him race about the
green dining-room and to be waited upon by him like a stranger. Now
this pleasure was so keen that every year M. Bernard returned to
Balbec and took his luncheon away from home, habits in which M. Bloch
saw, in the former a poetical fancy for the bright sunshine, the
sunsets of this coast favoured above all others, in the latter the
inveterate mania of an old bachelor.

As a matter of fact, the mistake made by M. Nissim Bernard's
relatives, who never suspected the true reason for his annual return
to Balbec and for what the pedantic Mme. Bloch called his absentee
palate, was really a more profound and secondary truth. For M. Nissim
Bernard himself was unaware how much there was of love for the beach
at Balbec, for the view one enjoyed from the restaurant over the sea,
and of maniacal habits in the fancy that he had for keeping, like a
dancing girl of another kind which still lacks a Degas, one of his
servants the rest of whom were still girls. And so M. Nissim Bernard
maintained, with the director of this theatre which was the hotel at
Balbec, and with the stage-manager and producer Aimé—whose part in
all this affair was anything but simple—excellent relations. One day
they would intrigue to procure an important part, a place perhaps as
head-waiter. In the meantime M. Nissim Bernard's pleasure, poetical and
calmly contemplative as it might be, reminded one a little of those
women-loving men who always know—Swann, for example, in the
past—that if they go out to a party they will meet their mistress. No
sooner had M. Nissim Bernard taken his seat than he would see the
object of his affections appear on the scene, bearing in his hand
fruit or cigars upon a tray. And so every morning, after kissing his
niece, bothering my friend Bloch about his work and feeding his horses
with lumps of sugar from the palm of his outstretched hand, he would
betray a feverish haste to arrive in time for luncheon at the Grand
Hotel. Had the house been on fire, had his niece had a stroke, he
would doubtless have started off just the same. So that he dreaded
like the plague a cold that would confine him to his bed—for he was a
hypochondriac—and would oblige him to ask Aimé to send his young
friend across to visit him at home, between luncheon and tea-time.

He loved moreover all the labyrinth of corridors, private offices,
reception-rooms, cloakrooms, larders, galleries which composed the
hotel at Balbec. With a strain of oriental atavism he loved a
seraglio, and when he went out at night might be seen furtively
exploring its passages.

While, venturing down to the basement and
endeavouring at the same time to escape notice and to avoid a scandal,
M. Nissim Bernard, in his quest of the young Levites, put one in mind
of those lines in _La Juive_:

  O God of our Fathers, come down to us again,
  Our mysteries veil from the eyes of wicked men!

I on the contrary would go up to the room of two sisters who had come
to Balbec, as her maids, with an old lady, a foreigner. They were what
the language of hotels called 'couriers,' and that of Françoise, who
imagined that a courier was a person who was there to run his course,
two 'coursers.' The hotels have remained, more nobly, in the period
when people sang: "_C'est un courrier de cabinet_."

Difficult as it was for a visitor to penetrate to the servants'
quarters, I had very soon formed a mutual bond of friendship, as
strong as it was pure, with these two young persons, Mademoiselle
Marie Gineste and Madame Céleste Albaret. Born at the foot of the high
mountains in the centre of France, on the banks of rivulets and
torrents (the water passed actually under their old home, turning a
millwheel, and the house had often been damaged by floods), they
seemed to embody the features of that region. Marie Gineste was more
regularly rapid and abrupt, Céleste Albaret softer and more
languishing, spread out like a lake, but with terrible boiling rages
in which her fury suggested the peril of spates and gales that sweep
everything before them. They often came in the morning to see me when
I was still in bed. I have never known people so deliberately
ignorant, who had learned absolutely nothing at school, and yet whose
language was somehow so literary that, but for the almost savage
naturalness of their tone, one would have thought their speech
affected. With a familiarity which I reproduce verbatim,
notwithstanding the praises (which I set down here in praise not of
myself but of the strange genius of Céleste) and the criticisms,
equally unfounded, in which her remarks seem to involve me, while I
dipped crescent rolls in my milk, Céleste would say to me: "Oh! Little
black devil with hair of jet, O profound wickedness! I don't know what
your mother was thinking of when she made you, for you are just like a
bird. Look, Marie, wouldn't you say he was preening his feathers, and
turning his head right round, so light he looks, you would say he was
just learning to fly. Ah! It's fortunate for you that those who bred
you brought you into the world to rank and riches; what would ever
have become of you, so wasteful as you are. Look at him throwing away
his crescent because it touched the bed. There he goes, now, look,
he's spilling his milk, wait till I tie a napkin round you, for you
could never do it for yourself, never in my life have I seen anyone so
helpless and so clumsy as you." I would then hear the more regular
sound of the torrent of Marie Gineste who was furiously reprimanding
her sister: "Will you hold your tongue, now, Céleste. Are you mad,
talking to Monsieur like that?" Céleste merely smiled; and as I
detested having a napkin tied round my neck: "No, Marie, look at him,
bang, he's shot straight up on end like a serpent. A proper serpent, I
tell you." These were but a few of her zoological similes, for,
according to her, it was impossible to tell when I slept, I fluttered
about all night like a butterfly, and in the day time I was as swift
as the squirrels. "You know, Marie, the way we see them at home, so
nimble that even with your eyes you can't follow them." "But, Céleste,
you know he doesn't like having a napkin when he's eating." "It isn't
that he doesn't like it, it's so that he can say nobody can make him
do anything against his will. He's a grand gentleman and he wants to
shew that he is. They can change the sheets ten times over, if they
must, but he won't give way. Yesterday's had served their time, but
to-day they have only just been put on the bed and they'll have to be
changed already. Oh, I was right when I said that he was never meant
to be born among the poor. Look, his hair's standing on end, swelling
with rage like a bird's feathers. Poor _ploumissou_!" Here it was not
only Marie that protested, but myself, for I did not feel in the least
like a grand gentleman. But Céleste would never believe in the
sincerity of my modesty and cut me short. "Oh! The story-teller! Oh!
The flatterer! Oh! The false one! The cunning rogue! Oh! Molière!"
(This was the only writer's name that she knew, but she applied it to
me, meaning thereby a person who was capable both of writing plays and
of acting them.) "Céleste!" came the imperious cry from Marie, who,
not knowing the name of Molière, was afraid that it might be some
fresh insult. Céleste continued to smile: "Then you haven't seen the
photograph of him in his drawer, when he was little. He tried to make
us believe that he was always dressed quite simply. And there, with
his little cane, he's all furs and laces, such as no Prince ever wore.
But that's nothing compared with his tremendous majesty and kindness
which is even more profound." "So then," scolded the torrent Marie,
"you go rummaging in his drawers now, do you?" To calm Marie's fears I
asked her what she thought of M. Nissim Bernard's behaviour.... "Ah!
Monsieur, there are things I wouldn't have believed could exist. One
has to come here to learn." And, for once outrivalling Céleste by an
even more profound observation: "Ah! You see, Monsieur, one can never
tell what there may be in a person's life." To change the subject, I
spoke to her of the life led by my father, who toiled night and day.
"Ah! Monsieur, there are people who keep nothing of their life for
themselves, not one minute, not one pleasure, the whole thing is a
sacrifice for others, they are lives that are _given away_." "Look,
Marie, he has only to put his hand on the counterpane and take his
crescent, what distinction. He can do the most insignificant things,
you would say that the whole nobility of France, from here to the
Pyrenees, was stirring in each of his movements."

Overpowered by this portrait so far from lifelike, I remained silent;
Céleste interpreted my silence as a further instance of guile: "Oh!
Brow that looks so pure, and hides so many things, nice, cool cheeks
like the inside of an almond, little hands of satin all velvety, nails
like claws," and so forth. "There, Marie, look at him sipping his milk
with a devoutness that makes me want to say my prayers. What a serious
air! They ought really to take his portrait as he is just now. He's
just like a child. Is it drinking milk, like them, that has kept you
their bright colour? Oh! Youth! Oh! Lovely skin. You will never grow
old. You are a lucky one, you will never need to raise your hand
against anyone, for you have a pair of eyes that can make their will
be done. Look at him now, he's angry. He shoots up, straight as a
sign-post."

Françoise did not at all approve of what she called the two
'tricksters' coming to talk to me like this. The manager, who made his
staff keep watch over everything that went on, even gave me a serious
warning that it was not proper for a visitor to talk to servants. I,
who found the 'tricksters' far better than any visitor in the hotel,
merely laughed in his face, convinced that he would not understand my
explanations. And the sisters returned. "Look, Marie, at his delicate
lines. Oh, perfect miniature, finer than the most precious you could
see in a glass case, for he can move, and utters words you could
listen to for days and nights."

It was a miracle that a foreign lady could have brought them there,
for, without knowing anything of history or geography, they heartily
detested the English, the Germans, the Russians, the Italians, all
foreign vermin, and cared, with certain exceptions, for French people
alone. Their faces had so far preserved the moisture of the pliable
clay of their native river beds, that, as soon as one mentioned a
foreigner who was staying in the hotel, in order to repeat what he had
said, Céleste and Marie imposed upon their faces his face, their
mouths became his mouth, their eyes his eyes, one would have liked to
preserve these admirable comic masks. Céleste indeed, while
pretending merely to be repeating what the manager had said, or one of
my friends, would insert in her little narrative fictitious remarks in
which were maliciously portrayed all the defects of Bloch, the chief
magistrate, etc., while apparently unconscious of doing so. It was,
under the form of the delivery of a simple message which she had
obligingly undertaken to convey, an inimitable portrait. They never
read anything, not even a newspaper. One day, however, they found
lying on my bed a book. It was a volume of the admirable but obscure
poems of Saint-Léger Léger. Céleste read a few pages and said to me:
"But are you quite sure that these are poetry, wouldn't they just be
riddles?" Obviously, to a person who had learned in her childhood a
single poem: "Down here the lilacs die," there was a gap in evolution.
I fancy that their obstinate refusal to learn anything was due in part
to the unhealthy climate of their early home. They had nevertheless
all the gifts of a poet with more modesty than poets generally shew.
For if Céleste had said something noteworthy and, unable to remember
it correctly, I asked her to repeat it, she would assure me that she
had forgotten. They will never read any books, but neither will they
ever write any.

Françoise was considerably impressed when she learned that the two
brothers of these humble women had married, one the niece of the
Archbishop of Tours, the other a relative of the Bishop of Rodez. To
the manager, this would have conveyed nothing. Céleste would sometimes
reproach her husband with his failure to understand her, and as for
me, I was astonished that he could endure her. For at certain moments,
raging, furious, destroying everything, she was detestable. It is said
that the salt liquid which is our blood is only an internal survival
of the primitive marine element. Similarly, I believe that Céleste,
not only in her bursts of fury, but also in her hours of depression
preserved the rhythm of her native streams. When she was exhausted, it
was after their fashion; she had literally run dry. Nothing could then
have revived her. Then all of a sudden the circulation was restored in
her large body, splendid and light. The water flowed in the opaline
transparence of her bluish skin. She smiled at the sun and became
bluer still. At such moments she was truly celestial.

Bloch's family might never have suspected the reason which made their
uncle never take his luncheon at home and have accepted it from the
first as the mania of an elderly bachelor, due perhaps to the demands
of his intimacy with some actress; everything that concerned M. Nissim
Bernard was tabu to the manager of the Balbec hotel. And that was why,
without even referring to the uncle, he had finally not ventured to
find fault with the niece, albeit recommending her to be a little more
circumspect. And so the girl and her friend who, for some days, had
pictured themselves as excluded from the casino and the Grand Hotel,
seeing that everything was settled, were delighted to shew those
fathers of families who held aloof from them that they might with
impunity take the utmost liberties. No doubt they did not go so far as
to repeat the public exhibition which had revolted everybody. But
gradually they returned to their old ways. And one evening as I came
out of the casino which was half in darkness with Albertine and Bloch
whom we had met there, they came towards us, linked together, kissing
each other incessantly, and, as they passed us, crowed and laughed,
uttering indecent cries. Bloch lowered his eyes, so as to seem not to
have recognised his cousin, and as for myself I was tortured by the
thought that this occult, appalling language was addressed perhaps to
Albertine.

Another incident turned my thoughts even more in the direction of
Gomorrah. I had noticed upon the beach a handsome young woman, erect
and pale, whose eyes, round their centre, scattered rays so
geometrically luminous that one was reminded, on meeting her gaze, of
some constellation. I thought how much more beautiful this girl was
than Albertine, and that it would be wiser to give up the other. Only,
the face of this beautiful young woman had been smoothed by the
invisible plane of an utterly low life, of the constant acceptance of
vulgar expedients, so much so that her eyes, more noble however than
the rest of her face, could radiate nothing but appetites and desires.
Well, on the following day, this young woman being seated a long way
away from us in the casino, I saw that she never ceased to fasten upon
Albertine the alternate, circling fires of her gaze. One would have
said that she was making signals to her from a lighthouse. I dreaded
my friend's seeing that she was being so closely observed, I was
afraid that these incessantly rekindled glances might have the
conventional meaning of an amorous assignation for the morrow. For all
I knew, this assignation might not be the first. The young woman with
the radiant eyes might have come another year to Balbec. It was
perhaps because Albertine had already yielded to her desires, or to
those of a friend, that this woman allowed herself to address to her
those flashing signals. If so, they did more than demand something for
the present, they found a justification in pleasant hours in the past.

This assignation, in that case, must be not the first, but the sequel
to adventures shared in past years. And indeed her glance did not say:
"Will you?" As soon as the young woman had caught sight of Albertine,
she had turned her head and beamed upon her glances charged with
recollection, as though she were terribly afraid that my friend might
not remember. Albertine, who could see her plainly, remained
phlegmatically motionless, with the result that the other, with the
same sort of discretion as a man who sees his old mistress with a new
lover, ceased to look at her and paid no more attention to her than if
she had not existed.

But, a day or two later, I received a proof of this young woman's
tendencies, and also of the probability of her having known Albertine
in the past. Often, in the hall of the casino, when two girls were
smitten with mutual desire, a luminous phenomenon occurred, a sort of
phosphorescent train passing from one to the other. Let us note in
passing that it is by the aid of such materialisations, even if they
be imponderable, by these astral signs that set fire to a whole
section of the atmosphere, that the scattered Gomorrah tends, in every
town, in every village, to reunite its separated members, to reform
the biblical city while everywhere the same efforts are being made, be
it in view of but a momentary reconstruction, by the nostalgic, the
hypocritical, sometimes by the courageous exiles from Sodom.

Once I saw the stranger whom Albertine had appeared not to recognise,
just at the moment when Bloch's cousin was approaching her. The young
woman's eyes flashed, but it was quite evident that she did not know
the Israelite maiden. She beheld her for the first time, felt a
desire, a shadow of doubt, by no means the same certainty as in the
case of Albertine, Albertine upon whose comradeship she must so far
have reckoned that, in the face of her coldness, she had felt the
surprise of a foreigner familiar with Paris but not resident there,
who, having returned to spend a few weeks there, on the site of the
little theatre where he was in the habit of spending pleasant
evenings, sees that they have now built a bank.

Bloch's cousin went and sat down at a table where she turned the pages
of a magazine. Presently the young woman came and sat down, with an
abstracted air, by her side. But under the table one could presently
see their feet wriggling, then their legs and hands, in a confused
heap. Words followed, a conversation began, and the young woman's
innocent husband, who had been looking everywhere for her, was
astonished to find her making plans for that very evening with a girl
whom he did not know. His wife introduced Bloch's cousin to him as a
friend of her childhood, by an inaudible name, for she had forgotten
to ask her what her name was. But the husband's presence made their
intimacy advance a stage farther, for they addressed each other as tu,
having known each other at their convent, an incident at which they
laughed heartily later on, as well as at the hoodwinked husband, with
a gaiety which afforded them an excuse for more caresses.

As for Albertine, I cannot say that anywhere in the casino or on the
beach was her behaviour with any girl unduly free. I found in it
indeed an excess of coldness and indifference which seemed to be more
than good breeding, to be a ruse planned to avert suspicion. When
questioned by some girl, she had a quick, icy, decent way of replying
in a very loud voice: "Yes, I shall be going to the tennis court about
five. I shall bathe to-morrow morning about eight," and of at once
turning away from the person to whom she had said this—all of which
had a horrible appearance of being meant to put people off the scent,
and either to make an assignation, or, the assignation already made in
a whisper, to utter this speech, harmless enough in itself, aloud, so
as not to attract attention. And when later on I saw her mount her
bicycle and scorch away into the distance, I could not help thinking
that she was hurrying to overtake the girl to whom she had barely
spoken.

Only, when some handsome young woman stepped out of a motor-car at the
end of the beach, Albertine could not help turning round. And she at
once explained: "I was looking at the new flag they've put up over the
bathing place. The old one was pretty moth-eaten. But I really think
this one is mouldier still."

On one occasion Albertine was not content with cold indifference, and
this made me all the more wretched. She knew that I was annoyed by the
possibility of her sometimes meeting a friend of her aunt, who had a
'bad style' and came now and again to spend a few days with Mme.
Bontemps. Albertine had pleased me by telling me that she would not
speak to her again. And when this woman came to Incarville, Albertine
said: "By the way, you know she's here. Have they told you?" as though
to shew me that she was not seeing her in secret. One day, when she
told me this, she added: "Yes, I ran into her on the beach, and
knocked against her as I passed, on purpose, to be rude to her." When
Albertine told me this, there came back to my mind a remark made by
Mme. Bontemps, to which I had never given a second thought, when she
had said to Mme. Swann in my presence how brazen her niece Albertine
was, as though that were a merit, and told her how Albertine had
reminded some official's wife that her father had been employed in a
kitchen. But a thing said by her whom we love does not long retain its
purity; it withers, it decays. An evening or two later, I thought
again of Albertine's remark, and it was no longer the ill breeding of
which she was so proud—and which could only make me smile—that it
seemed to me to signify, it was something else, to wit that Albertine,
perhaps even without any definite object, to irritate this woman's
senses, or wantonly to remind her of former proposals, accepted
perhaps in the past, had swiftly brushed against her, thought that I
had perhaps heard of this as it had been done in public, and had
wished to forestall an unfavourable interpretation.

However, the jealousy that was caused me by the women whom Albertine
perhaps loved was abruptly to cease.


[End Volume 1]


PART 2

CHAPTER II (_continued_)


The pleasures of M. Nissim Bernard (_continued_)—Outline of the
strange character of Morel—M. de Charlus dines with the Verdurins.


WE were waiting, Albertine and I, at the Balbec station of the little
local railway. We had driven there in the hotel omnibus, because it
was raining. Not far away from us was M. Nissim Bernard, with a black
eye. He had recently forsaken the chorister from _Athalie_ for the
waiter at a much frequented farmhouse in the neighbourhood, known as
the 'Cherry Orchard.' This rubicund youth, with his blunt features,
appeared for all the world to have a tomato instead of a head. A
tomato exactly similar served as head to his twin brother. To the
detached observer there is this attraction about these perfect
resemblances between pairs of twins, that nature, becoming for the
moment industrialised, seems to be offering a pattern for sale.
Unfortunately M. Nissim Bernard looked at it from another point of
view, and this resemblance was only external. Tomato II shewed a
frenzied zeal in furnishing the pleasures exclusively of ladies,
Tomato I did not mind condescending to meet the wishes of certain
gentlemen. Now on each occasion when, stirred, as though by a reflex
action, by the memory of pleasant hours spent with Tomato I, M.
Bernard presented himself at the Cherry Orchard, being short-sighted
(not that one need be short-sighted to mistake them), the old
Israelite, unconsciously playing Amphitryon, would accost the twin
brother with: "Will you meet me somewhere this evening?" He at once
received a resounding smack in the face. It might even be repeated in
the course of a single meal, when he continued with the second brother
the conversation he had begun with the first. In the end this
treatment so disgusted him, by association of ideas, with tomatoes,
even of the edible variety, that whenever he heard a newcomer order
that vegetable, at the next table to his own, in the Grand Hotel, he
would murmur to him: "You must excuse me, Sir, for addressing you,
without an introduction. But I heard you order tomatoes. They are
stale to-day. I tell you in your own interest, for it makes no
difference to me, I never touch them myself." The stranger would reply
with effusive thanks to this philanthropic and disinterested
neighbour, call back the waiter, pretend to have changed his mind:
"No, on second thoughts, certainly not, no tomatoes." Aimé, who had
seen it all before, would laugh to himself, and think: "He's an old
rascal, that Monsieur Bernard, he's gone and made another of them
change his order." M. Bernard, as he waited for the already overdue
tram, shewed no eagerness to speak to Albertine and myself, because of
his black eye. We were even less eager to speak to him. It would
however have been almost inevitable if, at that moment, a bicycle had
not come dashing towards us; the lift-boy sprang from its saddle,
breathless. Madame Verdurin had telephoned shortly after we left the
hotel, to know whether I would dine with her two days later; we shall
see presently why. Then, having given me the message in detail, the
lift-boy left us, and, being one of these democratic 'employees' who
affect independence with regard to the middle classes, and among
themselves restore the principle of authority, explained: "I must be
off, because of my chiefs."

Albertine's girl friends had gone, and would be away for some time. I
was anxious to provide her with distractions. Even supposing that she
might have found some happiness in spending the afternoons with no
company but my own, at Balbec, I knew that such happiness is never
complete, and that Albertine, being still at the age (which some of us
never outgrow) when we have not yet discovered that this imperfection
resides in the person who receives the happiness and not in the person
who gives it, might have been tempted to put her disappointment down
to myself. I preferred that she should impute it to circumstances
which, arranged by myself, would not give us an opportunity of being
alone together, while at the same time preventing her from remaining
in the casino and on the beach without me. And so I had asked her that
day to come with me to Doncières, where I was going to meet
Saint-Loup. With a similar hope of occupying her mind, I advised her
to take up painting, in which she had had lessons in the past. While
working she would not ask herself whether she was happy or unhappy. I
would gladly have taken her also to dine now and again with the
Verdurins and the Cambremers, who certainly would have been delighted
to see any friend introduced by myself, but I must first make certain
that Mme. Putbus was not yet at la Raspelière. It was only by going
there in person that I could make sure of this, and, as I knew
beforehand that on the next day but one Albertine would be going on a
visit with her aunt, I had seized this opportunity to send Mme.
Verdurin a telegram asking her whether she would be at home upon
Wednesday. If Mme. Putbus was there, I would manage to see her maid,
ascertain whether there was any danger of her coming to Balbec, and if
so find out when, so as to take Albertine out of reach on the day. The
little local railway, making a loop which did not exist at the time
when I had taken it with my grandmother, now extended to
Doncières-la-Goupil, a big station at which important trains stopped,
among them the express by which I had come down to visit Saint-Loup,
from Paris, and the corresponding express by which I had returned.
And, because of the bad weather, the omnibus from the Grand Hotel took
Albertine and myself to the station of the little tram, Balbec-Plage.

The little train had not yet arrived, but one could see, lazy and
slow, the plume of smoke that it had left in its wake, which, confined
now to its own power of locomotion as an almost stationary cloud, was
slowly mounting the green slope of the cliff of Criquetot. Finally the
little tram, which it had preceded by taking a vertical course,
arrived in its turn, at a leisurely crawl. The passengers who were
waiting to board it stepped back to make way for it, but without
hurrying, knowing that they were dealing with a good-natured, almost
human traveller, who, guided like the bicycle of a beginner, by the
obliging signals of the station-master, in the strong hands of the
engine-driver, was in no danger of running over anybody, and would
come to a halt at the proper place.

My telegram explained the Verdurins' telephone message and had been
all the more opportune since Wednesday (the day I had fixed happened
to be a Wednesday) was the day set apart for dinner-parties by Mme.
Verdurin, at la Raspelière, as in Paris, a fact of which I was
unaware. Mme. Verdurin did not give 'dinners,' but she had
'Wednesdays.' These Wednesdays were works of art. While fully
conscious that they had not their match anywhere, Mme. Verdurin
introduced shades of distinction between them. "Last Wednesday was not
as good as the one before," she would say. "But I believe the next
will be one of the best I have ever given." Sometimes she went so far
as to admit: "This Wednesday was not worthy of the others. But I have
a big surprise for you next week." In the closing weeks of the Paris
season, before leaving for the country, the Mistress would announce
the end of the Wednesdays. It gave her an opportunity to stimulate the
faithful. "There are only three more Wednesdays left, there are only
two more," she would say, in the same tone as though the world were
coming to an end. "You aren't going to miss next Wednesday, for the
finale." But this finale was a sham, for she would announce:
"Officially, there will be no more Wednesdays. To-day was the last for
this year. But I shall be at home all the same on Wednesday. We shall
have a little Wednesday to ourselves; I dare say these little private
Wednesdays will be the nicest of all." At la Raspelière, the
Wednesdays were of necessity restricted, and since, if they had
discovered a friend who was passing that way, they would invite him
for one or another evening, almost every day of the week became a
Wednesday. "I don't remember all the guests, but I know there's Madame
la Marquise de Camembert," the lift-boy had told me; his memory of our
discussion of the name Cambremer had not succeeded in definitely
supplanting that of the old world, whose syllables, familiar and full
of meaning, came to the young employee's rescue when he was
embarrassed by this difficult name, and were immediately preferred and
readopted by him, not by any means from laziness or as an old and
ineradicable usage, but because of the need for logic and clarity
which they satisfied.

We hastened in search of an empty carriage in which I could hold
Albertine in my arms throughout the journey. Having failed to find
one, we got into a compartment in which there was already installed a
lady with a massive face, old and ugly, with a masculine expression,
very much in her Sunday best, who was reading the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_. Notwithstanding her commonness, she was eclectic in her
tastes, and I found amusement in asking myself to what social category
she could belong; I at once concluded that she must be the manager of
some large brothel, a procuress on holiday. Her face, her manner,
proclaimed the fact aloud. Only, I had never yet supposed that such
ladies read the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. Albertine drew my attention
to her with a wink and a smile. The lady wore an air of extreme
dignity; and as I, for my part, bore within me the consciousness that
I was invited, two days later, to the terminal point of the little
railway, by the famous Mme. Verdurin, that at an intermediate station
I was awaited by Robert de Saint-Loup, and that a little farther on I
had it in my power to give great pleasure to Mme. de Cambremer, by
going to stay at Féterne, my eyes sparkled with irony as I studied
this self-important lady who seemed to think that, because of her
elaborate attire, the feathers in her hat, her _Revue des Deux
Mondes_, she was a more considerable personage than myself. I hoped
that the lady would not remain in the train much longer than M. Nissim
Bernard, and that she would alight at least at Toutainville, but no.
The train stopped at Epreville, she remained seated. Similarly at
Montmartin-sur-Mer, at Parville-la-Bingard, at Incarville, so that in
despair, when the train had left Saint-Frichoux, which was the last
station before Doncières, I began to embrace Albertine without
bothering about the lady. At Doncières, Saint-Loup had come to meet me
at the station, with the greatest difficulty, he told me, for, as he
was staying with his aunt, my telegram had only just reached him and
he could not, having been unable to make any arrangements beforehand,
spare me more than an hour of his time. This hour seemed to me, alas,
far too long, for as soon as we had left the train Albertine devoted
her whole attention to Saint-Loup. She never talked to me, barely
answered me if I addressed her, repulsed me when I approached her.
With Robert, on the other hand, she laughed her provoking laugh,
talked to him volubly, played with the dog he had brought with him,
and, as she excited the animal, deliberately rubbed against its
master. I remembered that, on the day when Albertine had allowed me to
kiss her for the first time, I had had a smile of gratitude for the
unknown seducer who had wrought so profound a change in her and had so
far simplified my task. I thought of him now with horror. Robert must
have noticed that I was not unconcerned about Albertine, for he
offered no response to her provocations, which made her extremely
annoyed with myself; then he spoke to me as though I had been alone,
which, when she realised it, raised me again in her esteem. Robert
asked me if I would not like to meet those of his friends with whom he
used to make me dine every evening at Doncières, when I was staying
there, who were still in the garrison. And as he himself adopted that
irritating manner which he rebuked in others: "What is the good of
your having worked so hard to _charm_ them if you don't want to see
them again?" I declined his offer, for I did not wish to run any risk
of being parted from Albertine, but also because now I was detached
from them. From them, which is to say from myself. We passionately
long that there may be another life in which we shall be similar to
what we are here below. But we do not pause to reflect that, even
without waiting for that other life, in this life, after a few years
we are unfaithful to what we have been, to what we wished to remain
immortally. Even without supposing that death is to alter us more
completely than the changes that occur in the course of a lifetime, if
in that other life we were to encounter the self that we have been, we
should turn away from ourselves as from those people with whom we were
once on friendly terms but whom we have not seen for years—such as
Saint-Loup's friends whom I used so much to enjoy meeting again every
evening at the Faisan Doré, and whose conversation would now have
seemed to me merely a boring importunity. In this respect, and because
I preferred not to go there in search of what had pleased me there in
the past, a stroll through Doncières might have seemed to me a
prefiguration of an arrival in Paradise. We dream much of Paradise, or
rather of a number of successive Paradises, but each of them is, long
before we die, a Paradise lost, in which we should feel ourselves lost
also.

He left us at the station. "But you may have about an hour to wait,"
he told me. "If you spend it here, you will probably see my uncle
Charlus, who is going by the train to Paris, ten minutes before yours.
I have said good-bye to him already, because I have to go back before
his train starts. I didn't tell him about you, because I hadn't got
your telegram." To the reproaches which I heaped upon Albertine when
Saint-Loup had left us, she replied that she had intended, by her
coldness towards me, to destroy any idea that he might have formed if,
at the moment when the train stopped, he had seen me leaning against
her with my arm round her waist. He had indeed noticed this attitude
(I had not caught sight of him, otherwise I should have adopted one
that was more correct), and had had time to murmur in my ear: "So
that's how it is, one of those priggish little girls you told me
about, who wouldn't go near Mlle. de Stermaria because they thought
her fast?" I had indeed mentioned to Robert, and in all sincerity,
when I went down from Paris to visit him at Doncières, and when we
were talking about our time at Balbec, that there was nothing to be
had from Albertine, that she was the embodiment of virtue. And now
that I had long since discovered for myself that this was false, I was
even more anxious that Robert should believe it to be true. It would
have been sufficient for me to tell Robert that I was in love with
Albertine. He was one of those people who are capable of denying
themselves a pleasure to spare their friend sufferings which they
would feel even more keenly if they themselves were the victims. "Yes,
she is still rather childish. But you don't know anything against
her?" I added anxiously. "Nothing, except that I saw you clinging
together like a pair of lovers."

"Your attitude destroyed absolutely nothing," I told Albertine when
Saint-Loup had left us. "Quite true," she said to me, "it was stupid
of me, I hurt your feelings, I'm far more unhappy about it than you
are. You'll see, I shall never be like that again; forgive me," she
pleaded, holding out her hand with a sorrowful air. At that moment,
from the entrance to the waiting-room in which we were sitting, I saw
advance slowly, followed at a respectful distance by a porter loaded
with his baggage, M. de Charlus.

In Paris, where I encountered him only in evening dress, immobile,
straitlaced in a black coat, maintained in a vertical posture by his
proud aloofness, his thirst for admiration, the soar of his
conversation, I had never realised how far he had aged. Now, in a
light travelling suit which made him appear stouter, as he swaggered
through the room, balancing a pursy stomach and an almost symbolical
behind, the cruel light of day broke up into paint, upon his lips,
rice-powder fixed by cold cream, on the tip of his nose, black upon
his dyed moustaches whose ebon tint formed a contrast to his grizzled
hair, all that by artificial light had seemed the animated colouring
of a man who was still young.

While I stood talking to him, though briefly, because of his train, I
kept my eye on Albertine's carriage to shew her that I was coming.
When I turned my head towards M. de Charlus, he asked me to be so
kind as to summon a soldier, a relative of his, who was standing on
the other side of the platform, as though he were waiting to take our
train, but in the opposite direction, away from Balbec. "He is in his
regimental band," said M. de Charlus. "As you are so fortunate as to
be still young enough, and I unfortunately am old enough for you to
save me the trouble of going across to him." I took it upon myself to
go across to the soldier he pointed out to me, and saw from the lyres
embroidered on his collar that he was a bandsman. But, just as I was
preparing to execute my commission, what was my surprise, and, I may
say, my pleasure, on recognising Morel, the son of my uncle's valet,
who recalled to me so many memories. They made me forget to convey M.
de Charlus's message. "What, you are at Doncières?" "Yes, and they've
put me in the band attached to the batteries." But he made this answer
in a dry and haughty tone. He had become an intense 'poseur,' and
evidently the sight of myself, reminding him of his father's
profession, was not pleasing to him. Suddenly I saw M. de Charlus
descending upon us. My delay had evidently taxed his patience. "I
should like to listen to a little music this evening," he said to
Morel without any preliminaries, "I pay five hundred francs for the
evening, which may perhaps be of interest to one of your friends, if
you have any in the band." Knowing as I did the insolence of M. de
Charlus, I was astonished at his not even saying how d'ye do to his
young friend. The Baron did not however give me time to think. Holding
out his hand in the friendliest manner: "Good-bye, my dear fellow," he
said, as a hint that I might now leave them. I had, as it happened,
left my dear Albertine too long alone. "D'you know," I said to her as
I climbed into the carriage, "life by the sea-side and travelling make
me realise that the theatre of the world is stocked with fewer
settings than actors, and with fewer actors than situations." "What
makes you say that?" "Because M. de Charlus asked me just now to fetch
one of his friends, whom, this instant, on the platform of this
station, I have just discovered to be one of my own." But as I uttered
these words, I began to wonder how the Baron could have bridged the
social gulf to which I had not given a thought. It occurred to me
first of all that it might be through Jupien, whose niece, as the
reader may remember, had seemed to shew a preference for the
violinist. What did baffle me completely was that, when due to leave
for Paris in five minutes, the Baron should have asked for a musical
evening. But, visualising Jupien's niece again in my memory, I was
beginning to find that 'recognitions' did indeed play an important
part in life, when all of a sudden the truth flashed across my mind
and I realised that I had been absurdly innocent. M. de Charlus had
never in his life set eyes upon Morel, nor Morel upon M. de Charlus,
who, dazzled but also terrified by a warrior, albeit he bore no weapon
but a lyre, had called upon me in his emotion to bring him the person
whom he never suspected that I already knew. In any case, the offer of
five hundred francs must have made up to Morel for the absence of any
previous relations, for I saw that they continued to talk, without
reflecting that they were standing close beside our tram. As I
recalled the manner in which M. de Charlus had come up to Morel and
myself, I saw at once the resemblance to certain of his relatives,
when they picked up a woman in the street. Only the desired object had
changed its sex. After a certain age, and even if different evolutions
are occurring in us, the more we become ourselves, the more our
characteristic features are accentuated. For Nature, while
harmoniously contributing the design of her tapestry, breaks the
monotony of the composition thanks to the variety of the intercepted
forms. Besides, the arrogance with which M. de Charlus had accosted
the violinist is relative, and depends upon the point of view one
adopts. It would have been recognised by three out of four of the men
in society who nodded their heads to him, not by the prefect of police
who, a few years later, was to keep him under observation.

"The Paris train is signalled, Sir," said the porter who was carrying
his luggage. "But I am not going by the train, put it in the
cloakroom, damn you!" said M. de Charlus, as he gave twenty francs to
the porter, astonished by the change of plan and charmed by the tip.
This generosity at once attracted a flower-seller. "Buy these
carnations, look, this lovely rose, kind gentlemen, it will bring you
luck." M. de Charlus, out of patience, handed her a couple of francs,
in exchange for which the woman gave him her blessing, and her flowers
as well. "Good God, why can't she leave us alone," said M. de Charlus,
addressing himself in an ironical and complaining tone, as of a man
distraught, to Morel, to whom he found a certain comfort in appealing.
"We've quite enough to talk about as it is." Perhaps the porter was
not yet out of earshot, perhaps M. de Charlus did not care to have too
numerous an audience, perhaps these incidental remarks enabled his
lofty timidity not to approach too directly the request for an
assignation. The musician, turning with a frank, imperative and
decided air to the flower-seller, raised a hand which repulsed her and
indicated to her that they did not want her flowers and that she was
to get out of their way as quickly as possible. M. de Charlus observed
with ecstasy this authoritative, virile gesture, made by the graceful
hand for which it ought still to have been too weighty, too massively
brutal, with a precocious firmness and suppleness which gave to this
still beardless adolescent the air of a young David capable of waging
war against Goliath. The Baron's admiration was unconsciously blended
with the smile with which we observe in a child an expression of
gravity beyond his years. "This is a person whom I should like to
accompany me on my travels and help me in my business. How he would
simplify my life," M. de Charlus said to himself.

The train for Paris (which M. de Charlus did not take) started. Then
we took our seats in our own train, Albertine and I, without my
knowing what had become of M. de Charlus and Morel. "We must never
quarrel any more, I beg your pardon again," Albertine repeated,
alluding to the Saint-Loup incident. "We must always be nice to each
other," she said tenderly. "As for your friend Saint-Loup, if you
think that I am the least bit interested in him, you are quite
mistaken. All that I like about him is that he seems so very fond of
you." "He's a very good fellow," I said, taking care not to supply
Robert with those imaginary excellences which I should not have failed
to invent, out of friendship for himself, had I been with anybody but
Albertine. "He's an excellent creature, frank, devoted, loyal, a
person you can rely on to do anything." In saying this I confined
myself, held in check by my jealousy, to telling the truth about
Saint-Loup, but what I said was literally true. It found expression in
precisely the same terms that Mme. de Villeparisis had employed in
speaking to me of him, when I did not yet know him, imagined him to be
so different, so proud, and said to myself: "People think him good
because he is a great gentleman." Just as when she had said to me: "He
would be so pleased," I imagined, after seeing him outside the hotel,
preparing to drive away, that his aunt's speech had been a mere social
banality, intended to natter me. And I had realised afterwards that
she had said what she did sincerely, thinking of the things that
interested me, of my reading, and because she knew that that was what
Saint-Loup liked, as it was to be my turn to say sincerely to somebody
who was writing a history of his ancestor La Rochefoucauld, the author
of the _Maximes_, who wished to consult Robert about him: "He will be
so pleased." It was simply that I had learned to know him. But, when I
set eyes on him for the first time, I had not supposed that an
intelligence akin to my own could be enveloped in so much outward
elegance of dress and attitude. By his feathers I had judged him to be
a bird of another species. It was Albertine now who, perhaps a little
because Saint-Loup, in his kindness to myself, had been so cold to
her, said to me what I had already thought: "Ah! He is as devoted as
all that! I notice that people always find all the virtues in other
people, when they belong to the Faubourg Saint-Germain." Now that
Saint-Loup belonged to the Faubourg Saint-Germain was a thing of which
I had never once thought in the course of all these years in which,
stripping himself of his prestige, he had displayed to me his virtues.
A change in our perspective in looking at other people, more striking
already in friendship than in merely social relations, but how much
more striking still in love, where desire on so vast a scale increases
to such proportions the slightest signs of coolness, that far less
than the coolness Saint-Loup had shewn me in the beginning had been
enough to make me suppose at first that Albertine scorned me, imagine
her friends to be creatures marvellously inhuman, and ascribe merely
to the indulgence that people feel for beauty and for a certain
elegance, Elstir's judgment when he said to me of the little band,
with just the same sentiment as Mme. de Villeparisis speaking of
Saint-Loup: "They are good girls." But this was not the opinion that I
would instinctively have formed when I heard Albertine say: "In any
case, whether he's devoted or not, I sincerely hope I shall never see
him again, since he's made us quarrel. We must never quarrel again.
It isn't nice." I felt, since she had seemed to desire Saint-Loup,
almost cured for the time being of the idea that she cared for women,
which I had supposed to be incurable. And, faced by Albertine's
mackintosh in which she seemed to have become another person, the
tireless vagrant of rainy days, and which, close-fitting, malleable
and grey, seemed at that moment not so much intended to protect her
garments from the rain as to have been soaked by her and to be
clinging to my mistress's body as though to take the imprint of her
form for a sculptor, I tore apart that tunic which jealously espoused
a longed-for bosom and, drawing Albertine towards me: "But won't you,
indolent traveller, dream upon my shoulder, resting your brow upon
it?" I said, taking her head in my hands, and shewing her the wide
meadows, flooded and silent, which extended in the gathering dusk to
the horizon closed by the parallel openings of valleys far and blue.

Two days later, on the famous Wednesday, in that same little train,
which I had again taken, at Balbec, to go and dine at la Raspelière, I
was taking care not to miss Cottard at Graincourt-Saint-Vast, where a
second telephone message from Mme. Verdurin had told me that I should
find him. He was to join my train and would tell me where we had to
get out to pick up the carriages that would be sent from la Raspelière
to the station. And so, as the little train barely stopped for a
moment at Graincourt, the first station after Doncières, I was
standing in readiness at the open window, so afraid was I of not
seeing Cottard or of his not seeing me. Vain fears! I had not realised
to what an extent the little clan had moulded all its regular members
after the same type, so that they, being moreover in full evening
dress, as they stood waiting upon the platform, let themselves be
recognised immediately by a certain air of assurance, fashion and
familiarity, by a look in their eyes which seemed to sweep, like an
empty space in which there was nothing to arrest their attention, the
serried ranks of the common herd, watched for the arrival of some
fellow-member who had taken the train at an earlier station, and
sparkled in anticipation of the talk that was to come. This sign of
election, with which the habit of dining together had marked the
members of the little group, was not all that distinguished them; when
numerous, in full strength, they were massed together, forming a more
brilliant patch in the midst of the troop of passengers—what Brichot
called the _pecus_—upon whose dull countenances could be read no
conception of what was meant by the name Verdurin, no hope of ever
dining at la Raspelière. To be sure, these common travellers would
have been less interested than myself had anyone quoted in their
hearing—notwithstanding the notoriety that several of them had
achieved—the names of those of the faithful whom I was astonished to
see continuing to dine out, when many of them had already been doing
so, according to the stories that I had heard, before my birth, at a
period at once so distant and so vague that I was inclined to
exaggerate its remoteness. The contrast between the continuance not
only of their existence, but of the fulness of their powers, and the
annihilation of so many friends whom I had already seen, in one place
or another, pass away, gave me the same sentiment that we feel when in
the stop-press column of the newspapers we read the very announcement
that we least expected, for instance that of an untimely death, which
seems to us fortuitous because the causes that have led up to it have
remained outside our knowledge. This is the feeling that death does
not descend upon all men alike, but that a more oncoming wave of its
tragic tide carries off a life placed at the same level as others
which the waves that follow will long continue to spare. We shall see
later on that the diversity of the forms of death that circulate
invisibly is the cause of the peculiar unexpectedness presented, in
the newspapers, by their obituary notices. Then I saw that, with the
passage of time, not only do the real talents that may coexist with
the most commonplace conversation reveal and impose themselves, but
furthermore that mediocre persons arrive at those exalted positions,
attached in the imagination of our childhood to certain famous elders,
when it never occurred to us that, after a certain number of years,
their disciples, become masters, would be famous also, and would
inspire the respect and awe that once they felt. But if the names of
the faithful were unknown to the _pecus_, their aspect still singled
them out in its eyes. Indeed in the train (when the coincidence of
what one or another of them might have been doing during the day,
assembled them all together), having to collect at a subsequent
station only an isolated member, the carriage in which they were
gathered, ticketed with the elbow of the sculptor Ski, flagged with
Cottard's _Temps_, stood out in the distance like a special saloon,
and rallied at the appointed station the tardy comrade. The only one
who might, because of his semi-blindness, have missed these welcoming
signals, was Brichot. But one of the party would always volunteer to
keep a look-out for the blind man, and, as soon as his straw hat, his
green umbrella and blue spectacles caught the eye, he would be gently
but hastily guided towards the chosen compartment. So that it was
inconceivable that one of the faithful, without exciting the gravest
suspicions of his being 'on the loose,' or even of his not having come
'by the train,' should not pick up the others in the course of the
journey. Sometimes the opposite process occurred: one of the faithful
had been obliged to go some distance down the line during the
afternoon and was obliged in consequence to make part of the journey
alone before being joined by the group; but even when thus isolated,
alone of his kind, he did not fail as a rule to produce a certain
effect. The Future towards which he was travelling marked him out to
the person on the seat opposite, who would say to himself: "That must
be somebody," would discern, round the soft hat of Cottard or of the
sculptor Ski, a vague aureole and would be only half-astonished when
at the next station an elegant crowd, if it were their terminal point,
greeted the faithful one at the carriage door and escorted him to one
of the waiting carriages, all of them reverently saluted by the
factotum of Douville station, or, if it were an intermediate station,
invaded the compartment. This was what was done, and with
precipitation, for some of them had arrived late, just as the train
which was already in the station was about to start, by the troop
which Cottard led at a run towards the carriage in the window of which
he had seen me signalling. Brichot, who was among these faithful, had
become more faithful than ever in the course of these years which had
diminished the assiduity of others. As his sight became steadily
weaker, he had been obliged, even in Paris, to reduce more and more
his working hours after dark. Besides he was out of sympathy with the
modern Sorbonne, where ideas of scientific exactitude, after the
German model, were beginning to prevail over humanism. He now confined
himself exclusively to his lectures and to his duties as an examiner;
and so had a great deal more time to devote to social pursuits. That
is to say, to evenings at the Verdurins', or to those parties that now
and again were offered to the Verdurins by one of the faithful,
tremulous with emotion. It is true that on two occasions love had
almost succeeded in achieving what his work could no longer do, in
detaching Brichot from the little clan. But Mme. Verdurin, who kept
her eyes open, and moreover, having acquired the habit in the
interests of her salon, had come to take a disinterested pleasure in
this sort of drama and execution, had immediately brought about a
coolness between him and the dangerous person, being skilled in (as
she expressed it) 'putting things in order' and 'applying the red hot
iron to the wound.' This she had found all the more easy in the case
of one of the dangerous persons, who was simply Brichot's laundress,
and Mme. Verdurin, having the right of entry into the Professor's
fifth floor rooms, crimson with rage, when she deigned to climb his
stairs, had only had to shut the door in the wretched woman's face.
"What!" the Mistress had said to Brichot, "a woman like myself does
you the honour of calling upon you, and you receive a creature like
that?" Brichot had never forgotten the service that Mme. Verdurin had
rendered him by preventing his old age from foundering in the mire,
and became more and more strongly attached to her, whereas, in
contrast to this revival of affection and possibly because of it, the
Mistress was beginning to be tired of a too docile follower, and of an
obedience of which she could be certain beforehand. But Brichot
derived from his intimacy with the Verdurins a distinction which set
him apart from all his colleagues at the Sorbonne. They were dazzled
by the accounts that he gave them of dinner-parties to which they
would never be invited, by the mention made of him in the reviews, the
exhibition of his portrait in the Salon, by some writer or painter of
repute whose talent the occupants of the other chairs in the Faculty
of Arts esteemed, but without any prospect of attracting his
attention, not to mention the elegance of the mundane philosopher's
attire, an elegance which they had mistaken at first for slackness
until their colleague kindly explained to them that a tall hat is
naturally laid on the floor, when one is paying a call, and is not the
right thing for dinners in the country, however smart, where it should
be replaced by a soft hat, which goes quite well with a dinner-jacket.
For the first few moments after the little group had plunged into the
carriage, I could not even speak to Cottard, for he was suffocated,
not so much by having run in order not to miss the train as by his
astonishment at having caught it so exactly. He felt more than the joy
inherent in success, almost the hilarity of an excellent joke. "Ah!
That was a good one!" he said when he had recovered himself. "A minute
later!  'Pon my soul, that's what they call arriving in the nick of
time!" he added, with a wink intended not so much to inquire whether
the expression were apt, for he was now overflowing with assurance,
but to express his satisfaction. At length he was able to introduce
me to the other members of the little clan. I was annoyed to see that
they were almost all in the dress which in Paris is called smoking. I
had forgotten that the Verdurins were beginning a timid evolution
towards fashionable ways, retarded by the Dreyfus case, accelerated by
the 'new' music, an evolution which for that matter they denied, and
continued to deny until it was complete, like those military
objectives which a general does not announce until he has reached
them, so as not to appear defeated if he fails. In addition to which,
Society was quite prepared to go half way to meet them. It went so far
as to regard them as people to whose house nobody in Society went but
who were not in the least perturbed by the fact. The Verdurin salon
was understood to be a Temple of Music. It was there, people assured
you, that Vinteuil had found inspiration, encouragement. Now, even if
Vinteuil's sonata remained wholly unappreciated, and almost unknown,
his name, quoted as that of the greatest of modern composers, had an
extraordinary effect. Moreover, certain young men of the Faubourg
having decided that they ought to be more intellectual than the middle
classes, there were three of them who had studied music, and among
these Vinteuil's sonata enjoyed an enormous vogue. They would speak of
it, on returning to their homes, to the intelligent mothers who had
incited them to acquire culture. And, taking an interest in what
interested their sons, at a concert these mothers would gaze with a
certain respect at Mme. Verdurin in her front box, following the music
in the printed score. So far, this social success latent in the
Verdurins was revealed by two facts only. In the first place, Mme.
Verdurin would say of the Principessa di Caprarola: "Ah! She is
intelligent, she is a charming woman. What I cannot endure, are the
imbeciles, the people who bore me, they drive me mad." Which would
have made anybody at all perspicacious realise that the Principessa di
Caprarola, a woman who moved in the highest society, had called upon
Mme. Verdurin. She had even mentioned her name in the course of a
visit of condolence which she had paid to Mme. Swann after the death
of her husband, and had asked whether she knew them. "What name did
you say?" Odette had asked, with a sudden wistfulness. "Verdurin? Oh,
yes, of course," she had continued in a plaintive tone, "I don't know
them, or rather, I know them without really knowing them, they are
people I used to meet at people's houses, years ago, they are quite
nice." When the Principessa di Caprarola had gone, Odette would fain
have spoken the bare truth. But the immediate falsehood was not the
fruit of her calculations, but the revelation of her fears, of her
desires. She denied not what it would have been adroit to deny, but
what she would have liked not to have happened, even if the other
person was bound to hear an hour later that it was a fact. A little
later she had recovered her assurance, and would indeed anticipate
questions by saying, so as not to appear to be afraid of them: "Mme.
Verdurin, why, I used to know her terribly well!" with an affectation
of humility, like a great lady who tells you that she has taken the
tram. "There has been a great deal of talk about the Verdurins
lately," said Mme. de Souvré. Odette, with the smiling disdain of a
Duchess, replied: "Yes, I do seem to have heard a lot about them
lately. Every now and then there are new people who arrive like that
in society," without reflecting that she herself was among the newest.
"The Principessa di Caprarola has dined there," Mme. de Souvré went
on. "Ah!" replied Odette, accentuating her smile, "that does not
surprise me. That sort of thing always begins with the Principessa di
Caprarola, and then some one else follows suit, like Comtesse Molé."
Odette, in saying this, appeared to be filled with a profound contempt
for the two great ladies who made a habit of 'house-warming' in
recently established drawing-rooms. One felt from her tone that the
implication was that she, Odette, was, like Mme. de Souvré, not the
sort of person to let herself in for that sort of thing.

After the admission that Mme. Verdurin had made of the Principessa di
Caprarola's intelligence, the second indication that the Verdurins
were conscious of their future destiny was that (without, of course,
their having formally requested it) they became most anxious that
people should now come to dine with them in evening dress. M. Verdurin
could now have been greeted without shame by his nephew, the one who
was 'in the cart.' Among those who entered my carriage at Graincourt
was Saniette, who long ago had been expelled from the Verdurins' by
his cousin Forcheville, but had since returned. His faults, from the
social point of view, had originally been—notwithstanding his
superior qualities—something like Cottard's, shyness, anxiety to
please, fruitless attempts to succeed in doing so. But if the course
of life, by making Cottard assume, if not at the Verdurins', where he
had, because of the influence that past associations exert over us
when we find ourselves in familiar surroundings, remained more or less
the same, at least in his practice, in his hospital ward, at the
Academy of Medicine, a shell of coldness, disdain, gravity, that
became more accentuated while he rewarded his appreciative students
with puns, had made a clean cut between the old Cottard and the new,
the same defects had on the contrary become exaggerated in Saniette,
the more he sought to correct them. Conscious that he was frequently
boring, that people did not listen to him, instead of then slackening
his pace as Cottard would have done, of forcing their attention by an
air of authority, not only did he try by adopting a humorous tone to
make them forgive the unduly serious turn of his conversation, he
increased his pace, cleared the ground, used abbreviations in order to
appear less long-winded, more familiar with the matters of which he
spoke, and succeeded only, by making them unintelligible, in seeming
interminable. His self-assurance was not like that of Cottard,
freezing his patients, who, when other people praised his social
graces, would reply: "He is a different man when he receives you in
his consulting room, you with your face to the light, and he with his
back to it, and those piercing eyes." It failed to create an effect,
one felt that it was cloaking an excessive shyness, that the merest
trifle would be enough to dispel it. Saniette, whose friends had
always told him that he was wanting in self-confidence, and who had
indeed seen men whom he rightly considered greatly inferior to
himself, attain with ease to the success that was denied to him, never
began telling a story without smiling at its drollery, fearing lest a
serious air might make his hearers underestimate the value of his
wares. Sometimes, giving him credit for the comic element which he
himself appeared to find in what he was about to say, people would do
him the honour of a general silence. But the story would fall flat. A
fellow-guest who was endowed with a kind heart would sometimes convey
to Saniette the private, almost secret encouragement of a smile of
approbation, making it reach him furtively, without attracting
attention, as one passes a note from hand to hand. But nobody went so
far as to assume the responsibility, to risk the glaring publicity of
an honest laugh. Long after the story was ended and had fallen flat,
Saniette, crestfallen, would remain smiling to himself, as though
relishing in it and for himself the delectation which he pretended to
find adequate and which the others had not felt. As for the sculptor
Ski, so styled on account of the difficulty they found in pronouncing
his Polish surname, and because he himself made an affectation, since
he had begun to move in a certain social sphere, of not wishing to be
confused with certain relatives, perfectly respectable but slightly
boring and very numerous, he had, at forty-four and with no pretension
to good looks, a sort of boyishness, a dreamy wistfulness which was
the result of his having been, until the age of ten, the most charming
prodigal imaginable, the darling of all the ladies. Mme. Verdurin
maintained that he was more of an artist than Elstir. Any resemblance
that there may have been between them was, however, purely external.
It was enough to make Elstir, who had met Ski once, feel for him the
profound repulsion that is inspired in us less by the people who are
our exact opposite than by those who resemble us in what is least
good, in whom are displayed our worst qualities, the faults of which
we have cured ourselves, who irritate by reminding us of how we may
have appeared to certain other people before we became what we now
are. But Mme. Verdurin thought that Ski had more temperament than
Elstir because there was no art in which he had not a facility of
expression, and she was convinced that he would have developed that
facility into talent if he had not been so lazy. This seemed to the
Mistress to be actually an additional gift, being the opposite of hard
work which she regarded as the lot of people devoid of genius. Ski
would paint anything you asked, on cuff-links or on the panels over
doors. He sang with the voice of a composer, played from memory,
giving the piano the effect of an orchestra, less by his virtuosity
than by his vamped basses, which suggested the inability of the
fingers to indicate that at a certain point the cornet entered, which,
for that matter, he would imitate with his lips. Choosing his words
when he spoke so as to convey an odd impression, just as he would
pause before banging out a chord to say 'Ping!' so as to let the
brasses be heard, he was regarded as marvellously intelligent, but as
a matter of fact his ideas could be boiled down to two or three,
extremely limited. Bored with his reputation for whimsicality, he had
set himself to shew that he was a practical, matter-of-fact person,
whence a triumphant affectation of false precision, of false common
sense, aggravated by his having no memory and a fund of information
that was always inaccurate. The movements of his head, neck, limbs,
would have been graceful if he had been still nine years old, with
golden curls, a wide lace collar and little boots of red leather.
Having reached Graincourt station with Cottard and Brichot, with time
to spare, he and Cottard had left Brichot in the waiting-room and had
gone for a stroll. When Cottard proposed to turn back, Ski had
replied: "But there is no hurry. It isn't the local train to-day, it's
the departmental train." Delighted by the effect that this refinement
of accuracy produced upon Cottard, he added, with reference to
himself: "Yes, because Ski loves the arts, because he models in clay,
people think he's not practical. Nobody knows this line better than I
do." Nevertheless they had turned back towards the station when, all
of a sudden, catching sight of the smoke of the approaching train,
Cottard, with a wild shout, had exclaimed: "We shall have to put our
best foot foremost." They did as a matter of fact arrive with not a
moment to spare, the distinction between local and departmental trains
having never existed save in the mind of Ski. "But isn't the Princess
on the train?" came in ringing tones from Brichot, whose huge
spectacles, resplendent as the reflectors that laryngologists attach
to their foreheads to throw a light into the throats of their
patients, seemed to have taken their life from the Professor's eyes,
and possibly because of the effort that he was making to adjust his
sight to them, seemed themselves, even at the most trivial moments, to
be gazing at themselves with a sustained attention and an
extraordinary fixity. Brichot's malady, as it gradually deprived him
of his sight, had revealed to him the beauties of that sense, just as,
frequently, we have to have made up our minds to part with some
object, to make a present of it for instance, before we can study it,
regret it, admire it. "No, no, the Princess went over to Maineville
with some of Mme. Verdurin's guests who were taking the Paris train.
It is within the bounds of possibility that Mme. Verdurin, who had
some business at Saint-Mars, may be with her! In that case, she will
be coming with us, and we shall all travel together, which will be
delightful. We shall have to keep our eyes skinned at Maineville and
see what we shall see! Oh, but that's nothing, you may say that we
came very near to missing the bus. When I saw the train I was
dumbfoundered. That's what is called arriving at the psychological
moment. Can't you picture us missing the train, Mme. Verdurin seeing
the carriages come back without us: Tableau!" added the doctor, who
had not yet recovered from his emotion. "That would be a pretty good
joke, wouldn't it? Now then, Brichot, what have you to say about our
little escapade?" inquired the doctor with a note of pride. "Upon my
soul," replied Brichot, "why, yes, if you had found the train gone,
that would have been what the late Villemain used to call a wipe in
the eye!" But I, distracted at first by these people who were
strangers to me, was suddenly reminded of what Cottard had said to me
in the ball-room of the little casino, and, just as though there were
an invisible link uniting an organ to our visual memory, the vision
of Albertine leaning her breasts against Andrée's caused my heart a
terrible pain. This pain did not last: the idea of Albertine's having
relations with women seemed no longer possible since the occasion,
forty-eight hours earlier, when the advances that my mistress had made
to Saint-Loup had excited in me a fresh jealousy which had made me
forget the old. I was simple enough to suppose that one taste of
necessity excludes another. At Harambouville, as the tram was full, a
farmer in a blue blouse who had only a third class ticket got into our
compartment. The doctor, feeling that the Princess must not be allowed
to travel with such a person, called a porter, shewed his card,
describing him as medical officer to one of the big railway companies,
and obliged the station-master to make the farmer get out. This
incident so pained and alarmed Saniette's timid spirit that, as soon
as he saw it beginning, fearing already lest, in view of the crowd of
peasants on the platform, it should assume the proportions of a
rising, he pretended to be suffering from a stomach-ache, and, so that
he might not be accused of any share in the responsibility for the
doctor's violence, wandered down the corridor, pretending to be
looking for what Cottard called the 'water.' Failing to find one, he
stood and gazed at the scenery from the other end of the 'twister.'
"If this is your first appearance at Mme. Verdurin's, Sir," I was
addressed by Brichot, anxious to shew off his talents before a
newcomer, "you will find that there is no place where one feels more
the 'amenities of life,' to quote one of the inventors of
dilettantism, of pococurantism, of all sorts of words in -ism that are
in fashion among our little snobbesses, I refer to M. le Prince de
Talleyrand." For, when he spoke of these great noblemen of the past,
he thought it clever and 'in the period' to prefix a 'M.' to their
titles, and said 'M. le Duc de La Rochefoucauld,' 'M. le Cardinal de
Retz,' referring to these also as 'That struggle-for-lifer de
Gondi,' 'that Boulangist de Marcillac.' And he never failed to call
Montesquieu, with a smile, when he referred to him: "Monsieur le
Président Secondat de Montesquieu." An intelligent man of the world
would have been irritated by a pedantry which reeked so of the
lecture-room. But in the perfect manners of the man of the world when
speaking of a Prince, there is a pedantry also, which betrays a
different caste, that in which one prefixes 'the Emperor' to the name
'William' and addresses a Royal Highness in the third person. "Ah, now
that is a man," Brichot continued, still referring to 'Monsieur le
Prince de Talleyrand'—"to whom we take off our hats. He is an
ancestor." "It is a charming house," Cottard told me, "you will find a
little of everything, for Mme. Verdurin is not exclusive, great
scholars like Brichot, the high nobility, such as the Princess
Sherbatoff, a great Russian lady, a friend of the Grand Duchess
Eudoxie, who even sees her alone at hours when no one else is
admitted." As a matter of fact the Grand Duchess Eudoxie, not wishing
Princess Sherbatoff, who for years past had been cut by everyone, to
come to her house when there might be other people, allowed her to
come only in the early morning, when Her Imperial Highness was not at
home to any of those friends to whom it would have been as unpleasant
to meet the Princess as it would have been awkward for the Princess to
meet them. As, for the last three years, as soon as she came away,
like a manicurist, from the Grand Duchess, Mme. Sherbatoff would go on
to Mme. Verdurin, who had just awoken, and stuck to her for the rest
of the day, one might say that the Princess's loyalty surpassed even
that of Brichot, constant as he was at those Wednesdays, both in
Paris, where he had the pleasure of fancying himself a sort of
Chateaubriand at l'Abbaye-aux-Bois, and in the country, where he saw
himself becoming the equivalent of what might have been in the salon
of Mme. de Châtelet the man whom he always named (with an erudite
sarcasm and satisfaction): "M. de Voltaire."

Her want of friends had enabled Princess Sherbatoff to shew for some
years past to the Verdurins a fidelity which made her more than an
ordinary member of the 'faithful,' the type of faithfulness, the ideal
which Mme. Verdurin had long thought unattainable and which now, in
her later years, she at length found incarnate in this new feminine
recruit. However keenly the Mistress might feel the pangs of jealousy,
it was without precedent that the most assiduous of her faithful
should not have 'failed' her at least once. The most stay-at-home
yielded to the temptation to travel; the most continent fell from
virtue; the most robust might catch influenza, the idlest be caught
for his month's soldiering, the most indifferent go to close the eyes
of a dying mother. And it was in vain that Mme. Verdurin told them
then, like the Roman Empress, that she was the sole general whom her
legion must obey, like the Christ or the Kaiser that he who loved his
father or mother more than her and was not prepared to leave them and
follow her was not worthy of her, that instead of slacking in bed or
letting themselves be made fools of by bad women they would do better
to remain in her company, by her, their sole remedy and sole delight.
But destiny which is sometimes pleased to brighten the closing years
of a life that has passed the mortal span had made Mme. Verdurin meet
the Princess Sherbatoff. Out of touch with her family, an exile from
her native land, knowing nobody but the Baroness Putbus and the Grand
Duchess Eudoxie, to whose houses, because she herself had no desire to
meet the friends of the former, and the latter no desire that her
friends should meet the Princess, she went only in the early morning
hours when Mme. Verdurin was still asleep, never once, so far as she
could remember, having been confined to her room since she was twelve
years old, when she had had the measles, having on the 31st of
December replied to Mme. Verdurin who, afraid of being left alone, had
asked her whether she would not 'shake down' there for the night, in
spite of its being New Year's Eve: "Why, what is there to prevent me,
any day of the year? Besides, to-morrow is a day when one stays at
home, and this is my home," living in a boarding-house, and moving
from it whenever the Verdurins moved, accompanying them upon their
holidays, the Princess had so completely exemplified to Mme. Verdurin
the line of Vigny:

  Thou only didst appear that which one seeks always,

that the Lady President of the little circle, anxious to make sure of
one of her 'faithful' even after death, had made her promise that
whichever of them survived the other should be buried by her side.
Before strangers—among whom we must always reckon him to whom we lie
most barefacedly because he is the person whose scorn we should most
dread: ourself—Princess Sherbatoff took care to represent her only
three friendships—with the Grand Duchess, the Verdurins, and the
Baroness Putbus—as the only ones, not which cataclysms beyond her
control had allowed to emerge from the destruction of all the rest,
but which a free choice had made her elect in preference to any other,
and to which a certain love of solitude and simplicity had made her
confine herself. "I see _nobody_ else," she would say, insisting upon
the inflexible character of what appeared to be rather a rule that one
imposes upon oneself than a necessity to which one submits. She would
add: "I visit only three houses," as a dramatist who fears that it may
not run to a fourth announces that there will be only three
performances of his play. Whether or not M. and Mme. Verdurin believed
in the truth of this fiction, they had helped the Princess to instil
it into the minds of the faithful. And they in turn were persuaded
both that the Princess, among the thousands of invitations that were
offered her, had chosen the Verdurins alone, and that the Verdurins,
courted in vain by all the higher aristocracy, had consented to make
but a single exception, in favour of the Princess.

In their eyes, the Princess, too far superior to her native element
not to find it boring, among all the people whose society she might
have enjoyed, found the Verdurins alone entertaining, while they, in
return, deaf to the overtures with which they were bombarded by the
entire aristocracy, had consented to make but a single exception, in
favour of a great lady of more intelligence than the rest of her kind,
the Princess Sherbatoff.

The Princess was very rich; she engaged for every first night a large
box, to which, with the assent of Mme. Verdurin, she invited the
faithful and nobody else. People would point to this pale and
enigmatic person who had grown old without turning white, turning red
rather like certain sere and shrivelled hedgerow fruits. They admired
both her influence and her humility, for, having always with her an
Academician, Brichot, a famous scientist, Cottard, the leading pianist
of the day, at a later date M. de Charlus, she nevertheless made a
point of securing the least prominent box in the theatre, remained in
the background, paid no attention to the rest of the house, lived
exclusively for the little group, who, shortly before the end of the
performance, would withdraw in the wake of this strange sovereign, who
was not without a certain timid, fascinating, faded beauty. But if
Mme. Sherbatoff did not look at the audience, remained in shadow, it
was to try to forget that there existed a living world which she
passionately desired and was unable to know: the _coterie_ in a box
was to her what is to certain animals their almost corpselike
immobility in the presence of danger. Nevertheless the thirst for
novelty and for the curious which possesses people in society made
them pay even more attention perhaps to this mysterious stranger than
to the celebrities in the front boxes to whom everybody paid a visit.
They imagined that she must be different from the people whom they
knew, that a marvellous intellect combined with a discerning bounty
retained round about her that little circle of eminent men. The
Princess was compelled, if you spoke to her about anyone, or
introduced anyone to her, to feign an intense coldness, in order to
keep up the fiction of her horror of society. Nevertheless, with the
support of Cottard or Mme. Verdurin, several newcomers succeeded in
making her acquaintance and such was her excitement at making a fresh
acquaintance that she forgot the fable of her deliberate isolation,
and went to the wildest extremes to please the newcomer. If he was
entirely unimportant, the rest would be astonished. "How strange that
the Princess, who refuses to know anyone, should make an exception of
such an uninteresting person." But these fertilising acquaintances
were rare, and the Princess lived narrowly confined in the midst of
the faithful.

Cottard said far more often: "I shall see him on Wednesday at the
Verdurins'," than: "I shall see him on Tuesday at the Academy." He
spoke, too, of the Wednesdays as of an engagement equally important
and inevitable. But Cottard was one of those people, little sought
after, who make it as imperious a duty to respond to an invitation as
if such invitations were orders, like a military or judicial summons.
It required a call from a very important patient to make him "fail"
the Verdurins on a Wednesday, the importance depending moreover rather
upon the rank of the patient than upon the gravity of his complaint.
For Cottard, excellent fellow as he was, would forego the delights of
a Wednesday not for a workman who had had a stroke, but for a
Minister's cold. Even then he would say to his wife: "Make my
apologies to Mme. Verdurin. Tell her that I shall be coming later on.
His Excellency might really have chosen some other day to catch cold."
One Wednesday their old cook having opened a vein in her arm, Cottard,
already in his dinner-jacket to go to the Verdurins', had shrugged his
shoulders when his wife had timidly inquired whether he could not
bandage the cut: "Of course I can't, Léontine," he had groaned; "can't
you see I've got my white waistcoat on?" So as not to annoy her
husband, Mme. Cottard had sent post haste for his chief dresser. He,
to save time, had taken a cab, with the result that, his carriage
entering the courtyard just as Cottard's was emerging to take him to
the Verdurins', five minutes had been wasted in backing to let one
another pass. Mme. Cottard was worried that the dresser should see his
master in evening dress. Cottard sat cursing the delay, from remorse
perhaps, and started off in a villainous temper which it took all the
Wednesday's pleasures to dispel.

If one of Cottard's patients were to ask him: "Do you ever see the
Guermantes?" it was with the utmost sincerity that the Professor would
reply: "Perhaps not actually the Guermantes, I can't be certain. But I
meet all those people at the house of some friends of mine. You must,
of course, have heard of the Verdurins. They know everybody. Besides,
they certainly are not people who've come down in the world. They've
got the goods, all right. It is generally estimated that Mme. Verdurin
is worth thirty-five million. Gad, thirty-five million, that's a
pretty figure. And so she doesn't make two bites at a cherry. You
mentioned the Duchesse de Guermantes. Let me explain the difference.
Mme. Verdurin is a great lady, the Duchesse de Guermantes is probably
a nobody. You see the distinction, of course. In any case, whether the
Guermantes go to Mme. Verdurin's or not, she entertains all the very
best people, the d'Sherbatoffs, the d'Forchevilles, _e tutti quanti_,
people of the highest flight, all the nobility of France and Navarre,
with whom you would see me conversing as man to man. Of course, those
sort of people are only too glad to meet the princes of science," he
added, with a smile of fatuous conceit, brought to his lips by his
proud satisfaction not so much that the expression formerly reserved
for men like Potain and Charcot should now be applicable to himself,
as that he knew at last how to employ all these expressions that were
authorised by custom, and, after a long course of study, had learned
them by heart. And so, after mentioning to me Princess Sherbatoff as
one of the people who went to Mme. Verdurin's, Cottard added with a
wink: "That gives you an idea of the style of the house, if you see
what I mean?" He meant that it was the very height of fashion. Now, to
entertain a Russian lady who knew nobody but the Grand Duchess Eudoxie
was not fashionable at all. But Princess Sherbatoff might not have
known even her, it would in no way have diminished Cottard's estimate
of the supreme elegance of the Verdurin salon or his joy at being
invited there. The splendour that seems to us to invest the people
whose houses we visit is no more intrinsic than that of kings and
queens on the stage, in dressing whom it is useless for a producer to
spend hundreds and thousands of francs in purchasing authentic
costumes and real jewels, when a great designer will procure a far
more sumptuous impression by focussing a ray of light on a doublet of
coarse cloth studded with lumps of glass and on a cloak of paper. A
man may have spent his life among the great ones of the earth, who to
him have been merely boring relatives or tiresome acquaintances,
because a familiarity engendered in the cradle had stripped them of
all distinction in his eyes. The same man, on the other hand, need
only have been led by some chance to mix with the most obscure people,
for innumerable Cottards to be permanently dazzled by the ladies of
title whose drawing-rooms they imagined as the centres of aristocratic
elegance, ladies who were not even what Mme. de Villeparisis and her
friends were (great ladies fallen from their greatness, whom the
aristocracy that had been brought up with them no longer visited); no,
those whose friendship has been the pride of so many men, if these men
were to publish their memoirs and to give the names of those women and
of the other women who came to their parties, Mme. de Cambremer would
be no more able than Mme. de Guermantes to identify them. But what of
that! A Cottard has thus his Marquise, who is to him "the Baronne," as
in Marivaux, the Baronne whose name is never mentioned, so much so
that nobody supposes that she ever had a name. Cottard is all the more
convinced that she embodies the aristocracy—which has never heard of
the lady—in that, the more dubious titles are, the more prominently
coronets are displayed upon wineglasses, silver, notepaper, luggage.
Many Cottards who have supposed that they were living in the heart of
the Faubourg Saint-Germain have had their imagination perhaps more
enchanted by feudal dreams than the men who did really live among
Princes, just as with the small shopkeeper who, on Sundays, goes
sometimes to look at "old time" buildings, it is sometimes from those
buildings every stone of which is of our own time, the vaults of which
have been, by the pupils of Viollet-le-Duc, painted blue and sprinkled
with golden stars, that they derive the strongest sensation of the
middle ages. "The Princess will be at Maineville. She will be coming
with us. But I shall not introduce you to her at once. It will be
better to leave that to Mme. Verdurin. Unless I find a loophole. Then
you can rely on me to take the bull by the horns." "What were you
saying?" asked Saniette, as he rejoined us, pretending to have gone
out to take the air. "I was quoting to this gentleman," said Brichot,
"a saying, which you will remember, of the man who, to my mind, is the
first of the _fins-de-siècle_ (of the eighteenth century, that is), by
name Charles Maurice, Abbé de Perigord. He began by promising to be an
excellent journalist. But he made a bad end, by which I mean that he
became a Minister! Life has these tragedies. A far from scrupulous
politician to boot who, with the lofty contempt of a thoroughbred
nobleman, did not hesitate to work in his time for the King of
Prussia, there are no two ways about it, and died in the skin of a
'Left Centre.'"


At Saint-Pierre-des-Ifs we were joined by a glorious girl who,
unfortunately, was not one of the little group. I could not tear my
eyes from her magnolia skin, her dark eyes, her bold and admirable
outlines. A moment later she wanted to open a window, for it was hot
in the compartment, and not wishing to ask leave of everybody, as I
alone was without a greatcoat, she said to me in a quick, cool,
jocular voice: "Do you mind a little fresh air, Sir?" I would have
liked to say to her: "Come with us to the Verdurins'?" or "Give me
your name and address." I answered: "No, fresh air doesn't bother me,
Mademoiselle." Whereupon, without stirring from her seat: "Do your
friends object to smoke?" and she lit a cigarette. At the third
station she sprang from the carriage. Next day, I inquired of
Albertine, who could she be. For, stupidly thinking that people could
have but one sort of love, in my jealousy of Albertine's attitude
towards Robert, I was reassured so far as other women were concerned.
Albertine told me, I believe quite sincerely, that she did not know.
"I should so much like to see her again," I exclaimed. "Don't worry,
one always sees people again," replied Albertine. In this particular
instance, she was wrong; I never saw again, nor did I ever identify,
the pretty girl with the cigarette. We shall see, moreover, why, for a
long time, I ceased to look for her. But I have not forgotten her. I
find myself at times, when I think of her, seized by a wild longing.
But these recurrences of desire oblige us to reflect that if we wish
to rediscover these girls with the same pleasure we must also return
to the year which has since been followed by ten others in the course
of which her bloom has faded. We can sometimes find a person again,
but we cannot abolish time. And so on until the unforeseen day, gloomy
as a winter night, when we no longer seek for that girl, or for any
other, when to find her would actually frighten us. For we no longer
feel that we have sufficient attraction to appeal to her, or strength
to love her. Not, of course, that we are, in the strict sense of the
word, impotent. And as for loving, we should love her more than ever.
But we feel that it is too big an undertaking for the little strength
that we have left. Eternal rest has already fixed intervals which we
can neither cross nor make our voice be heard across them. To set our
foot on the right step is an achievement like not missing the perilous
leap. To be seen in such a state by a girl we love, even if we have
kept the features and all the golden locks of our youth! We can no
longer undertake the strain of keeping pace with youth. All the worse
if our carnal desire increases instead of failing! We procure for it a
woman whom we need make no effort to attract, who will share our couch
for one night only and whom we shall never see again.

"Still no news, I suppose, of the violinist," said Cottard. The event
of the day in the little clan was, in fact, the failure of Mme.
Verdurin's favourite violinist. Employed on military service near
Doncières, he came three times a week to dine at la Raspelière, having
a midnight pass. But two days ago, for the first time, the faithful
had been unable to discover him on the tram. It was supposed that he
had missed it. But albeit Mme. Verdurin had sent to meet the next
tram, and so on until the last had arrived, the carriage had returned
empty. "He's certain to have been shoved into the guard-room, there's
no other explanation of his desertion. Gad! In soldiering, you know,
with those fellows, it only needs a bad-tempered serjeant." "It will
be all the more mortifying for Mme. Verdurin," said Brichot, "if he
fails again this evening, because our kind hostess has invited to
dinner for the first time the neighbours from whom she has taken la
Raspelière, the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer." "This evening, the
Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer!" exclaimed Cottard. "But I knew
absolutely nothing about it. Naturally, I knew like everybody else
that they would be coming one day, but I had no idea that it was to be
so soon. Sapristi!" he went on, turning to myself, "what did I tell
you? The Princess Sherbatoff, the Marquis and Marquise de Cambremer."
And, after repeating these names, lulling himself with their melody:
"You see that we move in good company," he said to me. "However, as
it's your first appearance, you'll be one of the crowd. It is going to
be an exceptionally brilliant gathering." And, turning to Brichot, he
went on: "The Mistress will be furious. It is time we appeared to lend
her a hand." Ever since Mme. Verdurin had been at la Raspelière she
had pretended for the benefit of the faithful to be at once feeling
and regretting the necessity of inviting her landlords for one
evening. By so doing she would obtain better terms next year, she
explained, and was inviting them for business reasons only. But she
pretended to regard with such terror, to make such a bugbear of the
idea of dining with people who did not belong to the little group that
she kept putting off the evil day. The prospect did for that matter
alarm her slightly for the reasons which she professed, albeit
exaggerating them, if at the same time it enchanted her for reasons of
snobbishness which she preferred to keep to herself. She was therefore
partly sincere, she believed the little clan to be something so
matchless throughout the world, one of those perfect wholes which it
takes centuries of time to produce, that she trembled at the thought
of seeing introduced into its midst these provincials, people ignorant
of the Ring and the Meistersinger, who would be unable to play their
part in the concert of conversation and were capable, by coming to
Mme. Verdurin's, of ruining one of those famous Wednesdays,
masterpieces of art incomparable and frail, like those Venetian
glasses which one false note is enough to shatter. "Besides, they are
bound to be absolutely _anti_, and militarists," M. Verdurin had said.
"Oh, as for that, I don't mind, we've heard quite enough about all
that business," had replied Mme. Verdurin, who, a sincere Dreyfusard,
would nevertheless have been glad to discover a social counterpoise to
the preponderant Dreyfusism of her salon. For Dreyfusism was
triumphant politically, but not socially. Labori, Reinach, Picquart,
Zola were still, to people in society, more or less traitors, who
could only keep them aloof from the little nucleus. And so, after this
incursion into politics, Mme. Verdurin was determined to return to the
world of art. Besides were not Indy, Debussy, on the 'wrong' side in
the Case? "So far as the Case goes, we need only remember Brichot,"
she said (the Don being the only one of the faithful who had sided
with the General Staff, which had greatly lowered him in the esteem of
Madame Verdurin). "There is no need to be eternally discussing the
Dreyfus case. No, the fact of the matter is that the Cambremers bore
me." As for the faithful, no less excited by their unconfessed desire
to make the Cambremers' acquaintance than dupes of the affected
reluctance which Mme. Verdurin said she felt to invite them, they
returned, day after day, in conversation with her, to the base
arguments with which she herself supported the invitation, tried to
make them irresistible. "Make up your mind to it once and for all,"
Cottard repeated, "and you will have better terms for next year, they
will pay the gardener, you will have the use of the meadow. That will
be well worth a boring evening. I am thinking only of yourselves," he
added, albeit his heart had leaped on one occasion, when, in Mme.
Verdurin's carriage, he had met the carriage of the old Mme. de
Cambremer and, what was more, he had been abased in the sight of the
railwaymen when, at the station, he had found himself standing beside
the Marquis. For their part, the Cambremers, living far too remote
from the social movement ever to suspect that certain ladies of
fashion were speaking with a certain consideration of Mme. Verdurin,
imagined that she was a person who could know none but Bohemians, was
perhaps not even legally married, and so far as people of birth were
concerned would never meet any but themselves. They had resigned
themselves to the thought of dining with her only to be on good terms
with a tenant who, they hoped, would return again for many seasons,
especially after they had, in the previous month, learned that she had
recently inherited all those millions. It was in silence and without
any vulgar pleasantries that they prepared themselves for the fatal
day. The faithful had given up hope of its ever coming, so often had
Mme. Verdurin already fixed in their hearing a date that was
invariably postponed. These false decisions were intended not merely
to make a display of the boredom that she felt at the thought of this
dinner-party, but to keep in suspense those members of the little
group who were staying in the neighbourhood and were sometimes
inclined to fail. Not that the Mistress guessed that the "great day"
was as delightful a prospect to them as to herself, but in order that,
having persuaded them that this dinner-party was to her the most
terrible of social duties, she might make an appeal to their devotion.
"You are not going to leave me all alone with those Chinese mandarins!
We must assemble in full force to support the boredom. Naturally, we
shan't be able to talk about any of the things in which we are
interested. It will be a Wednesday spoiled, but what is one to do!"

"Indeed," Brichot explained to me, "I fancy that Mme. Verdurin, who is
highly intelligent and takes infinite pains in the elaboration of her
Wednesdays, was by no means anxious to see these bumpkins of ancient
lineage but scanty brains. She could not bring herself to invite the
dowager Marquise, but has resigned herself to having the son and
daughter-in-law." "Ah! We are to see the Marquise de Cambremer?" said
Cottard with a smile into which he saw fit to introduce a leer of
sentimentality, albeit he had no idea whether Mme. de Cambremer were
good-looking or not. But the title Marquise suggested to him fantastic
thoughts of gallantry. "Ah! I know her," said Ski, who had met her
once when he was out with Mme. Verdurin. "Not in the biblical sense
of the word, I trust," said the doctor, darting a sly glance through
his eyeglass; this was one of his favourite pleasantries. "She is
intelligent," Ski informed me. "Naturally," he went on, seeing that I
said nothing, and dwelling with a smile upon each word, "she is
intelligent and at the same time she is not, she lacks education, she
is frivolous, but she has an instinct for beautiful things. She may
say nothing, but she will never say anything silly. And besides, her
colouring is charming. She would be an amusing person to paint," he
added, half shutting his eyes, as though he saw her posing in front of
him. As my opinion of her was quite the opposite of what Ski was
expressing with so many fine shades, I observed merely that she was
the sister of an extremely distinguished engineer, M. Legrandin.
"There, you see, you are going to be introduced to a pretty woman,"
Brichot said to me, "and one never knows what may come of that.
Cleopatra was not even a great lady, she was a little woman, the
unconscious, terrible little woman of our Meilhac, and just think of
the consequences, not only to that idiot Antony, but to the whole of
the ancient world." "I have already been introduced to Mme. de
Cambremer," I replied. "Ah! In that case, you will find yourself on
familiar ground." "I shall be all the more delighted to meet her," I
answered him, "because she has promised me a book by the former curé
of Combray about the place-names of this district, and I shall be
able to remind her of her promise. I am interested in that priest, and
also in etymologies." "Don't put any faith in the ones he gives,"
replied Brichot, "there is a copy of the book at la Raspelière, which
I have glanced through, but without finding anything of any value; it
is a mass of error. Let me give you an example. The word Bricq is
found in a number of place-names in this neighbourhood. The worthy
cleric had the distinctly odd idea that it comes from Briga, a height,
a fortified place. He finds it already in the Celtic tribes,
Latobriges, Nemetobriges, and so forth, and traces it down to such
names as Briand, Brion, and so forth. To confine ourselves to the
region in which we have the pleasure of your company at this moment,
Bricquebose means the wood on the height, Bricqueville the habitation
on the height, Bricquebec, where we shall be stopping presently before
coming to Maineville, the height by the stream. Now there is not a
word of truth in all this, for the simple reason that _bricq_ is the
old Norse word which means simply a bridge. Just as fleur, which Mme.
de Cambremer's protégé takes infinite pains to connect, in one place
with the Scandinavian words _floi_, _flo_, in another with the Irish
word _ae_ or _aer_, is, beyond any doubt, the _fjord_ of the Danes,
and means harbour. So too, the excellent priest thinks that the
station of Saint-Mars-le-Vêtu, which adjoins la Raspelière, means
Saint-Martin-le-Vieux (_vetus_). It is unquestionable that the word
_vieux_ has played a great part in the toponymy of this region.
_Vieux_ comes as a rule from _vadum_, and means a passage, as at the
place called les Vieux. It is what the English call _ford_ (Oxford,
Hereford). But, in this particular instance, Vêtu is derived not from
_vetus_, but from _vastus_, a place that is devastated and bare.
You have, round about here, Sottevast, the _vast_ of Setold,
Brillevast, the _vast_ of Berold. I am all the more certain of the
curé's mistake, in that Saint-Mars-le-Vêtu was formerly called
Saint-Mars du Cast and even Saint-Mars-de-Terregate. Now the _v_ and
the _g_ in these words are the same letter. We say _dévaster_, but
also _gâcher_. _Jâchères_ and _gatines_ (from the High German
_wastinna_) have the same meaning: Terregate is therefore _terra
vasta_. As for Saint-Mars, formerly (save the mark) Saint-Merd, it is
Saint-Medardus, which appears variously as Saint-Médard, Saint-Mard,
Saint-Marc, Cinq-Mars, and even Dammas. Nor must we forget that quite
close to here, places bearing the name of Mars are proof simply of a
pagan origin (the god Mars) which has remained alive in this country
but which the holy man refuses to see. The high places dedicated to
the gods are especially frequent, such as the mount of Jupiter
(Jeumont). Your curé declines to admit this, but, on the other hand,
wherever Christianity has left traces, they escape his notice. He has
gone so far afield as to Loctudy, a barbarian name, according to him,
whereas it is simply _Locus Sancti Tudeni_, nor has he in Sammarcoles
divined _Sanctus Martialis_. Your curé," Brichot continued, seeing
that I was interested, "derives the terminations _hon, home, holm_,
from the word _holl_ (_hullus_), a hill, whereas it comes from the
Norse _holm_, an island, with which you are familiar in Stockholm, and
which is so widespread throughout this district, la Houlme, Engohomme,
Tahoume, Robehomme, Néhomme, Quetteholme, and so forth." These names
made me think of the day when Albertine had wished to go to
Infreville-la-Bigot (from the name of two successive lords of the
manor, Brichot told me), and had then suggested that we should dine
together at Robehomme. As for Maineville, we were just coming to it.
"Isn't Néhomme," I asked, "somewhere near Carquethuit and Clitourps?"
"Precisely; Néhomme is the _holm_, the island or peninsula of the
famous Viscount Nigel, whose name has survived also in Neville. The
Carquethuit and Clitourps that you mention furnish Mme. de Cambremer's
protégé with an occasion for further blunders. No doubt he has seen
that _carque_ is a church, the _Kirche_ of the Germans. You will
remember Querqueville, not to mention Dunkerque. For there we should
do better to stop and consider the famous word _Dun_, which to the Celts
meant high ground. And that you will find over the whole of France.
Your abbé was hypnotised by Duneville, which recurs in the
Eure-et-Loir; he would have found Châteaudun, Dun-le-Roi in the Cher,
Duneau in the Sarthe, Dun in the Ariège, Dune-les-Places in the
Nièvre, and many others. This word Dun leads him into a curious error
with regard to Douville where we shall be alighting, and shall find
Mme. Verdurin's comfortable carriages awaiting us. Douville, in Latin
_donvilla_, says he. As a matter of fact, Douville does lie at the
foot of high hills. Your curé, who knows everything, feels all the
same that he has made a blunder. He has, indeed, found in an old
cartulary, the name _Domvilla_. Whereupon he retracts; Douville,
according to him, is a fief belonging to the Abbot, _Domino Abbati_,
of Mont Saint-Michel. He is delighted with the discovery, which is
distinctly odd when one thinks of the scandalous life that, according
to the Capitulary of Sainte-Claire sur Epte, was led at Mont
Saint-Michel, though no more extraordinary than to picture the King of
Denmark as suzerain of all this coast, where he encouraged the worship
of Odin far more than that of Christ. On the other hand, the
supposition that the _n_ has been changed to _m_ does not shock me,
and requires less alteration than the perfectly correct Lyon, which
also is derived from _Dun_ (_Lugdunum_). But the fact is, the abbé is
mistaken. Douville was never Donville, but Doville, _Eudonis villa_,
the village of Eudes. Douville was formerly called Escalecliff, the
steps up the cliff. About the year 1233, Eudes le Bouteiller, Lord of
Escalecliff, set out for the Holy Land; on the eve of his departure he
made over the church to the Abbey of Blanchelande. By an exchange of
courtesies, the village took his name, whence we have Douville to-day.
But I must add that toponymy, of which moreover I know little or
nothing, is not an exact science; had we not this historical evidence,
Douville might quite well come from Ouville, that is to say the
Waters. The forms in _ai_ (Aiguës-Mortes), from _aqua_, are constantly
changed to _eu_ or _ou_. Now there were, quite close to Douville,
certain famous springs, Carquethuit. You might suppose that the curé
was only too ready to detect there a Christian origin, especially as
this district seems to have been pretty hard to convert, since
successive attempts were made by Saint Ursal, Saint Gofroi, Saint
Barsanore, Saint Laurent of Brèvedent, who finally handed over the
task to the monks of Beaubec. But as regards _thuit_ the writer is
mistaken, he sees in it a form of _toft_, a building, as in
Cricquetot, Ectot, Yvetot, whereas it is the _thveit_, the clearing,
the reclaimed land, as in Braquetuit, le Thuit, Regnetuit, and so
forth. Similarly, if he recognises in Clitourps the Norman _thorp_
which means village, he insists that the first syllable of the word
must come from _clivus_, a slope, whereas it comes from _cliff_, a
precipice. But his biggest blunders are due not so much to his
ignorance as to his prejudices. However loyal a Frenchman one is,
there is no need to fly in the face of the evidence and take
Saint-Laurent en Bray to be the Roman priest, so famous at one time,
when he is actually Saint Lawrence 'Toot, Archbishop of Dublin. But
even more than his patriotic sentiments, your friend's religious
bigotry leads him into strange errors. Thus you have not far from our
hosts at la Raspelière two places called Montmartin,
Montmartin-sur-Mer and Montmartin-en-Graignes. In the case of
Graignes, the good curé has been quite right, he has seen that
Graignes, in Latin _Grania_, in Greek _Krene_, means ponds, marshes;
how many instances of Cresmays, Croen, Gremeville, Lengronne, might we
not adduce? But, when he comes to Montmartin, your self-styled
linguist positively insists that these must be parishes dedicated to
Saint Martin. He bases his opinion upon the fact that the Saint is
their patron, but does not realise that he was only adopted
subsequently; or rather he is blinded by his hatred of paganism; he
refuses to see that we should say Mont-Saint-Martin as we say
Mont-Saint-Michel, if it were a question of Saint Martin, whereas the
name Montmartin refers in a far more pagan fashion to temples
consecrated to the god Mars, temples of which, it is true, no other
vestige remains, but which the undisputed existence in the
neighbourhood of vast Roman camps would render highly probable even
without the name Montmartin, which removes all doubt. You see that
the little pamphlet which you will find at la Raspelière is far from
perfect." I protested that at Combray the curé had often told us
interesting etymologies. "He was probably better on his own ground,
the move to Normandy must have made him lose his bearings." "Nor did
it do him any good," I added, "for he came here with neurasthenia and
went away again with rheumatism." "Ah, his neurasthenia is to blame.
He has lapsed from neurasthenia to philology, as my worthy master
Pocquelin would have said. Tell us, Cottard, do you suppose that
neurasthenia can have a disturbing effect on philology, philology a
soothing effect on neurasthenia and the relief from neurasthenia lead
to rheumatism?" "Undoubtedly, rheumatism and neurasthenia are
subordinate forms of neuro-arthritism. You may pass from one to the
other by metastasis." "The eminent Professor," said Brichot,
"expresses himself in a French as highly infused with Latin and Greek
as M. Purgon himself, of Molièresque memory! My uncle, I refer to our
national Sarcey...." But he was prevented from finishing his sentence.
The Professor had leaped from his seat with a wild shout: "The devil!"
he exclaimed on regaining his power of articulate speech, "we have
passed Maineville (d'you hear?) and Renneville too." He had just
noticed that the train was stopping at Saint-Mars-le-Vêtu, where most
of the passengers alighted. "They can't have run through without
stopping. We must have failed to notice it while we were talking about
the Cambremers. Listen to me, Ski, pay attention, I am going to tell
you 'a good one,'" said Cottard, who had taken a fancy to this
expression, in common use in certain medical circles. "The Princess
must be on the train, she can't have seen us, and will have got into
another compartment. Come along and find her. Let's hope this won't
land us in trouble!" And he led us all off in search of Princess
Sherbatoff. He found her in the corner of an empty compartment,
reading the _Revue des Deux Mondes_. She had long ago, from fear of
rebuffs, acquired the habit of keeping in her place, or remaining in
her corner, in life as on the train, and of not offering her hand
until the other person had greeted her. She went on reading as the
faithful trooped into her carriage. I recognised her immediately; this
woman who might have forfeited her position but was nevertheless of
exalted birth, who in any event was the pearl of a salon such as the
Verdurins', was the lady whom, on the same train, I had put down, two
days earlier, as possibly the keeper of a brothel. Her social
personality, which had been so vague, became clear to me as soon as I
learned her name, just as when, after racking our brains over a
puzzle, we at length hit upon the word which clears up all the
obscurity, and which, in the case of a person, is his name. To
discover two days later who the person is with whom one has travelled
in the train is a far more amusing surprise than to read in the next
number of a magazine the clue to the problem set in the previous
number. Big restaurants, casinos, local trains, are the family
portrait galleries of these social enigmas. "Princess, we must have
missed you at Maineville! May we come and sit in your compartment?"
"Why, of course," said the Princess who, upon hearing Cottard address
her, but only then, raised from her magazine a pair of eyes which,
like the eyes of M. de Charlus, although gentler, saw perfectly well
the people of whose presence she pretended to be unaware. Cottard,
coming to the conclusion that the fact of my having been invited to
meet the Cambremers was a sufficient recommendation, decided, after a
momentary hesitation, to introduce me to the Princess, who bowed with
great courtesy but appeared to be hearing my name for the first time.
"Cré nom!" cried the doctor, "my wife has forgotten to make them
change the buttons on my white waist-coat. Ah! Those women, they
never remember anything. Don't you ever marry, my boy," he said to me.
And as this was one of the pleasantries which he considered
appropriate when he had nothing else to say, he peeped out of the
corner of his eye at the Princess and the rest of the faithful, who,
because he was a Professor and an Academician, smiled back, admiring
his good temper and freedom from pride. The Princess informed us that
the young violinist had been found. He had been confined to bed the
evening before by a sick headache, but was coming that evening and
bringing with him a friend of his father whom he had met at Doncières.
She had learned this from Mme. Verdurin with whom she had taken
luncheon that morning, she told us in a rapid voice, rolling her _r_s,
with her Russian accent, softly at the back of her throat, as though
they were not _r_s but _l_s. "Ah! You had luncheon with her this
morning," Cottard said to the Princess; but turned his eyes to myself,
the purport of this remark being to shew me on what intimate terms the
Princess was with the Mistress. "You are indeed a faithful adherent!"
"Yes, I love the little cirlcle, so intelligent, so agleeable, neverl
spiteful, quite simple, not at all snobbish, and clevel to theirl
fingle-tips." "Nom d'une pipe! I must have lost my ticket, I can't
find it anywhere," cried Cottard, with an agitation that was, in the
circumstances, quite unjustified. He knew that at Douville, where a
couple of landaus would be awaiting us, the collector would let him
pass without a ticket, and would only bare his head all the more
humbly, so that the salute might furnish an explanation of his
indulgence, to wit that he had of course recognised Cottard as one of
the Verdurins' regular guests. "They won't shove me in the lock-up for
that," the doctor concluded. "You were saying, Sir," I inquired of
Brichot, "that there used to be some famous waters near here; how do
we know that?" "The name of the next station is one of a multitude of
proofs. It is called Fervaches." "I don't undlestand what he's talking
about," mumbled the Princess, as though she were saying to me out of
politeness: "He's rather a bore, ain't he?" "Why, Princess, Fervaches
means hot springs. _Fervidae aquae_. But to return to the young
violinist," Brichot went on, "I was quite forgetting, Cottard, to tell
you the great news. Had you heard that our poor friend Dechambre, who
used to be Mme. Verdurin's favourite pianist, has just died? It is
terribly sad." "He was quite young," replied Cottard, "but he must
have had some trouble with his liver, there must have been something
sadly wrong in that quarter, he had been looking very queer indeed for
a long time past." "But he was not so young as all that," said
Brichot; "in the days when Elstir and Swann used to come to Mme.
Verdurin's, Dechambre had already made himself a reputation in Paris,
and, what is remarkable, without having first received the baptism of
success abroad. Ah! He was no follower of the Gospel according to
Saint Barnum, that fellow." "You are mistaken, he could not have been
going to Mme. Verdurin's, at that time, he was still in the nursery."
"But, unless my old memory plays me false, I was under the impression
that Dechambre used to play Vinteuil's sonata for Swann, when that
clubman, who had broken with the aristocracy, had still no idea that
he was one day to become the embourgeoised Prince Consort of our
national Odette." "It is impossible, Vinteuil's sonata was played at
Mme. Verdurin's long after Swann ceased to come there," said the
doctor, who, like all people who work hard and think that they
remember many things which they imagine to be of use to them, forget
many others, a condition which enables them to go into ecstasies over
the memories of people who have nothing else to do. "You are
hopelessly muddled, though your brain is as sound as ever," said the
doctor with a smile. Brichot admitted that he was mistaken. The train
stopped. We were at la Sogne. The name stirred my curiosity. "How I
should like to know what all these names mean," I said to Cottard.
"You must ask M. Brichot, he may know, perhaps." "Why, la Sogne is la
Cicogne, _Siconia_," replied Brichot, whom I was burning to
interrogate about many other names.

Forgetting her attachment to her 'corner,' Mme. Sherbatoff kindly
offered to change places with me, so that I might talk more easily
with Brichot, whom I wanted to ask about other etymologies that
interested me, and assured me that she did not mind in the least
whether she travelled with her face or her back to the engine,
standing, or seated, or anyhow. She remained on the defensive until
she had discovered a newcomer's intentions, but as soon as she had
realised that these were friendly, she would do everything in her
power to oblige. At length the train stopped at the station of
Douville-Féterne, which being more or less equidistant from the
villages of Féterne and Douville, bore for this reason their
hyphenated name. "Saperlipopette!" exclaimed Doctor Cottard, when we
came to the barrier where the tickets were collected, and, pretending
to have only just discovered his loss, "I can't find my ticket, I must
have lost it." But the collector, taking off his cap, assured him that
it did not matter and smiled respectfully. The Princess (giving
instructions to the coachman, as though she were a sort of lady in
waiting to Mme. Verdurin, who, because of the Cambremers, had not been
able to come to the station, as, for that matter, she rarely did) took
me, and also Brichot, with herself in one of the carriages. The
doctor, Saniette and Ski got into the other.

The driver, although quite young, was the Verdurins' first coachman,
the only one who had any right to the title; he took them, in the
daytime, on all their excursions, for he knew all the roads, and in
the evening went down to meet the faithful and took them back to the
station later on. He was accompanied by extra helpers (whom he
selected if necessary). He was an excellent fellow, sober and capable,
but with one of those melancholy faces on which a fixed stare
indicates that the merest trifle will make the person fly into a
passion, not to say nourish dark thoughts. But at the moment he was
quite happy, for he had managed to secure a place for his brother,
another excellent type of fellow, with the Verdurins. We began by
driving through Douville. Grassy knolls ran down from the village to
the sea, in wide slopes to which their saturation in moisture and salt
gave a richness, a softness, a vivacity of extreme tones. The islands
and indentations of Rivebelle, far nearer now than at Balbec, gave
this part of the coast the appearance, novel to me, of a relief map.
We passed by some little bungalows, almost all of which were let to
painters; turned into a track upon which some loose cattle, as
frightened as were our horses, barred our way for ten minutes, and
emerged upon the cliff road. "But, by the immortal gods," Brichot
suddenly asked, "let us return to that poor Dechambre; do you suppose
Mme. Verdurin _knows_? Has anyone told _her_?" Mme. Verdurin, like
most people who move in society, simply because she needed the society
of other people, never thought of them again for a single day, as soon
as, being dead, they could no longer come to the Wednesdays, nor to
the Saturdays, nor dine without dressing. And one could not say of the
little clan, a type in this respect of all salons, that it was
composed of more dead than living members, seeing that, as soon as one
was dead, it was as though one had never existed. But, to escape the
nuisance of having to speak of the deceased, in other words to
postpone one of the dinners—a thing impossible to the mistress—as a
token of mourning, M. Verdurin used to pretend that the death of the
faithful had such an effect on his wife that, in the interest of her
health, it must never be mentioned to her. Moreover, and perhaps just
because the death of other people seemed to him so conclusive, so
vulgar an accident, the thought of his own death filled him with
horror and he shunned any consideration that might lead to it. As for
Brichot, since he was the soul of honesty and completely taken in by
what M. Verdurin said about his wife, he dreaded for his friend's sake
the emotions that such a bereavement must cause her. "Yes, she _knew
the worst_ this morning," said the Princess, "it was impossible to
_keep it from her_." "Ah! Thousand thunders of Zeus!" cried Brichot.
"Ah! it must have been a terrible blow, a friend of twenty-five years'
standing. There was a man who was one of us." "Of course, of course,
what can you expect? Such incidents are bound to be painful; but
Madame Verdurin is a brave woman, she is even more cerebral than
emotive." "I don't altogether agree with the Doctor," said the
Princess, whose rapid speech, her murmured accents, certainly made her
appear both sullen and rebellious. "Mme. Verdurin, beneath a cold
exterior, conceals treasures of sensibility. M. Verdurin told me that
he had had great difficulty in preventing her from going to Paris for
the funeral; he was obliged to let her think that it was all to be
held in the country." "The devil! She wanted to go to Paris, did she?
Of course, I know that she has a heart, too much heart perhaps. Poor
Dechambre! As Madame Verdurin remarked not two months ago: 'Compared
with him, Planté, Paderewski, Risler himself are nowhere!' Ah, he
could say with better reason than that limelighter Nero, who has
managed to take in even German scholarship: _Qualis artifex pereo_!
But he at least, Dechambre, must have died in the fulfilment of his
priesthood, in the odour of Beethovenian devotion; and gallantly, I
have no doubt; he had every right, that interpreter of German music,
to pass away while celebrating the Mass in D. But he was, when all is
said, the man to greet the unseen with a cheer, for that inspired
performer would produce at times from the Parisianised Champagne stock
of which he came, the swagger and smartness of a guardsman."

From the height we had now reached, the sea suggested no longer, as at
Balbec, the undulations of swelling mountains, but on the contrary the
view, beheld from a mountain-top or from a road winding round its
flank, of a blue-green glacier or a glittering plain, situated at a
lower level. The lines of the currents seemed to be fixed upon its
surface, and to have traced there for ever their concentric circles;
the enamelled face of the sea which changed imperceptibly in colour,
assumed towards the head of the bay, where an estuary opened, the blue
whiteness of milk, in which little black boats that did not move
seemed entangled like flies. I felt that from nowhere could one
discover a vaster prospect. But at each turn in the road a fresh
expanse was added to it and when we arrived at the Douville
toll-house, the spur of the cliff which until then had concealed from
us half the bay, withdrew, and all of a sudden I descried upon my left
a gulf as profound as that which I had already had before me, but one
that changed the proportions of the other and doubled its beauty. The
air at this lofty point acquired a keenness and purity that
intoxicated me. I adored the Verdurins; that they should have sent a
carriage for us seemed to me a touching act of kindness. I should have
liked to kiss the Princess. I told her that I had never seen anything
so beautiful. She professed that she too loved this spot more than any
other. But I could see that to her as to the Verdurins the thing that
really mattered was not to gaze at the view like tourists, but to
partake of good meals there, to entertain people whom they liked, to
write letters, to read books, in short to live in these surroundings,
passively allowing the beauty of the scene to soak into them rather
than making it the object of their attention.

After the toll-house, where the carriage had stopped for a moment at
such a height above the sea that, as from a mountain-top, the sight of
the blue gulf beneath almost made one dizzy, I opened the window; the
sound, distinctly caught, of each wave that broke in turn had
something sublime in its softness and precision. Was it not like an
index of measurement which, upsetting all our ordinary impressions,
shews us that vertical distances may be coordinated with horizontal,
in contradiction of the idea that our mind generally forms of them;
and that, though they bring the sky nearer to us in this way, they are
not great; that they are indeed less great for a sound which traverses
them as did the sound of those little waves, the medium through which
it has to pass being purer. And in fact if one went back but a couple
of yards below the toll-house, one could no longer distinguish that
sound of waves, which six hundred feet of cliff had not robbed of its
delicate, minute and soft precision. I said to myself that my
grandmother would have listened to it with the delight that she felt
in all manifestations of nature or art, in the simplicity of which one
discerns grandeur. I was now at the highest pitch of exaltation, which
raised everything round about me accordingly. It melted my heart that
the Verdurins should have sent to meet us at the station. I said as
much to the Princess, who seemed to think that I was greatly
exaggerating so simple an act of courtesy. I know that she admitted
subsequently to Cottard that she found me very enthusiastic; he
replied that I was too emotional, required sedatives and ought to take
to knitting. I pointed out to the Princess every tree, every little
house smothered in its mantle of roses, I made her admire everything,
I would have liked to take her in my arms and press her to my heart.
She told me that she could see that I had a gift for painting, that of
course I must sketch, that she was surprised that nobody had told her
about it. And she confessed that the country was indeed picturesque.
We drove through, where it perched upon its height, the
little I village of Englesqueville (_Engleberti villa_, Brichot
informed us). "But are you quite sure that there will be a party this
evening, in spite of Dechambre's death, Princess?" he went on, without
stopping to think that the presence at the station of the carriage in
which we were sitting was in itself an answer to his question. "Yes,"
said the Princess, "M. Verldulin insisted that it should not be put
off, simply to keep his wife from _thinking_. And besides, after
never failing for all these years to entertain on Wednesdays, such a
change in her habits would have been bound to upset her. Her nerves
are velly bad just now. M. Verdurin was particularly pleased that you
were coming to dine this evening, because he knew that it would be a
great distraction for Mme. Verdurin," said the Princess, forgetting
her pretence of having never heard my name before. "I think that it
will be as well not to say _anything_ in front of Mme. Verdurin," the
Princess added. "Ah! I am glad you warned me," Brichot artlessly
replied. "I shall pass on your suggestion to Cottard." The carriage
stopped for a moment. It moved on again, but the sound that the
wheels had been making in the village street had ceased. We had turned
into the main avenue of la Raspelière where M. Verdurin stood waiting
for us upon the steps. "I did well to put on a dinner-jacket," he
said, observing with pleasure that the faithful had put on theirs,
"since I have such smart gentlemen in my party." And as I apologised
for not having changed: "Why, that's quite all right. We're all
friends here. I should be delighted to offer you one of my own
dinner-jackets, but it wouldn't fit you." The handclasp throbbing with
emotion which, as he entered the hall of la Raspelière, and by way of
condolence at the death of the pianist, Brichot gave our host elicited
no response from the latter. I told him how greatly I admired the
scenery. "Ah! All the better, and you've seen nothing, we must take
you round. Why not come and spend a week or two here, the air is
excellent." Brichot was afraid that his handclasp had not been
understood. "Ah! Poor Dechambre!" he said, but in an undertone, in
case Mme. Verdurin was within earshot. "It is terrible," replied M.
Verdurin lightly. "So young," Brichot pursued the point. Annoyed at
being detained over these futilities, M. Verdurin replied in a hasty
tone and with an embittered groan, not of grief but of irritated
impatience: "Why yes, of course, but what's to be done about it, it's
no use crying over spilt milk, talking about him won't bring him back
to life, will it?" And, his civility returning with his joviality:
"Come along, my good Brichot, get your things off quickly. We have a
bouillabaisse which mustn't be kept waiting. But, in heaven's name,
don't start talking about Dechambre to Madame Verdurin. You know that
she always hides her feelings, but she is quite morbidly sensitive. I
give you my word, when she heard that Dechambre was dead, she almost
cried," said M. Verdurin in a tone of profound irony. One might have
concluded, from hearing him speak, that it implied a form of insanity
to regret the death of a friend of thirty years' standing, and on the
other hand one gathered that the perpetual union of M. Verdurin and
his wife did not preclude his constantly criticising her and her
frequently irritating him. "If you mention it to her, she will go and
make herself ill again. It is deplorable, three weeks after her
bronchitis. When that happens, it is I who have to be sick-nurse. You
can understand that I have had more than enough of it. Grieve for
Dechambre's fate in your heart as much as you like. Think of him, but
do not speak about him. I was very fond of Dechambre, but you cannot
blame me for being fonder still of my wife. Here's Cottard, now, you
can ask him." And indeed, he knew that a family doctor can do many
little services, such as prescribing that one must not give way to
grief.

The docile Cottard had said to the Mistress: "Upset yourself like
that, and to-morrow you will _give me_ a temperature of 102," as he
might have said to the cook: "To-morrow you will give me a _riz de
veau_." Medicine, when it fails to cure the sick, busies itself with
changing the sense of verbs and pronouns.

M. Verdurin was glad to find that Saniette, notwithstanding the snubs
that he had had to endure two days earlier, had not deserted the
little nucleus. And indeed Mme. Verdurin and her husband had acquired,
in their idleness, cruel instincts for which the great occasions,
occurring too rarely, no longer sufficed. They had succeeded in
effecting a breach between Odette and Swann, between Brichot and his
mistress. They would try it again with some one else, that was
understood. But the opportunity did not present itself every day.
Whereas, thanks to his shuddering sensibility, his timorous and
quickly aroused shyness, Saniette provided them with a whipping-block
for every day in the year. And so, for fear of his failing them, they
took care always to invite him with friendly and persuasive words,
such as the bigger boys at school, the old soldiers in a regiment,
address to a recruit whom they are anxious to beguile so that they may
get him into their clutches, with the sole object of flattering him
for the moment and bullying him when he can no longer escape.
"Whatever you do," Brichot reminded Cottard, who had not heard what M.
Verdurin was saying, "mum's the word before Mme. Verdurin. Have no
fear, O Cottard, you are dealing with a sage, as Theocritus says.
Besides, M. Verdurin is right, what is the use of lamentations," he
went on, for, being capable of assimilating forms of speech and the
ideas which they suggested to him, but having no finer perception, he
had admired in M. Verdurin's remarks the most courageous stoicism.
"All the same, it is a great talent that has gone from the world."
"What, are you still talking about Dechambre," said M. Verdurin, who
had gone on ahead of us, and, seeing that we were not following him,
had turned back. "Listen," he said to Brichot, "nothing is gained by
exaggeration. The fact of his being dead is no excuse for making him
out a genius, which he was not. He played well, I admit, and what is
more, he was in his proper element here; transplanted, he ceased to
exist. My wife was infatuated with him and made his reputation. You
know what she is. I will go farther, in the interest of his own
reputation he has died at the right moment, he is done to a turn, as
the demoiselles de Caen, grilled according to the incomparable recipe
of Pampilles, are going to be, I hope (unless you keep us standing
here all night with your jeremiads in this Kasbah exposed to all the
winds of heaven). You don't seriously expect us all to die of hunger
because Dechambre is dead, when for the last year he was obliged to
practise scales before giving a concert; to recover for the moment,
and for the moment only, the suppleness of his wrists. Besides, you
are going to hear this evening, or at any rate to meet, for the rascal
is too fond of deserting his art, after dinner, for the card-table,
somebody who is a far greater artist than Dechambre, a youngster whom
my wife has discovered" (as she had discovered Dechambre, and
Paderewski, and everybody else): "Morel. He has not arrived yet, the
devil. He is coming with an old friend of his family whom he has
picked up, and who bores him to tears, but otherwise, not to get into
trouble with his father, he would have been obliged to stay down at
Doncières and keep him company: the Baron de Charlus." The faithful
entered the drawing-room. M. Verdurin, who had remained behind with
me while I took off my things, took my arm by way of a joke, as one's
host does at a dinner-party when there is no lady for one to take in.
"Did you have a pleasant journey?" "Yes, M. Brichot told me things
which interested me greatly," said I, thinking of the etymologies, and
because I had heard that the Verdurins greatly admired Brichot. "I am
surprised to hear that he told you anything," said M. Verdurin, "he is
such a retiring man, and talks so little about the things he knows."
This compliment did not strike me as being very apt. "He seems
charming," I remarked. "Exquisite, delicious, not the sort of man you
meet every day, such a light, fantastic touch, my wife adores him, and
so do I!" replied M. Verdurin in an exaggerated tone, as though
repeating a lesson. Only then did I grasp that what he had said to me
about Brichot was ironical. And I asked myself whether M. Verdurin,
since those far-off days of which I had heard reports, had not shaken
off the yoke of his wife's tutelage.

The sculptor was greatly astonished to learn that the Verdurins were
willing to have M. de Charlus in their house. Whereas in the Faubourg
Saint-Germain, where M. de Charlus was so well known, nobody ever
referred to his morals (of which most people had no suspicion, others
remained doubtful, crediting him rather with intense but Platonic
friendships, with behaving imprudently, while the enlightened few
strenuously denied, shrugging their shoulders, any insinuation upon
which some malicious Gallardon might venture), those morals, the
nature of which was known perhaps to a few intimate friends, were, on
the other hand, being denounced daily far from the circle in which he
moved, just as, at times, the sound of artillery fire is audible only
beyond a zone of silence. Moreover, in those professional and artistic
circles where he was regarded as the typical instance of inversion,
his great position in society, his noble origin were completely
unknown, by a process analogous to that which, among the people of
Rumania, has brought it about that the name of Ronsard is known as
that of a great nobleman, while his poetical work is unknown there.
Not only that, the Rumanian estimate of Ronsard's nobility is founded
upon an error. Similarly, if in the world of painters and actors M. de
Charlus had such an evil reputation, that was due to their confusing
him with a certain Comte Leblois de Charlus who was not even related
to him (or, if so, the connexion was extremely remote), and who had
been arrested, possibly by mistake, in the course of a police raid
which had become historic. In short, all the stories related of our M.
de Charlus referred to the other. Many professionals swore that they
had had relations with M. de Charlus, and did so in good faith,
believing that the false M. de Charlus was the true one, the false one
possibly encouraging, partly from an affectation of nobility, partly
to conceal his vice, a confusion which to the true one (the Baron whom
we already know) was for a long time damaging, and afterwards, when he
had begun to go down the hill, became a convenience, for it enabled
him likewise to say: "That is not myself." And in the present instance
it was not he to whom the rumours referred. Finally, what enhanced
the falsehood of the reports of an actual fact (the Baron's
tendencies), he had had an intimate and perfectly pure friendship with
an author who, in the theatrical world, had for some reason acquired a
similar reputation which he in no way deserved. When they were seen
together at a first night, people would say: "You see," just as it was
supposed that the Duchesse de Guermantes had immoral relations with
the Princesse de Parme; an indestructible legend, for it would be
disproved only in the presence of those two great ladies themselves,
to which the people who repeated it would presumably never come any
nearer than by staring at them through their glasses in the theatre
and slandering them to the occupant of the next stall. Given M. de
Charlus's morals, the sculptor concluded all the more readily that the
Baron's social position must be equally low, since he had no sort of
information whatever as to the family to which M. de Charlus belonged,
his title or his name. Just as Cottard imagined that everybody knew
that the degree of Doctor of Medicine implied nothing, the title of
Consultant to a Hospital meant something, so people in society are
mistaken when they suppose that everybody has the same idea of the
social importance of their name as they themselves and the other
people of their set.

The Prince d'Agrigente was regarded as a swindler by a club servant to
whom he owed twenty-five louis, and regained his importance only in
the Faubourg Saint-Germain where he had three sisters who were
Duchesses, for it is not among the humble people in whose eyes he is
of small account, but among the smart people who know what is what,
that the great nobleman creates an effect. M. de Charlus, for that
matter, was to learn in the course of the evening that his host had
the vaguest ideas about the most illustrious ducal families.

Certain that the Verdurins were making a grave mistake in allowing an
individual of tarnished reputation to be admitted to so 'select' a
household as theirs, the sculptor felt it his duty to take the
Mistress aside. "You are entirely mistaken, besides I never pay any
attention to those tales, and even if it were true, I may be allowed
to point out that it could hardly compromise me!" replied Mme.
Verdurin, furious, for Morel being the principal feature of the
Wednesdays, the chief thing for her was not to give any offence to
him. As for Cottard, he could not express an opinion, for he had asked
leave to go upstairs for a moment to 'do a little job' in the _buen
retiro_, and after that, in M. Verdurin's bedroom, to write an
extremely urgent letter for a patient.

A great publisher from Paris who had come to call, expecting to be
invited to stay to dinner, withdrew abruptly, quickly, realising that
he was not smart enough for the little clan. He was a tall, stout man,
very dark, with a studious and somewhat cutting air. He reminded one
of an ebony paper-knife.

Mme. Verdurin who, to welcome us in her immense drawing-room, in which
displays of grasses, poppies, field-flowers, plucked only that
morning, alternated with a similar theme painted on the walls, two
centuries earlier, by an artist of exquisite taste, had risen for a
moment from a game of cards which she was playing with an old friend,
begged us to excuse her for just one minute while she finished her
game, talking to us the while. What I told her about my impressions
did not, however, seem altogether to please her. For one thing I was
shocked to observe that she and her husband came indoors every day
long before the hour of those sunsets which were considered so fine
when seen from that cliff, and finer still from the terrace of la
Raspelière, and which I would have travelled miles to see. "Yes, it's
incomparable," said Mme. Verdurin carelessly, with a glance at the
huge windows which gave the room a wall of glass. "Even though we have
it always in front of us, we never grow tired of it," and she turned
her attention back to her cards. Now my very enthusiasm made me
exacting. I expressed my regret that I could not see from the
drawing-room the rocks of Darnetal, which, Elstir had told me, were
quite lovely at that hour, when they reflected so many colours. "Ah!
You can't see them from here, you would have to go to the end of the
park, to the 'view of the bay.' From the seat there, you can take in
the whole panorama. But you can't go there by yourself, you will lose
your way. I can take you there, if you like," she added kindly. "No,
no, you are not satisfied with the illness you had the other day, you
want to make yourself ill again. He will come back, he can see the
view of the bay another time." I did not insist, and understood that
it was enough for the Verdurins to know that this sunset made its way
into their drawing-room or dining-room, like a magnificent painting,
like a priceless Japanese enamel, justifying the high rent that they
were paying for la Raspelière, with plate and linen, but a thing to
which they rarely raised their eyes; the important thing, here, for
them was to live comfortably, to take drives, to feed well, to talk,
to entertain agreeable friends whom they provided with amusing games
of billiards, good meals, merry tea-parties. I noticed, however, later
on, how intelligently they had learned to know the district, taking
their guests for excursions as 'novel' as the music to which they made
them listen. The part which the flowers of la Raspelière, the roads by
the sea's edge, the old houses, the undiscovered churches, played in
the life of M. Verdurin was so great that those people who saw him
only in Paris and who, themselves, substituted for the life by the
seaside and in the country the refinements of life in town could
barely understand the idea that he himself formed of his own life, or
the importance that his pleasures gave him in his own eyes. This
importance was further enhanced by the fact that the Verdurins were
convinced that la Raspelière, which they hoped to purchase, was a
property without its match in the world. This superiority which their
self-esteem made them attribute to la Raspelière justified in their
eyes my enthusiasm which, but for that, would have annoyed them
slightly, because of the disappointments which it involved (like my
disappointment when long ago I had first listened to Berma) and which
I frankly admitted to them.

"I hear the carriage coming back," the Mistress suddenly murmured.
Let us state briefly that Mme. Verdurin, quite apart from the
inevitable changes due to increasing years, no longer resembled what
she had been at the time when Swann and Odette used to listen to the
little phrase in her house. Even when she heard it played, she was no
longer obliged to assume the air of attenuated admiration which she
used to assume then, for that had become her normal expression. Under
the influence of the countless neuralgias which the music of Bach,
Wagner, Vinteuil, Debussy had given her, Mme. Verdurin's brow had
assumed enormous proportions, like limbs that are finally crippled by
rheumatism. Her temples, suggestive of a pair of beautiful,
pain-stricken, milk-white spheres, in which Harmony rolled endlessly,
flung back upon either side her silvered tresses, and proclaimed, on
the Mistress's behalf, without any need for her to say a word: "I know
what is in store for me to-night." Her features no longer took the
trouble to formulate successively aesthetic impressions of undue
violence, for they had themselves become their permanent expression on
a countenance ravaged and superb. This attitude of resignation to the
ever impending sufferings inflicted by Beauty, and of the courage that
was required to make her dress for dinner when she had barely
recovered from the effects of the last sonata, had the result that
Mme. Verdurin, even when listening to the most heartrending music,
preserved a disdainfully impassive countenance, and actually withdrew
into retirement to swallow her two spoonfuls of aspirin.

"Why, yes, here they are!" M. Verdurin cried with relief when he saw
the door open to admit Morel, followed by M. de Charlus. The latter,
to whom dining with the Verdurins meant not so much going into society
as going into questionable surroundings, was as frightened as a
schoolboy making his way for the first time into a brothel with the
utmost deference towards its mistress. Moreover the persistent desire
that M. de Charlus felt to appear virile and frigid was overcome (when
he appeared in the open doorway) by those traditional ideas of
politeness which are awakened as soon as shyness destroys an
artificial attitude and makes an appeal to the resources of the
subconscious. When it is a Charlus, whether he be noble or plebeian,
that is stirred by such a sentiment of instinctive and atavistic
politeness to strangers, it is always the spirit of a relative of the
female sex, attendant like a goddess, or incarnate as a double, that
undertakes to introduce him into a strange drawing-room and to mould
his attitude until he comes face to face with his hostess. Thus a
young painter, brought up by a godly, Protestant, female cousin, will
enter a room, his head aslant and quivering, his eyes raised to the
ceiling, his hands gripping an invisible muff, the remembered shape of
which and its real and tutelary presence will help the frightened
artist to cross without agoraphobia the yawning abyss between the hall
and the inner drawing-room. Thus it was that the pious relative, whose
memory is helping him to-day, used to enter a room years ago, and with
so plaintive an air that one was asking oneself what calamity she had
come to announce, when from her first words one realised, as now in
the case of the painter, that she had come to pay an after-dinner
call. By virtue of the same law, which requires that life, in the
interests of the still unfulfilled act, shall bring into play,
utilise, adulterate, in a perpetual prostitution, the most
respectable, it may be the most sacred, sometimes only the most
innocent legacies from the past, and albeit in this instance it
engendered a different aspect, the one of Mme. Cottard's nephews who
distressed his family by his effeminate ways and the company he kept
would always make a joyous entry as though he had a surprise in store
for you or were going to inform you that he had been left a fortune,
radiant with a happiness which it would have been futile to ask him to
explain, it being due to his unconscious heredity and his misplaced
sex. He walked upon tiptoe, was no doubt himself astonished that he
was not holding a cardcase, offered you his hand parting his lips as
he had seen his aunt part hers, and his uneasy glance was directed at
the mirror in which he seemed to wish to make certain, albeit he was
bare-headed, whether his hat, as Mme. Cottard had once inquired of
Swann, was not askew. As for M. de Charlus, whom the society in which
he had lived furnished, at this critical moment, with different
examples, with other patterns of affability, and above all with the
maxim that one must, in certain cases, when dealing with people of
humble rank, bring into play and make use of one's rarest graces,
which one normally holds in reserve, it was with a flutter, archly,
and with the same sweep with which a skirt would have enlarged and
impeded his waddling motion that he advanced upon Mme. Verdurin with
so flattered and honoured an air that one would have said that to be
taken to her house was for him a supreme favour. One would have
thought that it was Mme. de Marsantes who was entering the room, so
prominent at that moment was the woman whom a mistake on the part of
Nature had enshrined in the body of M. de Charlus. It was true that
the Baron had made every effort to obliterate this mistake and to
assume a masculine appearance. But no sooner had he succeeded than, he
having in the meantime kept the same tastes, this habit of looking at
things through a woman's eyes gave him a fresh feminine appearance,
due this time not to heredity but to his own way of living. And as he
had gradually come to regard even social questions from the feminine
point of view, and without noticing it, for it is not only by dint of
lying to other people, but also by lying to oneself that one ceases to
be aware that one is lying, albeit he had called upon his body to
manifest (at the moment of his entering the Verdurins' drawing-room)
all the courtesy of a great nobleman, that body which had fully
understood what M. de Charlus had ceased to apprehend, displayed, to
such an extent that the Baron would have deserved the epithet
'ladylike,' all the attractions of a great lady. Not that there need
be any connexion between the appearance of M. de Charlus and the fact
that sons, who do not always take after their fathers, even without
being inverts, and though they go after women, may consummate upon
their faces the profanation of their mothers. But we need not consider
here a subject that deserves a chapter to itself: the Profanation of
the Mother.

Albeit other reasons dictated this transformation of M. de Charlus,
and purely physical ferments set his material substance 'working' and
made his body pass gradually into the category of women's bodies,
nevertheless the change that we record here was of spiritual origin.
By dint of supposing yourself to be ill you become ill, grow thin, are
too weak to rise from your bed, suffer from nervous enteritis. By dint
of thinking tenderly of men you become a woman, and an imaginary
spirit hampers your movements. The obsession, just as in the other
instance it affects your health, may in this instance alter your sex.
Morel, who accompanied him, came to shake hands with me. From that
first moment, owing to a twofold change that occurred in him I formed
(alas, I was not warned in time to act upon it!) a bad impression of
him. I have said that Morel, having risen above his father's menial
status, was generally pleased to indulge in a contemptuous
familiarity. He had talked to me on the day when he brought me the
photographs without once addressing me as Monsieur, treating me as an
inferior. What was my surprise at Mme. Verdurin's to see him bow very
low before me, and before me alone, and to hear, before he had even
uttered a syllable to anyone else, words of respect, most
respectful—such words as I thought could not possibly flow from his
pen or fall from his lips—addressed to myself. I at once suspected
that he had some favour to ask of me. Taking me aside a minute later:
"Monsieur would be doing me a very great service," he said to me,
going so far this time as to address me in the third person, "by
keeping from Mme. Verdurin and her guests the nature of the profession
that my father practised with his uncle. It would be best to say that
he was, in your family, the agent for estates so considerable as to
put him almost on a level with your parents," Morel's request annoyed
me intensely because it obliged me to magnify not his father's
position, in which I took not the slightest interest, but the
wealth—the apparent wealth of my own, which I felt to be absurd. But
he appeared so unhappy, so pressing, that I could not refuse him. "No,
before dinner," he said in an imploring tone, "Monsieur can easily
find some excuse for taking Mme. Verdurin aside." This was what, in
the end, I did, trying to enhance to the best of my ability the
distinction of Morel's father, without unduly exaggerating the
'style,' the 'worldly goods' of my own family. It went like a letter
through the post, notwithstanding the astonishment of Mme. Verdurin,
who had had a nodding acquaintance with my grandfather. And as she had
no tact, hated family life (that dissolvent of the little nucleus),
after telling me that she remembered, long ago, seeing my
great-grandfather, and after speaking of him as of somebody who was
almost an idiot, who would have been incapable of understanding the
little group, and who, to use her expression, "was not one of us," she
said to me: "Families are such a bore, the only thing is to get right
away from them;" and at once proceeded to tell me of a trait in my
great-grandfather's character of which I was unaware, although I might
have suspected it at home (I had never seen him, but they frequently
spoke of him), his remarkable stinginess (in contrast to the somewhat
excessive generosity of my great-uncle, the friend of the lady in pink
and Morel's father's employer): "Why, of course, if your grandparents
had such a grand agent, that only shews that there are all sorts of
people in a family. Your grandfather's father was so stingy that, at
the end of his life, when he was almost half-witted—between you and
me, he was never anything very special, you are worth the whole lot of
them—he could not bring himself to pay a penny for his ride on the
omnibus. So that they were obliged to have him followed by somebody
who paid his fare for him, and to let the old miser think that his
friend M. de Persigny, the Cabinet Minister, had given him a permit
to travel free on the omnibuses. But I am delighted to hear that _our_
Morel's father held such a good position. I was under the impression
that he had been a schoolmaster, but that's nothing, I must have
misunderstood. In any case, it makes not the slightest difference, for
I must tell you that here we appreciate only true worth, the personal
contribution, what I call the participation. Provided that a person
is artistic, provided in a word that he is one of the brotherhood,
nothing else matters." The way in which Morel was one of the
brotherhood was—so far as I have been able to discover—that he was
sufficiently fond of both women and men to satisfy either sex with the
fruits of his experience of the other. But what it is essential to
note here is that as soon as I had given him my word that I would
speak on his behalf to Mme. Verdurin, as soon, moreover, as I had
actually done so, and without any possibility of subsequent
retractation, Morel's 'respect' for myself vanished as though by
magic, the formal language of respect melted away, and indeed for some
time he avoided me, contriving to appear contemptuous of me, so that
if Mme. Verdurin wanted me to give him a message, to ask him to play
something, he would continue to talk to one of the faithful, then move
on to another, changing his seat if I approached him. The others were
obliged to tell him three or four times that I had spoken to him,
after which he would reply, with an air of constraint, briefly, that
is to say unless we were by ourselves. When that happened, he was
expansive, friendly, for there was a charming side to him. I concluded
all the same from this first evening that his must be a vile nature,
that he would not, at a pinch, shrink from any act of meanness, was
incapable of gratitude. In which he resembled the majority of mankind.
But inasmuch as I had inherited a strain of my grandmother's nature,
and enjoyed the diversity of other people without expecting anything
of them or resenting anything that they did, I overlooked his
baseness, rejoiced in his gaiety when it was in evidence, and indeed
in what I believe to have been a genuine affection on his part when,
having gone the whole circuit of his false ideas of human nature, he
realised (with a jerk, for he shewed strange reversions to a blind and
primitive savagery) that my kindness to him was disinterested, that my
indulgence arose not from a want of perception but from what he called
goodness; and, more important still, I was enraptured by his art which
indeed was little more than an admirable virtuosity, but which made me
(without his being in the intellectual sense of the word a real
musician) hear again or for the first time so much good music.
Moreover a manager—M. de Charlus (whom I had not suspected of such
talents, albeit Mme. de Guermantes, who had known him a very different
person in their younger days, asserted that he had composed a sonata
for her, painted a fan, and so forth), modest in regard to his true
merits, but possessing talents of the first order, contrived to place
this virtuosity at the service of a versatile artistic sense which
increased it tenfold. Imagine a merely skilful performer in the
Russian ballet, formed, educated, developed in all directions by M.
Diaghileff.

I had just given Mme. Verdurin the message with which Morel had
charged me and was talking to M. de Charlus about Saint-Loup, when
Cottard burst into the room announcing, as though the house were on
fire, that the Cambremers had arrived. Mme. Verdurin, not wishing to
appear before strangers such as M. de Charlus (whom Cottard had not
seen) and myself to attach any great importance to the arrival of the
Cambremers, did not move, made no response to the announcement of
these tidings, and merely said to the doctor, fanning herself
gracefully, and adopting the tone of a Marquise in the Théâtre
Français: "The Baron has just been telling us...." This was too much
for Cottard! Less abruptly than he would have done in the old days,
for learning and high positions had added weight to his utterance, but
with the emotion, nevertheless, which he recaptured at the Verdurins',
he exclaimed: "A Baron! What Baron? Where's the Baron?" staring around
the room with an astonishment that bordered on incredulity. Mme.
Verdurin, with the affected indifference of a hostess when a servant
has, in front of her guests, broken a valuable glass, and with the
artificial, highfalutin tone of a conservatoire prize-winner acting in
a play by the younger Dumas, replied, pointing with her fan to Morel's
patron: "Why, the Baron de Charlus, to whom let me introduce you, M.
le Professeur Cottard." Mme. Verdurin was, for that matter, by no
means sorry to have an opportunity of playing the leading lady. M. de
Charlus proffered two fingers which the Professor clasped with the
kindly smile of a 'Prince of Science.' But he stopped short upon
seeing the Cambremers enter the room, while M. de Charlus led me into
a corner to tell me something, not without feeling my muscles, which
is a German habit. M. de Cambremer bore no resemblance to the old
Marquise. To anyone who had only heard of him, or of letters written
by him, well and forcibly expressed, his personal appearance was
startling. No doubt, one would grow accustomed to it. But his nose had
chosen to place itself aslant above his mouth, perhaps the only
crooked line, among so many, which one would never have thought of
tracing upon his face, and one that indicated a vulgar stupidity,
aggravated still further by the proximity of a Norman complexion on
cheeks that were like two ripe apples. It is possible that the eyes of
M. de Cambremer retained behind their eyelids a trace of the sky of
the Cotentin, so soft upon sunny days when the wayfarer amuses himself
in watching, drawn up by the roadside, and counting in their hundreds
the shadows of the poplars, but those eyelids, heavy, bleared and
drooping, would have prevented the least flash of intelligence from
escaping. And so, discouraged by the meagreness of that azure glance,
one returned to the big crooked nose. By a transposition of the
senses, M. de Cambremer looked at you with his nose. This nose of his
was not ugly, it was if anything too handsome, too bold, too proud of
its own importance. Arched, polished, gleaming, brand new, it was
amply prepared to atone for the inadequacy of his eyes. Unfortunately,
if the eyes are sometimes the organ through which our intelligence is
revealed, the nose (to leave out of account the intimate solidarity
and the unsuspected repercussion of one feature upon the rest), the
nose is generally the organ in which stupidity is most readily
displayed.

The propriety of the dark clothes which M. de Cambremer invariably
wore, even in the morning, might well reassure those who were dazzled
and exasperated by the insolent brightness of the seaside attire of
people whom they did not know; still it was impossible to understand
why the chief magistrate's wife should have declared with an air of
discernment and authority, as a person who knows far more than you
about the high society of Alençon, that on seeing M. de Cambremer one
immediately felt oneself, even before one knew who he was, in the
presence of a man of supreme distinction, of a man of perfect
breeding, a change from the sort of person one saw at Balbec, a man in
short in whose company one could breathe freely. He was to her,
stifled by all those Balbec tourists who did not know her world, like
a bottle of smelling salts. It seemed to me on the contrary that he
was one of the people whom my grandmother would at once have set down
as 'all wrong,' and that, as she had no conception of snobbishness,
she would no doubt have been stupefied that he could have succeeded in
winning the hand of Mlle. Legrandin, who must surely be difficult to
please, having a brother who was 'so refined.' At best one might have
said of M. de Cambremer's plebeian ugliness that it was redolent of
the soil and preserved a very ancient local tradition; one was
reminded, on examining his faulty features, which one would have liked
to correct, of those names of little Norman towns as to the etymology
of which my friend the curé was mistaken because the peasants,
mispronouncing the names, or having misunderstood the Latin or Norman
words that underlay them, have finally fixed in a barbarism to be
found already in the cartularies, as Brichot would have said, a wrong
meaning and a fault of pronunciation. Life in these old towns may, for
all that, be pleasant enough, and M. de Cambremer must have had his
good points, for if it was in a mother's nature that the old Marquise
should prefer her son to her daughter-in-law, on the other hand, she,
who had other children, of whom two at least were not devoid of merit,
was often heard to declare that the Marquis was, in her opinion, the
best of the family. During the short time he had spent in the army,
his messmates, finding Cambremer too long a name to pronounce, had
given him the nickname Cancan, implying a flow of chatter, which he in
no way merited. He knew how to brighten a dinner-party to which he was
invited by saying when the fish (even if it were stale) or the entrée
came in: "I say, that looks a fine animal." And his wife, who had
adopted upon entering the family everything that she supposed to form
part of their customs, put herself on the level of her husband's
friends and perhaps sought to please him, like a mistress, and as
though she had been involved in his bachelor existence, by saying in a
careless tone when she was speaking of him to officers: "You shall see
Cancan presently. Cancan has gone to Balbec, but he will be back this
evening." She was furious at having compromised herself by coming to
the Verdurins' and had done so only upon the entreaties of her
mother-in-law and husband, in the hope of renewing the lease. But,
being less well-bred than they, she made no secret of the ulterior
motive and for the last fortnight had been making fun of this
dinner-party to her women friends. "You know we are going to dine with
our tenants. That will be well worth an increased rent. As a matter of
fact, I am rather curious to see what they have done to our poor old
la Raspelière" (as though she had been born in the house, and would
find there all her old family associations). "Our old keeper told me
only yesterday that you wouldn't know the place. I can't bear to think
of all that must be going on there. I am sure we shall have to have
the whole place disinfected before we move in again." She arrived
haughty and morose, with the air of a great lady whose castle, owing
to a state of war, is occupied by the enemy, but who nevertheless
feels herself at home and makes a point of shewing the conquerors that
they are intruding. Mme. de Cambremer could not see me at first for I
was in a bay at the side of the room with M. de Charlus, who was
telling me that he had heard from Morel that Morel's father had been
an 'agent' in my family, and that he, Charlus, credited me with
sufficient intelligence and magnanimity (a term common to himself and
Swann) to forego the mean and ignoble pleasure which vulgar little
idiots (I was warned) would not have failed, in my place, to give
themselves by revealing to our hosts details which they might regard
as derogatory. "The mere fact that I take an interest in him and
extend my protection over him, gives him a pre-eminence and wipes out
the past," the Baron concluded. As I listened to him and promised the
silence which I would have kept even without any hope of being
considered in return intelligent and magnanimous, I was looking at
Mme. de Cambremer. And I had difficulty in recognising the melting,
savoury morsel which I had had beside me the other afternoon at
teatime, on the terrace at Balbec, in the Norman rock-cake that I now
saw, hard as a rock, in which the faithful would in vain have tried to
set their teeth. Irritated in anticipation by the knowledge that her
husband inherited his mother's simple kindliness, which would make him
assume a flattered expression whenever one of the faithful was
presented to him, anxious however to perform her duty as a leader of
society, when Brichot had been named to her she decided to make him
and her husband acquainted, as she had seen her more fashionable
friends do, but, anger or pride prevailing over the desire to shew her
knowledge of the world, she said, not, as she ought to have said:
"Allow me to introduce my husband," but: "I introduce you to my
husband," holding aloft thus the banner of the Cambremers, without
avail, for her husband bowed as low before Brichot as she had
expected. But all Mme. de Cambremer's ill humour vanished in an
instant when her eye fell on M. de Charlus, whom she knew by sight.
Never had she succeeded in obtaining an introduction, even at the time
of her intimacy with Swann. For as M. de Charlus always sided with the
woman, with his sister-in-law against M. de Guermantes's mistresses,
with Odette, at that time still unmarried, but an old flame of
Swann's, against the new, he had, as a stern defender of morals and
faithful protector of homes, given Odette—and kept—the promise that
he would never allow himself to be presented to Mme. de Cambremer. She
had certainly never guessed that it was at the Verdurins' that she was
at length to meet this unapproachable person. M. de Cambremer knew
that this was a great joy to her, so great that he himself was moved
by it and looked at his wife with an air that implied: "You are glad
now you decided to come, aren't you?" He spoke very little, knowing
that he had married a superior woman. "I, all unworthy," he would say
at every moment, and spontaneously quoted a fable of La Fontaine and
one of Florian which seemed to him to apply to his ignorance, and at
the same time enable him, beneath the outward form of a contemptuous
flattery, to shew the men of science who were not members of the
Jockey that one might be a sportsman and yet have read fables. The
unfortunate thing was that he knew only two of them. And so they kept
cropping up. Mme. de Cambremer was no fool, but she had a number of
extremely irritating habits. With her the corruption of names bore
absolutely no trace of aristocratic disdain. She was not the person to
say, like the Duchesse de Guermantes (whom the mere fact of her birth
ought to have preserved even more than Mme. de Cambremer from such an
absurdity), with a pretence of not remembering the unfashionable name
(albeit it is now that of one of the women whom it is most difficult
to approach) of Julien de Monchâteau: "a little Madame... Pica della
Mirandola." No, when Mme. de Cambremer said a name wrong it was out of
kindness of heart, so as not to appear to know some damaging fact, and
when, in her sincerity, she admitted it, she tried to conceal it by
altering it. If, for instance, she was defending a woman, she would
try to conceal the fact, while determined not to lie to the person who
had asked her to tell the truth, that Madame So-and-so was at the
moment the mistress of M. Sylvain Lévy, and would say: "No... I know
absolutely nothing about her, I fancy that people used to charge her
with having inspired a passion in a gentleman whose name I don't know,
something like Cahn, Kohn, Kuhn; anyhow, I believe the gentleman has
been dead for years and that there was never anything between them."
This is an analogous, but contrary process to that adopted by liars
who think that if they alter their statement of what they have been
doing when they make it to a mistress or merely to another man, their
listener will not immediately see that the expression (like her Cahn,
Kohn, Kuhn) is interpolated, is of a different texture from the rest
of the conversation, has a double meaning.

Mme. Verdurin whispered in her husband's ear: "Shall I offer my arm to
the Baron de Charlus? As you will have Mme. de Cambremer on your
right, we might divide the honours." "No," said M. Verdurin, "since
the other is higher in rank" (meaning that M. de Cambremer was a
Marquis), "M. de Charlus is, strictly speaking, his inferior." "Very
well, I shall put him beside the Princess." And Mme. Verdurin
introduced Mme. Sherbatoff to M. de Charlus; each of them bowed in
silence, with an air of knowing all about the other and of promising a
mutual secrecy. M. Verdurin introduced me to M. de Cambremer. Before
he had even begun to speak in his loud and slightly stammering voice,
his tall figure and high complexion displayed in their oscillation the
martial hesitation of a commanding officer who tries to put you at
your ease and says: "I have heard about you, I shall see what can be
done; your punishment shall be remitted; we don't thirst for blood
here; it will be all right." Then, as he shook my hand: "I think you
know my mother," he said to me. The word 'think' seemed to him
appropriate to the discretion of a first meeting, but not to imply any
uncertainty, for he went on: "I have a note for you from her." M. de
Cambremer took a childish pleasure in revisiting a place where he had
lived for so long. "I am at home again," he said to Mme. Verdurin,
while his eyes marvelled at recognising the flowers painted on panels
over the doors, and the marble busts on their high pedestals. He
might, all the same, have felt himself at sea, for Mme. Verdurin had
brought with her a quantity of fine old things of her own. In this
respect, Mme. Verdurin, while regarded by the Cambremers as having
turned everything upside down, was not revolutionary but intelligently
conservative in a sense which they did not understand. They were thus
wrong in accusing her of hating the old house and of degrading it by
hanging plain cloth curtains instead of their rich plush, like an
ignorant parish priest reproaching a diocesan architect with putting
back in its place the old carved wood which the cleric had thrown on
the rubbish heap, and had seen fit to replace with ornaments purchased
in the Place Saint-Sulpice. Furthermore, a herb garden was beginning
to take the place, in front of the mansion, of the borders that were
the pride not merely of the Cambremers but of their gardener. The
latter, who regarded the Cambremers as his sole masters, and groaned
beneath the yoke of the Verdurins, as though the place were under
occupation for the moment by an invading army, went in secret to
unburden his griefs to its dispossessed mistress, grew irate at the
scorn that was heaped upon his araucarias, begonias, house-leeks,
double dahlias, and at anyone's daring in so grand a place to grow
such common plants as camomile and maidenhair. Mme. Verdurin felt
this silent opposition and had made up her mind, if she took a long
lease of la Raspelière or even bought the place, to make one of her
conditions the dismissal of the gardener, by whom his old mistress, on
the contrary, set great store. He had worked for her without payment,
when times were bad, he adored her; but by that odd multiformity of
opinion which we find in the lower orders, among whom the most
profound moral scorn is embedded in the most passionate admiration,
which in turn overlaps old and undying grudges, he used often to say
of Mme. de Cambremer who, in '70, in a house that she owned in the
East of France, surprised by the invasion, had been obliged to endure
for a month the contact of the Germans: "What many people can't
forgive Mme. la Marquise is that during the war she took the side of
the Prussians and even had them to stay in her house. At any other
time, I could understand it; but in war time, she ought not to have
done it. It is not right." So that he was faithful to her unto death,
venerated her for her goodness, and firmly believed that she had been
guilty of treason. Mme. Verdurin was annoyed that M. de Cambremer
should pretend to feel so much at home at la Raspelière. "You must
notice a good many changes, all the same," she replied. "For one thing
there were those big bronze Barbedienne devils and some horrid little
plush chairs which I packed off at once to the attic, though even that
is too good a place for them." After this bitter retort to M. de
Cambremer, she offered him her arm to go in to dinner. He hesitated
for a moment, saying to himself: "I can't, really, go in before M. de
Charlus." But supposing the other to be an old friend of the house,
seeing that he was not set in the post of honour, he decided to take
the arm that was offered him and told Mme. Verdurin how proud he felt
to be admitted into the symposium (so it was that he styled the little
nucleus, not without a smile of satisfaction at his knowledge of the
term). Cottard, who was seated next to M. de Charlus, beamed at him
through his glass, to make his acquaintance and to break the ice, with
a series of winks far more insistent than they would have been in the
old days, and not interrupted by fits of shyness. And these engaging
glances, enhanced by the smile that accompanied them, were no longer
dammed by the glass but overflowed on all sides. The Baron, who
readily imagined people of his own kind everywhere, had no doubt that
Cottard was one, and was making eyes at him. At once he turned on the
Professor the cold shoulder of the invert, as contemptuous of those
whom he attracts as he is ardent in pursuit of such as attract him. No
doubt, albeit each one of us speaks mendaciously of the pleasure,
always refused him by destiny, of being loved, it is a general law,
the application of which is by no means confined to the Charlus type,
that the person whom we do not love and who does love us seems to us
quite intolerable. To such a person, to a woman of whom we say not
that she loves us but that she bores us, we prefer the society of any
other, who has neither her charm, nor her looks, nor her brains. She
will recover these, in our estimation, only when she has ceased to
love us. In this light, we might see only the transposition, into odd
terms, of this universal rule in the irritation aroused in an invert
by a man who displeases him and runs after him. And so, whereas the
ordinary man seeks to conceal what he feels, the invert is implacable
in making it felt by the man who provokes it, as he would certainly
not make it felt by a woman, M. de Charlus for instance by the
Princesse de Guermantes, whose passion for him bored him, but
flattered him. But when they see another man shew a peculiar liking
for them, then, whether because they fail to realise that this liking
is the same as their own, or because it annoys them to be reminded
that this liking, which they glorify so long as it is they themselves
that feel it, is regarded as a vice, or from a desire to rehabilitate
themselves by a sensational display in circumstances in which it costs
them nothing, or from a fear of being unmasked which they at once
recover as soon as desire no longer leads them blindfold from one
imprudence to another, or from rage at being subjected, by the
equivocal attitude of another person, to the injury which, by their
own attitude, if that other person attracted them, they would not be
afraid to inflict on him, the men who do not in the least mind
following a young man for miles, never taking their eyes off him in
the theatre, even if he is with friends, and there is therefore a
danger of their compromising him with them, may be heard, if a man who
does not attract them merely looks at them, to say: "Sir, for what do
you take me?" (simply because he takes them for what they are) "I
don't understand, no, don't attempt to explain, you are quite
mistaken," pass if need be from words to blows, and, to a person who
knows the imprudent stranger, wax indignant: "What, you know that
loathsome creature. He stares at one so!... A fine way to behave!" M.
de Charlus did not go quite as far as this, but assumed the offended,
glacial air adopted, when one appears to be suspecting them, by women
who are not of easy virtue, even more by women who are. Furthermore,
the invert brought face to face with an invert sees not merely an
unpleasing image of himself which, being purely inanimate, could at
the worst only injure his self-esteem, but a second self, living,
acting in the same sphere, capable therefore of injuring him in his
loves. And so it is from an instinct of self-preservation that he will
speak evil of the possible rival, whether to people who are able to do
him some injury (nor does invert the first mind being thought a liar
when he thus denounces invert the second before people who may know
all about his own case), or to the young man whom he has 'picked up,'
who is perhaps going to be snatched away from him and whom it is
important to persuade that the very things which it is to his
advantage to do with the speaker would be the bane of his life if he
allowed himself to do them with the other person. To M. de Charlus,
who was thinking perhaps of the—wholly imaginary—dangers in which
the presence of this Cottard whose smile he misinterpreted might
involve Morel, an invert who did not attract him was not merely a
caricature of himself, but was a deliberate rival. A tradesman,
practising an uncommon trade, who, on his arrival in the provincial
town where he intends to settle for life discovers that, in the same
square, directly opposite, the same trade is being carried on by a
competitor, is no more discomfited than a Charlus who goes down to a
quiet spot to make love unobserved and, on the day of his arrival,
catches sight of the local squire or the barber, whose aspect and
manner leave no room for doubt. The tradesman often comes to regard
his competitor with hatred; this hatred degenerates at times into
melancholy, and, if there be but a sufficient strain of heredity, one
has seen in small towns the tradesman begin to shew signs of insanity
which is cured only by his deciding to sell his stock and goodwill and
remove to another place. The invert's rage is even more agonising. He
has realised that from the first moment the squire and the barber have
desired his young companion. Even though he repeat to him a hundred
times daily that the barber and the squire are scoundrels whose
contact would dishonour him, he is obliged, like Harpagon, to watch
over his treasure, and rises in the night to make sure that it is not
being stolen. And it is this no doubt that, even more than desire, or
the convenience of habits shared in common, and almost as much as that
experience of oneself which is the only true experience, makes one
invert detect another with a rapidity and certainty that are almost
infallible. He may be mistaken for a moment, but a rapid divination
brings him back to the truth. And so M. de Charlus's error was brief.
His divine discernment shewed him after the first minute that Cottard
was not of his kind, and that he need not fear his advances either for
himself, which would merely have annoyed him, or for Morel, which
would have seemed to him a more serious matter. He recovered his
calm, and as he was still beneath the influence of the transit of
Venus Androgyne, now and again, he smiled a faint smile at the
Verdurins without taking the trouble to open his mouth, merely curving
his lips at one corner, and for an instant kindled a coquettish light
in his eyes, he so obsessed with virility, exactly as his
sister-in-law the Duchesse de Guermantes might have done. "Do you
shoot much, Sir?" said M. Verdurin with a note of contempt to M. de
Cambremer. "Has Ski told you of the near shave we had to-day?" Cottard
inquired of the mistress. "I shoot mostly in the forest of
Chantepie," replied M. de Cambremer. "No, I have told her nothing,"
said Ski. "Does it deserve its name?" Brichot asked M. de Cambremer,
after a glance at me from the corner of his eye, for he had promised
me that he would introduce the topic of derivations, begging me at the
same time not to let the Cambremers know the scorn that he felt for
those furnished by the Combray curé. "I am afraid I must be very
stupid, but I don't grasp your question," said M. de Cambremer. "I
mean to say: do many pies sing in it?" replied Brichot. Cottard
meanwhile could not bear Mme. Verdurin's not knowing that they had
nearly missed the train. "Out with it," Mme. Cottard said to her
husband encouragingly, "tell us your odyssey." "Well, really, it is
quite out of the Ordinary," said the doctor, and repeated his
narrative from the beginning. "When I saw that the train was in the
station, I stood thunderstruck. It was all Ski's fault. You are
somewhat wide of the mark in your information, my dear fellow! And
there was Brichot waiting for us at the station!" "I assumed," said
the scholar, casting around him what he could still muster of a glance
and smiling with his thin lips, "that if you had been detained at
Graincourt, it would mean that you had encountered some peripatetic
siren." "Will you hold your tongue, if my wife were to hear you!" said
the Professor. "This wife of mine, it is jealous." "Ah! That Brichot,"
cried Ski, moved to traditional merriment by Brichot's spicy
witticism, "he is always the same;" albeit he had no reason to suppose
that the university don had ever indulged in obscenity. And, to
embellish this consecrated utterance with the ritual gesture, he made
as though he could not resist the desire to pinch Brichot's leg. "He
never changes, the rascal," Ski went on, and without stopping to think
of the effect, at once tragic and comic, that the don's semi-blindness
gave to his words: "Always a sharp look-out for the ladies." "You
see," said M. de Cambremer, "what it is to meet with a scholar. Here
have I been shooting for fifteen years in the forest of Chantepie, and
I've never even thought of what the name meant." Mme. de Cambremer
cast a stern glance at her husband; she did not like him to humble
himself thus before Brichot. She was even more annoyed when, at every
'ready-made' expression that Cancan employed, Cottard, who knew the
ins and outs of them all, having himself laboriously acquired them,
pointed out to the Marquis, who admitted his stupidity, that they
meant nothing. "Why 'stupid as a cabbage?' Do you suppose cabbages are
stupider than anything else? You say:'repeat the same thing
thirty-six times.' Why thirty-six? Why do you say:'sleep like a top?'
Why 'Thunder of Brest?' Why 'play four hundred tricks?'" But at this,
the defence of M. de Cambremer was taken up by Brichot who explained
the origin of each of these expressions. But Mme. de Cambremer was
occupied principally in examining the changes that the Verdurins had
introduced at la Raspelière, in order that she might be able to
criticise some, and import others, or possibly the same ones, to
Féterne. "I keep wondering what that lustre is that's hanging all
crooked. I can hardly recognise my old Raspelière," she went on, with
a familiarly aristocratic air, as she might have spoken of an old
servant meaning not so much to indicate his age as to say that she had
seen him in his cradle. And, as she was a trifle bookish in her
speech: "All the same," she added in an undertone, "I can't help
feeling that if I were inhabiting another person's house, I should
feel some compunction about altering everything like this." "It is a
pity you didn't come with them," said Mme. Verdurin to M. de Charlus
and Morel, hoping that M. de Charlus was now 'enrolled' and would
submit to the rule that they must all arrive by the same train. "You
are sure that Chantepie means the singing magpie, Chochotte?" she went
on, to shew that, like the great hostess that she was, she could join
in every conversation at the same time. "Tell me something about this
violinist," Mme. de Cambremer said to me, "he interests me; I adore
music, and it seems to me that I have heard of him before, complete my
education." She had heard that Morel had come with M. de Charlus and
hoped, by getting the former to come to her house, to make friends
with the latter. She added, however, so that I might not guess her
reason for asking, "M. Brichot, too, interests me." For, even if she
was highly cultivated, just as certain persons inclined to obesity eat
hardly anything, and take exercise all day long without ceasing to
grow visibly fatter, so Mme. de Cambremer might in vain master, and
especially at Féterne, a philosophy that became ever more esoteric,
music that became ever more subtle, she emerged from these studies
only to weave plots that would enable her to cut the middle-class
friends of her girlhood and to form the connexions which she had
originally supposed to be part of the social life of her 'in laws,'
and had then discovered to be far more exalted and remote. A
philosopher who was not modern enough for her, Leibnitz, has said that
the way is long from the intellect to the heart. This way Mme. de
Cambremer had been no more capable than her brother of traversing.
Abandoning the study of John Stuart Mill only for that of Lachelier,
the less she believed in the reality of the external world, the more
desperately she sought to establish herself, before she died, in a
good position in it. In her passion for realism in art, no object
seemed to her humble enough to serve as a model to painter or writer.
A fashionable picture or novel would have made her feel sick;
Tolstoi's mujiks, or Millet's peasants, were the extreme social
boundary beyond which she did not allow the artist to pass. But to
cross the boundary that limited her own social relations, to raise
herself to an intimate acquaintance with Duchesses, this was the goal
of all her efforts, so ineffective had the spiritual treatment to
which she subjected herself, by the study of great masterpieces,
proved in overcoming the congenital and morbid snobbishness that had
developed in her. This snobbishness had even succeeded in curing
certain tendencies to avarice and adultery to which in her younger
days she had been inclined, just as certain peculiar and permanent
pathological conditions seem to render those who are subject to them
immune to other maladies. I could not, all the same, refrain, as I
listened to her, from giving her credit, without deriving any pleasure
from them, for the refinement of her expressions. They were those that
are used, at a given date, by all the people of the same intellectual
breadth, so that the refined expression provides us at once, like the
arc of a circle, with the means to describe and limit the entire
circumference. And so the effect of these expressions is that the
people who employ them bore me immediately, because I feel that I
already know them, but are generally regarded as superior persons, and
have often been offered me as delightful and unappreciated companions.
"You cannot fail to be aware, Madame, that many forest regions take
their name from the animals that inhabit them. Next to the forest of
Chantepie, you have the wood Chantereine." "I don't know who the queen
may be, but you are not very polite to her," said M. de Cambremer.
"One for you, Chochotte," said Mme. de Verdurin. "And apart from
that, did you have a pleasant journey?" "We encountered only vague
human beings who thronged the train. But I must answer M. de
Cambremer's question; _reine_, in this instance, is not the wife of a
king, but a frog. It is the name that the frog has long retained in
this district, as is shewn by the station, Renneville, which ought to
be spelt Reineville." "I say, that seems a fine animal," said M. de
Cambremer to Mme. Verdurin, pointing to a fish. (It was one of the
compliments by means of which he considered that he paid his scot at a
dinner-party, and gave an immediate return of hospitality. "There is
no need to invite them," he would often say, in speaking of one or
other couple of their friends to his wife. "They were delighted to
have us. It was they that thanked me for coming.") "I must tell you,
all the same, that I have been going every day for years to
Renneville, and I have never seen any more frogs there than anywhere
else. Madame de Cambremer brought the curé here from a parish where
she owns a considerable property, who has very much the same turn of
mind as yourself, it seems to me. He has written a book." "I know, I
have read it with immense interest," Brichot replied hypocritically.
The satisfaction that his pride received indirectly from this answer
made M. de Cambremer laugh long and loud. "Ah! well, the author of,
what shall I say, this geography, this glossary, dwells at great
length upon the name of a little place of which we were formerly, if I
may say so, the Lords, and which is called Pont-à-Couleuvre. Of course
I am only an ignorant rustic compared with such a fountain of
learning, but I have been to Pont-à-Couleuvre a thousand times if he's
been there once, and devil take me if I ever saw one of his beastly
serpents there, I say beastly, in spite of the tribute the worthy La
Fontaine pays them." (_The Man and the Serpent_ was one of his two
fables.) "You have not seen any, and you have been quite right,"
replied Brichot. "Undoubtedly, the writer you mention knows his
subject through and through, he has written a remarkable book."
"There!" exclaimed Mme. de Cambremer, "that book, there's no other
word for it, is a regular Benedictine _opus_." "No doubt he has
consulted various polyptychs (by which we mean the lists of benefices
and cures of each diocese), which may have furnished him with the
names of lay patrons and ecclesiastical collators. But there are other
sources. One of the most learned of my friends has delved into them.
He found that the place in question was named Pont-à-Quileuvre. This
odd name encouraged him to carry his researches farther, to a Latin
text in which the bridge that your friend supposes to be infested with
serpents is styled _Pons cui aperit_: A closed bridge that was opened
only upon due payment." "You were speaking of frogs. I, when I find
myself among such learned folk, feel like the frog before the
areopagus," (this being his other fable) said Cancan who often
indulged, with a hearty laugh, in this pleasantry thanks to which he
imagined himself to be making, at one and the same time, out of
humility and with aptness, a profession of ignorance and a display of
learning. As for Cottard, blocked upon one side by M. de Charlus's
silence, and driven to seek an outlet elsewhere, he turned to me with
one of those questions which so impressed his patients when it hit the
mark and shewed them that he could put himself so to speak inside
their bodies; if on the other hand it missed the mark, it enabled him
to check certain theories, to widen his previous point of view. "When
you come to a relatively high altitude, such as this where we now are,
do you find that the change increases your tendency to choking fits?"
he asked me with the certainty of either arousing admiration or
enlarging his own knowledge. M. de Cambremer heard the question and
smiled. "I can't tell you how amused I am to hear that you have
choking fits," he flung at me across the table. He did not mean that
it made him happy, though as a matter of fact it did. For this worthy
man could not hear any reference to another person's sufferings
without a feeling of satisfaction and a spasm of hilarity which
speedily gave place to the instinctive pity of a kind heart. But his
words had another meaning which was indicated more precisely by the
clause that followed. "It amuses me," he explained, "because my sister
has them too." And indeed it did amuse him, as it would have amused
him to hear me mention as one of my friends a person who was
constantly coming to their house. "How small the world is," was the
reflexion which he formed mentally and which I saw written upon his
smiling face when Cottard spoke to me of my choking fits. And these
began to establish themselves, from the evening of this dinner-party,
as a sort of interest in common, after which M. de Cambremer never
failed to inquire, if only to hand on a report to his sister. As I
answered the questions with which his wife kept plying me about Morel,
my thoughts returned to a conversation I had had with my mother that
afternoon. Having, without any attempt to dissuade me from going to
the Verdurins' if there was a chance of my being amused there,
suggested that it was a house of which my grandfather would not have
approved, which would have made him exclaim: "On guard!" my mother had
gone on to say: "Listen, Judge Toureuil and his wife told me they had
been to luncheon with Mme. Bontemps. They asked me no questions. But
I seemed to gather from what was said that your marriage to Albertine
would be the joy of her aunt's life. I think the real reason is that
they are all extremely fond of you. At the same time the style in
which they suppose that you would be able to keep her, the sort of
friends they more or less know that we have, all that is not, I fancy,
left out of account, although it may be a minor consideration. I
should not have mentioned it to you myself, because I attach no
importance to it, but as I imagine that people will mention it to you,
I prefer to get a word in first." "But you yourself, what do you think
of her?" I asked my mother. "Well, it's not I that am going to marry
her. You might certainly do a thousand times better. But I feel that
your grandmother would not have liked me to influence you. As a matter
of fact, I cannot tell you what I think of Albertine; I don't think of
her. I shall say to you, like Madame de Sévigné: 'She has good
qualities, at least I suppose so. But at this first stage I can praise
her only by negatives. One thing she is not, she has not the Rennes
accent. In time, I shall perhaps say, she is something else. And I
shall always think well of her if she can make you happy.'" But by
these very words which left it to myself to decide my own happiness,
my mother had plunged me in that state of doubt in which I had been
plunged long ago when, my father having allowed me to go to _Phèdre_
and, what was more, to take to writing, I had suddenly felt myself
burdened with too great a responsibility, the fear of distressing him,
and that melancholy which we feel when we cease to obey orders which,
from one day to another, keep the future hidden, and realise that we
have at last begun to live in real earnest, as a grown-up person, the
life, the only life that any of us has at his disposal.

Perhaps the best thing would be to wait a little longer, to begin by
regarding Albertine as in the past, so as to find out whether I really
loved her. I might take her, as a distraction, to see the Verdurins,
and this thought reminded me that I had come there myself that evening
only to learn whether Mme. Putbus was staying there or was expected.
In any case, she was not dining with them. "Speaking of your friend
Saint-Loup," said Mme. de Cambremer, using an expression which shewed
a closer sequence in her ideas than her remarks might have led one to
suppose, for if she spoke to me about music she was thinking about the
Guermantes; "you know that everybody is talking about his marriage to
the niece of the Princesse de Guermantes. I may tell you that, so far
as I am concerned, all that society gossip leaves me cold." I was
seized by a fear that I might have spoken unfeelingly to Robert about
the girl in question, a girl full of sham originality, whose mind was
as mediocre as her actions were violent. Hardly ever do we hear
anything that does 'not make us regret something that we have said. I
replied to Mme. de Cambremer, truthfully as it happened, that I knew
nothing about it, and that anyhow I thought that the girl was still
too young to be engaged. "That is perhaps why it is not yet official,
anyhow there is a lot of talk about it." "I ought to warn you," Mme.
Verdurin observed dryly to Mme. de Cambremer, having heard her talking
to me about Morel and supposing, when Mme. de Cambremer lowered her
voice to speak of Saint-Loup's engagement, that Morel was still under
discussion. "You needn't expect any light music here. In matters of
art, you know, the faithful who come to my Wednesdays, my children as
I call them, are all fearfully advanced," she added with an air of
proud terror. "I say to them sometimes: My dear people, you move too
fast for your Mistress, not that she has ever been said to be afraid
of anything daring. Every year it goes a little farther; I can see the
day coming when they will have no more use for Wagner or Indy." "But
it is splendid to be advanced, one can never be advanced enough," said
Mme. de Cambremer, scrutinising as she spoke every corner of the
dining-room, trying to identify the things that her mother-in-law had
left there, those that Mme. Verdurin had brought with her, and to
convict the latter red-handed of want of taste. At the same time, she
tried to get me to talk of the subject that interested her most, M. de
Charlus. She thought it touching that he should be looking after a
violinist. "He seems intelligent." "Why, his mind is extremely active
for a man of his age," said I. "Age? But he doesn't seem at all old,
look, the hair is still young." (For, during the last three or four
years, the word hair had been used with the article by one of those
unknown persons who launch the literary fashions, and everybody at the
same radius from the centre as Mme. de Cambremer would say 'the hair,'
not without an affected smile. At the present day, people still say
'the hair' but, from an excessive use of the article, the pronoun will
be born again.) "What interests me most about M. de Charlus," she went
on, "is that one can feel that he has the gift. I may tell you that I
attach little importance to knowledge. Things that can be learned do
not interest me." This speech was not incompatible with Mme. de
Cambremer's own distinction which was, in the fullest sense, imitated
and acquired. But it so happened that one of the things which one had
to know at that moment was that knowledge is nothing, and is not worth
a straw when compared with originality. Mme. de Cambremer had learned,
with everything else, that one ought not to learn anything. "That is
why," she explained to me, "Brichot, who has an interesting side to
him, for I am not one to despise a certain spicy erudition, interests
me far less." But Brichot, at that moment, was occupied with one thing
only; hearing people talk about music, he trembled lest the subject
should remind Mme. Verdurin of the death of Dechambre. He decided to
say something that would avert that harrowing memory. M. de Cambremer
provided him with an opportunity with the question: "You mean to say
that wooded places always take their names from animals?" "Not at
all," replied Brichot, proud to display his learning before so many
strangers, among whom, I had told him, he would be certain to interest
one at least. "We have only to consider how often, even in the names
of people, a tree is preserved, like a fern in a piece of coal. One of
our Conscript Fathers is called M. de Saulces de Freycinet, which
means, if I be not mistaken, a spot planted with willows and ashes,
_salix et fraxinetum_; his nephew M. de Selves combines more trees
still, since he is named de Selves, _de sylvis_." Saniette was
delighted to see the conversation take so animated a turn. He could,
since Brichot was talking all the time, preserve a silence which would
save him from being the butt of M. and Mme. Verdurin's wit. And
growing even more sensitive in his joy at being set free, he had been
touched when he heard M. Verdurin, notwithstanding the formality of so
grand a dinner-party, tell the butler to put a decanter of water in
front of M. Saniette who never drank anything else. (The generals
responsible for the death of most soldiers insist upon their being
well fed.) Moreover, Mme. Verdurin had actually smiled once at
Saniette. Decidedly, they were kind people. He was not going to be
tortured any more. At this moment the meal was interrupted by one of
the party whom I have forgotten to mention, an eminent Norwegian
philosopher who spoke French very well but very slowly, for the
twofold reason that, in the first place, having learned the language
only recently and not wishing to make mistakes (he did, nevertheless,
make some), he referred each word to a sort of mental dictionary, and
secondly, being a metaphysician, he always thought of what he intended
to say while he was saying it, which, even in a Frenchman, causes
slowness of utterance. He was, otherwise, a charming person, although
similar in appearance to many other people, save in one respect. This
man so slow in his diction (there was an interval of silence after
every word) acquired a startling rapidity in escaping from the room as
soon as he had said good-bye. His haste made one suppose, the first
time one saw him, that he was suffering from colic or some even more
urgent need.

"My dear—colleague," he said to Brichot, after deliberating in his
mind whether colleague was the correct term, "I have a sort of—desire
to know whether there are other trees in the—nomenclature of your
beautiful French—Latin—Norman tongue. Madame" (he meant Madame
Verdurin, although he dared not look at her) "has told me that you
know everything. Is not this precisely the moment?" "No, it is the
moment for eating," interrupted Mme. Verdurin, who saw the dinner
becoming interminable. "Very well," the Scandinavian replied, bowing
his head over his plate with a resigned and sorrowful smile. "But I
must point out to Madame that if I have permitted myself this
questionnaire—pardon me, this questation—it is because I have to
return to-morrow to Paris to dine at the Tour d'Argent or at the Hôtel
Meurice, My French—brother—M. Boutroux is to address us there about
certain seances of spiritualism—pardon me, certain spirituous
evocations which he has controlled." "The Tour d'Argent is not nearly
as good as they make out," said Mme. Verdurin sourly. "In fact, I have
had some disgusting dinners there." "But am I mistaken, is not the
food that one consumes at Madame's table an example of the finest
French cookery?" "Well, it is not positively bad," replied Mme.
Verdurin, sweetening. "And if you come next Wednesday, it will be
better." "But I am leaving on Monday for Algiers, and from there I am
going to the Cape. And when I am at the Cape of Good Hope, I shall no
longer be able to meet my illustrious colleague—pardon me, I shall no
longer be able to meet my brother." And he set to work obediently,
after offering these retrospective apologies, to devour his food at a
headlong pace. But Brichot was only too delighted to be able to
furnish other vegetable etymologies, and replied, so greatly
interesting the Norwegian that he again stopped eating, but with a
sign to the servants that they might remove his plate and help him to
the next course. "One of the Forty," said Brichot, "is named Houssaye,
or a place planted with hollies; in the name of a brilliant diplomat,
d'Ormesson, you will find the elm, the _ulmus_ beloved of Virgil,
which has given its name to the town of Ulm; in the names of his
colleagues, M. de la Boulaye, the birch (_bouleau_), M. d'Aunay, the
alder (_aune_), M. de Buissière, the box (_buis_), M. Albaret, the
sapwood (_aubier_)" (I made a mental note that I must tell this to
Céleste), "M. de Cholet, the cabbage (_chou_), and the apple-tree
(_pommier_) in the name of M. de la Pommeraye, whose lectures we used
to attend, do you remember, Saniette, in the days when the worthy
Porel had been sent to the farthest ends of the earth, as Proconsul in
Odeonia?" "You said that Cholet was derived from _chou_," I remarked
to Brichot. "Am I to suppose that the name of a station I passed
before reaching Doncières, Saint-Frichoux, comes from _chou_ also?"
"No, Saint-Frichoux is _Sanctus Fructuosus_, as _Sanctus Ferreolus_
gave rise to Saint-Fargeau, but that is not Norman in the least." "He
knows too much, he's boring us," the Princess muttered softly. "There
are so many other names that interest me, but I can't ask you
everything at once." And, turning to Cottard, "Is Madame Putbus here?"
I asked him. On hearing Brichot utter the name of Saniette, M.
Verdurin cast at his wife and at Cottard an ironical glance which
confounded their timid guest. "No, thank heaven," replied Mme.
Verdurin, who had overheard my question, "I have managed to turn her
thoughts in the direction of Venice, we are rid of her for this year."
"I shall myself be entitled presently to two trees," said M. de
Charlus, "for I have more or less taken a little house between
Saint-Martin-du-Chêne and Saint-Pierre-des-Ifs." "But that is quite
close to here, I hope that you will come over often with Charlie
Morel. You have only to come to an arrangement with our little group
about the trains, you are only a step from Doncières," said Mme.
Verdurin, who hated people's not coming by the same train and not
arriving at the hours when she sent carriages to meet them. She knew
how stiff the climb was to la Raspelière, even if you took the zigzag
path, behind Féterne, which was half-an-hour longer; she was afraid
that those of her guests who kept to themselves might not find
carriages to take them, or even, having in reality stayed away, might
plead the excuse that they had not found a carriage at
Douville-Féterne, and had not felt strong enough to make so stiff a
climb on foot. To this invitation M. de Charlus responded with a
silent bow. "He's not the sort of person you can talk to any day of
the week, he seems a tough customer," the doctor whispered to Ski, for
having remained quite simple, notwithstanding a surface-dressing of
pride, he made no attempt to conceal the fact that Charlus had snubbed
him. "He is doubtless unaware that at all the watering-places, and
even in Paris in the wards, the physicians, who naturally regard me as
their 'chief,' make it a point of honour to introduce me to all the
noblemen present, not that they need to be asked twice. It makes my
stay at the spas quite enjoyable," he added carelessly. "Indeed at
Doncières the medical officer of the regiment, who is the doctor who
attends the Colonel, invited me to luncheon to meet him, saying that I
was fully entitled to dine with the General. And that General is a
Monsieur _de_ something. I don't know whether his title-deeds are more
or less ancient than those of this Baron." "Don't you worry about him,
his is a very humble coronet," replied Ski in an undertone, and added
some vague statement including a word of which I caught only the last
syllable, _-ast_, being engaged in listening to what Brichot was
saying to M. de Charlus. "No, as for that, I am sorry to say, you have
probably one tree only, for if Saint-Martin-du-Chêne is obviously
_Sanctus Martinus juxta quercum_, on the other hand, the word _if_ may
be simply the root _ave, eve_, which means moist, as in Aveyron,
Lodève, Yvette, and which you see survive in our kitchen-sinks
(_éviers_). It is the word _eau_ which in Breton is represented by
_ster_, Stermaria, Sterlaer, Sterbouest, Ster-en-Dreuchen." I heard
no more, for whatever the pleasure I might feel on hearing again the
name Stermaria, I could not help listening to Cottard, next to whom I
was seated, as he murmured to Ski: "Indeed! I was not aware of it. So
he is a gentleman who has learned to look behind! He is one of the
happy band, is he? He hasn't got rings of fat round his eyes, all the
same. I shall have to keep my feet well under me, or he may start
squeezing them. But I'm not at all surprised. I am used to seeing
noblemen in the bath, in their birthday suits, they are all more or
less degenerates. I don't talk to them, because after all I am in an
official position and it might do me harm. But they know quite well
who I am." Saniette, whom Brichot's appeal had frightened, was
beginning to breathe again, like a man who is afraid of the storm when
he finds that the lightning has not been followed by any sound of
thunder, when he heard M. Verdurin interrogate him, fastening upon him
a stare which did not spare the wretch until he had finished speaking,
so as to put him at once out of countenance and prevent him from
recovering his composure. "But you never told us that you went to
those _matinées_ at the Odéon, Saniette?" Trembling like a recruit
before a bullying serjeant, Saniette replied, making his speech as
diminutive as possible, so that it might have a better chance of
escaping the blow: "Only once, to the _Chercheuse_." "What's that he
says?" shouted M. Verdurin, with an air of disgust and fury combined,
knitting his brows as though it was all he could do to grasp something
unintelligible. "It is impossible to understand what you say, what
have you got in your mouth?" inquired M. Verdurin, growing more and
more furious, and alluding to Saniette's defective speech. "Poor
Saniette, I won't have him made unhappy," said Mme. Verdurin in a tone
of false pity, so as to leave no one in doubt as to her husband's
insolent intention. "I was at the Ch... Che..." "Che, che, try to speak
distinctly," said M. Verdurin, "I can't understand a word you say."
Almost without exception, the faithful burst out laughing and they
suggested a band of cannibals in whom the sight of a wound on a white
man's skin has aroused the thirst for blood. For the instinct of
imitation and absence of courage govern society and the mob alike. And
we all of us laugh at a person whom we see being made fun of, which
does not prevent us from venerating him ten years later in a circle
where he is admired. It is in like manner that the populace banishes
or acclaims its kings. "Come, now, it is not his fault," said Mme.
Verdurin. "It is not mine either, people ought not to dine out if they
can't speak properly." "I was at the _Chercheuse d'Esprit_ by Favart."
"What! It's the _Chercheuse d'Esprit_ that you call the _Chercheuse_?
Why, that's marvellous! I might have tried for a hundred years without
guessing it," cried M. Verdurin, who all the same would have decided
immediately that you were not literary, were not artistic, were not
'one of us,' if he had heard you quote the full title of certain
works. For instance, one was expected to say the _Malade_, the
_Bourgeois_; and whoso would have added _imaginaire_ or _gentilhomme_
would have shewn that he did not understand 'shop,' just as in a
drawing-room a person proves that he is not in society by saying 'M.
de Montesquiou-Fézensac' instead of 'M. de Montesquieu.' "But it is
not so extraordinary," said Saniette, breathless with emotion but
smiling, albeit he was in no smiling mood. Mme. Verdurin could not
contain herself. "Yes, indeed!" she cried with a titter. "You may be
quite sure that nobody would ever have guessed that you meant the
_Chercheuse d'Esprit_." M. Verdurin went on in a gentler tone,
addressing both Saniette and Brichot: "It is quite a pretty piece, all
the same, the _Chercheuse d'Esprit_." Uttered in a serious tone, this
simple phrase, in which one could detect no trace of malice, did
Saniette as much good and aroused in him as much gratitude as a
deliberate compliment. He was unable to utter a single word and
preserved a happy silence. Brichot was more loquacious. "It is true,"
he replied to M. Verdurin, "and if it could be passed off as the work
of some Sarmatian or Scandinavian author, we might put forward the
_Chercheuse d'Esprit_ as a candidate for the vacant post of
masterpiece. But, be it said without any disrespect to the shade of
the gentle Favart, he had not the Ibsenian temperament." (Immediately
he blushed to the roots of his hair, remembering the Norwegian
philosopher who appeared troubled because he was seeking in vain to
discover what vegetable the _buis_ might be that Brichot had cited a
little earlier in connexion with the name Bussière.) "However, now
that Porel's satrapy is filled by a functionary who is a Tolstoist of
rigorous observance, it may come to pass that we shall witness _Anna
Karenina_ or _Resurrection_ beneath the Odeonian architrave." "I know
the portrait of Favart to which you allude," said M. de Charlus. "I
have seen a very fine print of it at Comtesse Molé's." The name of
Comtesse Molé made a great impression upon Mme. Verdurin. "Oh! So you
go to Mme. de Molé's!" she exclaimed. She supposed that people said
Comtesse Molé, Madame Molé, simply as an abbreviation, as she heard
people say 'the Rohans' or in contempt, as she herself said: 'Madame
la Trémoïlle.' She had no doubt that Comtesse Molé, who knew the Queen
of Greece and the Principessa di Caprarola, had as much right as
anybody to the particle, and for once in a way had decided to bestow
it upon so brilliant a personage, and one who had been extremely civil
to herself. And so, to make it clear that she had spoken thus on
purpose and did not grudge the Comtesse her 'de,' she went on: "But I
had no idea that you knew Madame de Molé!" as though it had been
doubly extraordinary, both that M. de Charlus should know the lady,
and that Mme. Verdurin should not know that he knew her. Now society,
or at least the people to whom M. de Charlus gave that name, forms a
relatively homogeneous and compact whole. And so it is comprehensible
that, in the incongruous vastness of the middle classes, a barrister
may say to somebody who knows one of his school friends: "But how in
the world do you come to know him?" whereas to be surprised at a
Frenchman's knowing the meaning of the word _temple_ or _forest_ would
be hardly more extraordinary than to wonder at the hazards that might
have brought together M. de Charlus and the Comtesse Molé. What is
more, even if such an acquaintance had not been derived quite
naturally from the laws that govern society, how could there be
anything strange in the fact of Mme. Verdurin's not knowing of it,
since she was meeting M. de Charlus for the first time, and his
relations with Mme. Molé were far from being the only thing that she
did not know with regard to him, about whom, to tell the truth, she
knew nothing. "Who was it that played this _Chercheuse d'Esprit_, my
good Saniette?" asked M. Verdurin. Albeit he felt that the storm had
passed, the old antiquarian hesitated before answering. "There you
go," said Mme. Verdurin, "you frighten him, you make fun of everything
that he says, and then you expect him to answer. Come along, tell us
who played the part, and you shall have some galantine to take home,"
said Mme. Verdurin, making a cruel allusion to the penury into which
Saniette had plunged himself by trying to rescue the family of a
friend. "I can remember only that it was Mme. Samary who played the
Zerbine," said Saniette. "The Zerbine? What in the world is that," M.
Verdurin shouted, as though the house were on fire. "It is one of the
parts in the old repertory, like Captain Fracasse, as who should say
the Fire-eater, the Pedant." "Ah, the pedant, that's yourself. The
Zerbine! No, really the man's mad," exclaimed M. Verdurin. Mme.
Verdurin looked at her guests and laughed as though to apologise for
Saniette. "The Zerbine, he imagines that everybody will know at once
what it means. You are like M. de Longepierre, the stupidest man I
know, who said to us quite calmly the other day 'the Banat.' Nobody
had any idea what he meant. Finally we were informed that it was a
province in Serbia." To put an end to Saniette's torture, which hurt
me 'more than it hurt him, I asked Brichot if he knew what the word
Balbec meant. "Balbec is probably a corruption of Dalbec," he told
me. "One would have to consult the charters of the Kings of England,
Overlords of Normandy, for Balbec was held of the Barony of Dover, for
which reason it was often styled Balbec d'Outre-Mer, Balbec-en-Terre.
But the Barony of Dover was itself held of the Bishopric of Bayeux,
and, notwithstanding the rights that were temporarily enjoyed in the
abbey by the Templars, from the time of Louis d'Harcourt, Patriarch of
Jerusalem and Bishop of Bayeux; it was the Bishops of that diocese who
collated to the benefice of Balbec. So it was explained to me by the
incumbent of Douville, a bald person, eloquent, fantastic, and a
devotee of the table, who lives by the Rule of Brillat-Savarin, and
who expounded to me in slightly sibylline language a loose pedagogy,
while he fed me upon some admirable fried potatoes." While Brichot
smiled to shew how witty it was to combine matters so dissimilar and
to employ an ironically lofty diction in treating of commonplace
things, Saniette was trying to find a loophole for some clever remark
which would raise him from the abyss into which he had fallen. The
witty remark was what was known as a 'comparison,' but had changed its
form, for there is an evolution in wit as in literary styles, an
epidemic that disappears has its place taken by another, and so
forth.... At one time the typical 'comparison' was the 'height of....'
But this was out of date, no one used it any more, there was only
Cottard left to say still, on occasion, in the middle of a game of
piquet: "Do you know what is the height of absent-mindedness, it is to
think that the Edict (_l'edit_) of Nantes was an Englishwoman." These
'heights' had been replaced by nicknames. In reality it was still the
old 'comparison,' but, as the nickname was in fashion, people did not
observe the survival. Unfortunately for Saniette, when these
'comparisons' were not his own, and as a rule were unknown to the
little nucleus, he produced them so timidly that, notwithstanding the
laugh with which he followed them up to indicate their humorous
nature, nobody saw the point. And if on the other hand the joke was
his own, as he had generally hit upon it in conversation with one of
the faithful, and the latter had repeated it, appropriating the
authorship, the joke was in that case known, but not as being
Saniette's. And so when he slipped in one of these it was recognised,
but, because he was its author, he was accused of plagiarism. "Very
well, then," Brichot continued, "Bee, in Norman, is a stream; there is
the Abbey of Bec, Mobec, the stream from the marsh (Mor or Mer meant a
marsh, as in Morville, or in Bricquemar, Alvimare, Cambremer),
Bricquebec the stream from the high ground coming from Briga, a
fortified place, as in Bricqueville, Bricquebose, le Bric, Briand, or
indeed Brice, bridge, which is the same as _bruck_ in German
(Innsbruck), and as the English _bridge_ which ends so many
place-names (Cambridge, for instance). You have moreover in Normandy
many other instances of bec: Caudebec, Bolbec, le Robec, le
Bec-Hellouin, Becquerel. It is the Norman form of the German _bach_,
Offenbach, Anspach. Varaguebec, from the old word _varaigne_,
equivalent to _warren_, preserved woods or ponds. As for Dal," Brichot
went on, "it is a form of _thal_, a valley: Darnetal, Rosendal, and
indeed, close to Louviers, Becdal. The river that has given its name
to Balbec, is, by the way, charming. Seen from a _falaise_ (_fels_ in
German, you have indeed, not far from here, standing on a height, the
picturesque town of Falaise), it runs close under the spires of the
church, which is actually a long way from it, and seems to be
reflecting them." "I should think," said I, "that is an effect that
Elstir admires greatly. I have seen several sketches of it in his
studio." "Elstir! You know Tiche," cried Mme. Verdurin. "But do you
know that we used to be the dearest friends? Thank heaven, I never see
him now. No, but ask Cottard, Brichot, he used to have his place laid
at my table, he came every day. Now, there's a man of whom you can say
that it has done him no good to leave our little nucleus. I shall shew
you presently some flowers he painted for me; you shall see the
difference from the things he is doing now, which I don't care for at
all, not at all! Why! I made him do me a portrait of Cottard, not to
mention all the sketches he has made of me." "And he gave the
Professor purple hair," said Mme. Cottard, forgetting that at the time
her husband had not been even a Fellow of the College. "I don't know,
Sir, whether you find that my husband has purple hair." "That doesn't
matter," said Mme. Verdurin, raising her chin with an air of contempt
for Mme. Cottard and of admiration for the man of whom she was
speaking, "he was a brave colourist, a fine painter. Whereas," she
added, turning again to myself, "I don't know whether you call it
painting, all those huge she-devils of composition, those vast
structures he exhibits now that he has given up coming to me. For my
part, I call it daubing, it's all so hackneyed, and besides, it lacks
relief, personality. It's anybody's work." "He revives the grace of
the eighteenth century, but in a modern form," Saniette broke out,
fortified and reassured by my affability. "But I prefer Helleu." "He's
not in the least like Helleu," said Mme. Verdurin. "Yes, he has the
fever of the eighteenth century. He's a steam Watteau," and he began
to laugh. "Old, old as the hills, I've had that served up to me for
years," said M. Verdurin, to whom indeed Ski had once repeated the
remark, but as his own invention. "It's unfortunate that when once in
a way you say something quite amusing and make it intelligible, it is
not your own." "I'm sorry about it," Mme. Verdurin went on, "because
he was really gifted, he has wasted a charming temperament for
painting. Ah! if he had stayed with us! Why, he would have become the
greatest landscape painter of our day. And it is a woman that has
dragged him down so low! Not that that surprises me, for he was a
pleasant enough man, but common. At bottom, he was a mediocrity. I may
tell you that I felt it at once. Really, he never interested me. I was
very fond of him, that was all. For one thing, he was so dirty. Tell
me, do you, now, really like people who never wash?" "What is this
charmingly coloured thing that we are eating?" asked Ski. "It is
called strawberry mousse," said Mme. Verdurin. "But it is ex-qui-site.
You ought to open bottles of Château-Margaux, Château-Lafite, port
wine." "I can't tell you how he amuses me, he never drinks anything
but water," said Mme. Verdurin, seeking to cloak with her delight at
such a flight of fancy her alarm at the thought of so prodigal an
outlay. "But not to drink," Ski went on, "you shall fill all our
glasses, they will bring in marvellous peaches, huge nectarines, there
against the sunset; it will be as gorgeous as a fine Veronese." "It
would cost almost as much," M. Verdurin murmured. "But take away those
cheeses with their hideous colour," said Ski, trying to snatch the
plate from before his host, who defended his gruyère with his might
and main. "You can realise that I don't regret Elstir," Mme. Verdurin
said to me, "that one is far more gifted. Elstir is simply hard work,
the man who can't make himself give up painting when he would like to.
He is the good student, the slavish competitor. Ski, now, only follows
his own fancy. You will see him light a cigarette in the middle of
dinner." "After all, I can't see why you wouldn't invite his wife,"
said Cottard, "he would be with us still." "Will you mind what you're
saying, please, I don't open my doors to street-walkers, Monsieur le
Professeur," said Mme. Verdurin, who had, on the contrary, done
everything in her power to make Elstir return, even with his wife. But
before they were married she had tried to make them quarrel, had told
Elstir that the woman he loved was stupid, dirty, immoral, a thief.
For once in a way she had failed to effect a breach. It was with the
Verdurin salon that Elstir had broken; and he was glad of it, as
converts bless the illness or misfortune that has withdrawn them from
the world and has made them learn the way of salvation. "He really is
magnificent, the Professor," she said. "Why not declare outright that
I keep a disorderly house? Anyone would think you didn't know what
Madame Elstir was like. I would sooner have the lowest street-walker
at my table! Oh no, I don't stand for that sort of thing. Besides I
may tell you that it would have been stupid of me to overlook the
wife, when the husband no longer interests me, he is out of date, he
can't even draw." "That is extraordinary in a man of his
intelligence," said Cottard. "Oh, no!" replied Mme. Verdurin, "even
at the time when he had talent, for he had it, the wretch, and to
spare, what was tiresome about him was that he had not a spark of
intelligence." Mme. Verdurin, in passing this judgment upon Elstir,
had not waited for their quarrel, or until she had ceased to care for
his painting. The fact was that, even at the time when he formed part
of the little group, it would happen that Elstir spent the whole day
in the company of some woman whom, rightly or wrongly, Mme. Verdurin
considered a goose, which, in her opinion, was not the conduct of an
intelligent man. "No," she observed with an air of finality, "I
consider that his wife and he are made for one another. Heaven knows,
there isn't a more boring creature on the face of the earth, and I
should go mad if I had to spend a couple of hours with her. But people
say that he finds her very intelligent. There's no use denying it, our
Tiche was _extremely stupid_. I have seen him bowled over by people
you can't conceive, worthy idiots we should never have allowed into
our little clan. Well! He wrote to them, he argued with them, he,
Elstir! That doesn't prevent his having charming qualities, oh,
charming and deliciously absurd, naturally." For Mme. Verdurin was
convinced that men who are truly remarkable are capable of all sorts
of follies. A false idea in which there is nevertheless a grain of
truth. Certainly, people's follies are insupportable. But a want of
balance which we discover only in course of time is the consequence of
the entering into a human brain of delicacies for which it is not
regularly adapted. So that the oddities of charming people exasperate
us, but there are few if any charming people who are not, at the same
time, odd. "Look, I shall be able to shew you his flowers now," she
said to me, seeing that her husband was making signals to her to rise.
And she took M. de Cambremer's arm again. M. Verdurin tried to
apologise for this to M. de Charlus, as soon as he had got rid of Mme.
de Cambremer, and to give him his reasons, chiefly for the pleasure of
discussing these social refinements with a gentleman of title,
momentarily the inferior of those who assigned to him the place to
which they considered him entitled. But first of all he was anxious to
make it clear to M. de Charlus that intellectually he esteemed him too
highly to suppose that he could pay any attention to these
trivialities. "Excuse my mentioning so small a point," he began, "for
I can understand how little such things mean to you. Middle-class
minds pay attention to them, but the others, the artists, the people
who are really of our sort, don't give a rap for them. Now, from the
first words we exchanged, I realised that you were one of us!" M. de
Charlus, who gave a widely different meaning to this expression, drew
himself erect. After the doctor's oglings, he found his host's
insulting frankness suffocating. "Don't protest, my dear Sir, you are
one of us, it is plain as daylight," replied M. Verdurin. "Observe
that I have no idea whether you practise any of the arts, but that is
not necessary. It is not always sufficient. Dechambre, who has just
died, played exquisitely, with the most vigorous execution, but he was
not one of us, you felt at once that he was not one of us. Brichot is
not one of us. Morel is, my wife is, I can feel that you are...."
"What were you going to tell me?" interrupted M. de Charlus, who was
beginning to feel reassured as to M. Verdurin's meaning, but preferred
that he should not utter these misleading remarks quite so loud.
"Only that we put you on the left," replied M. Verdurin. M. de
Charlus, with a comprehending, genial, insolent smile, replied: "Why!
That is not of the slightest importance, _here_!" And he gave a little
laugh that was all his own—a laugh that came to him probably from
some Bavarian or Lorraine grandmother, who herself had inherited it,
in identical form, from an ancestress, so that it had been sounding
now, without change, for not a few centuries in little old-fashioned
European courts, and one could relish its precious quality like that
of certain old musical instruments that have now grown rare. There are
times when, to paint a complete portrait of some one, we should have
to add a phonetic imitation to our verbal description, and our
portrait of the figure that M. de Charlus presented is liable to
remain incomplete in the absence of that little laugh, so delicate, so
light, just as certain compositions are never accurately rendered
because our orchestras lack those 'small trumpets,' with a sound so
entirely their own, for which the composer wrote this or that part.
"But," M. Verdurin explained, stung by his laugh, "we did it on
purpose. I attach no importance whatever to title of nobility," he
went on, with that contemptuous smile which I have seen so many people
whom I have known, unlike my grandmother and my mother, assume when
they spoke of anything that they did not possess, before others who
thus, they supposed, would be prevented from using that particular
advantage to crow over them. "But, don't you see, since we happened to
have M. de Cambremer here, and he is a Marquis, while you are only a
Baron...." "Pardon me," M. de Charlus replied with an arrogant air to
the astonished Verdurin, "I am also Duc de Brabant, Damoiseau de
Montargis, Prince d'Oléron, de Carency, de Viareggio and des Dunes.
However, it is not of the slightest importance. Please do not distress
yourself," he concluded, resuming his subtle smile which spread itself
over these final words: "I could see at a glance that you were not
accustomed to society."

Mme. Verdurin came across to me to shew me Elstir's flowers. If this
action, to which I had grown so indifferent, of going out to dinner,
had on the contrary, taking the form that made it entirely novel, of a
journey along the coast, followed by an ascent in a carriage to a
point six hundred feet above the sea, produced in me a sort of
intoxication, this feeling had not been dispelled at la Raspelière.
"Just look at this, now," said the Mistress, shewing me some huge and
splendid roses by Elstir, whose unctuous scarlet and rich white stood
out, however, with almost too creamy a relief from the flower-stand
upon which they were arranged. "Do you suppose he would still have to
touch to get that? Don't you call that striking? And besides, it's
fine as matter, it would be amusing to handle. I can't tell you how
amusing it was to watch him painting them. One could feel that he was
interested in trying to get just that effect." And the Mistress's gaze
rested musingly on this present from the artist in which were combined
not merely his great talent but their long friendship which survived
only in these mementoes of it which he had bequeathed to her; behind
the flowers which long ago he had picked for her, she seemed to see
the shapely hand that had painted them, in the course of a morning, in
their freshness, so that, they on the table, it leaning against the
back of a chair, had been able to meet face to face at the Mistress's
luncheon party, the roses still alive and their almost lifelike
portrait. Almost only, for Elstir was unable to look at a flower
without first transplanting it to that inner garden in which we are
obliged always to remain. He had shewn in this water-colour the
appearance of the roses which he had seen, and which, but for him, no
one would ever have known; so that one might say that they were a new
variety with which this painter, like a skilful gardener, had enriched
the family of the Roses. "From the day he left the little nucleus, he
was finished. It seems, my dinners made him waste his time, that I
hindered the development of his _genius_," she said in a tone of
irony. "As if the society of a woman like myself could fail to be
beneficial to an artist," she exclaimed with a burst of pride. Close
beside us, M. de Cambremer, who was already seated, seeing that M. de
Charlus was standing, made as though to rise and offer him his chair.
This offer may have arisen, in the Marquis's mind, from nothing more
than a vague wish to be polite. M. de Charlus preferred to attach to
it the sense of a duty which the plain gentleman knew that he owed to
a Prince, and felt that he could not establish his right to this
precedence better than by declining it. And so he exclaimed: "What are
you doing? I beg of you! The idea!" The astutely vehement tone of
this protest had in itself something typically 'Guermantes' which
became even more evident in the imperative, superfluous and familiar
gesture with which he brought both his hands down, as though to force
him to remain seated, upon the shoulders of M. de Cambremer who had
not risen. "Come, come, my dear fellow," the Baron insisted, "this is
too much. There is no reason for it! In these days we keep that for
Princes of the Blood." I made no more effect on the Cambremers than on
Mme. Verdurin by my enthusiasm for their house. For I remained cold to
the beauties which they pointed out to me and grew excited over
confused reminiscences; at times I even confessed my disappointment at
not finding something correspond to what its name had made me imagine.
I enraged Mme. de Cambremer by telling her that I had supposed the
place to be more in the country. On the other hand I broke off in an
ecstasy to sniff the fragrance of a breeze that crept in through the
chink of the door. "I see you like draughts," they said to me. My
praise of the patch of green lining-cloth that had been pasted over a
broken pane met with no greater success: "How frightful!" cried the
Marquise. The climax came when I said: "My greatest joy was when I
arrived. When I heard my step echoing along the gallery, I felt that
I had come into some village council-office, with a map of the
district on the wall." This time, Mme. de Cambremer resolutely turned
her back on me. "You don't think the arrangement too bad?" her husband
asked her with the same compassionate anxiety with which he would have
inquired how his wife had stood some painful ceremony. "They have some
fine things." But, inasmuch as malice, when the hard and fast rules of
sure taste do not confine it within fixed limits, finds fault with
everything, in the persons or in the houses, of the people who have
supplanted the critic: "Yes, but they are not in the right places.
Besides, are they really as fine as all that?" "You noticed," said M.
de Cambremer, with a melancholy that was controlled by a note of
firmness, "there are some Jouy hangings that are worn away, some quite
threadbare things in this drawing-room!" "And that piece of stuff with
its huge roses, like a peasant woman's quilt," said Mme. de Cambremer
whose purely artificial culture was confined exclusively to idealist
philosophy, impressionist painting and Debussy's music. And, so as not
to criticise merely in the name of smartness but in that of good
taste: "And they have put up windscreens! Such bad style! What can you
expect of such people, they don't know, where could they have learned?
They must be retired tradespeople. It's really not bad for them." "I
thought the chandeliers good," said the Marquis, though it was not
evident why he should make an exception of the chandeliers, just as
inevitably, whenever anyone spoke of a church, whether it was the
Cathedral of Chartres, or of Rheims, or of Amiens, or the church at
Balbec, what he would always make a point of mentioning as admirable
would be: "the organ-loft, the pulpit and the misericords." "As for
the garden, don't speak about it," said Mme. de Cambremer. "It's a
massacre. Those paths running all crooked." I seized the opportunity
while Mme. Verdurin was pouring out coffee to go and glance over the
letter which M. de Cambremer had brought me, and in which his mother
invited me to dinner. With that faint trace of ink, the handwriting
revealed an individuality which in the future I should be able to
recognise among a thousand, without any more need to have recourse to
the hypothesis of special pens, than to suppose that rare and
mysteriously blended colours are necessary to enable a painter to
express his original vision. Indeed a paralytic, stricken with
agraphia after a seizure, and compelled to look at the script as at a
drawing without being able to read it, would have gathered that Mme.
de Cambremer belonged to an old family in which the zealous
cultivation of literature and the arts had supplied a margin to its
aristocratic traditions. He would have guessed also the period in
which the Marquise had learned simultaneously to write and to play
Chopin's music. It was the time when well-bred people observed the
rule of affability and what was called the rule of the three
adjectives. Mme. de Cambremer combined the two rules in one. A
laudatory adjective was not enough for her, she followed it (after a
little stroke of the pen) with a second, then (after another stroke),
with a third. But, what was peculiar to herself was that, in defiance
of the literary and social object at which she aimed, the sequence of
the three epithets assumed in Mme. de Cambremer's notes the aspect not
of a progression but of a diminuendo. Mme. de Cambremer told me in
this first letter that she had seen Saint-Loup and had appreciated
more than ever his 'unique—rare—real' qualities, that he was coming
to them again with one of his friends (the one who was in love with
her daughter-in-law), and that if I cared to come, with or without
them, to dine at Féterne she would be 'delighted—happy—pleased.'
Perhaps it was because her desire to be friendly outran the fertility
of her imagination and the riches of her vocabulary that the lady,
while determined to utter three exclamations, was incapable of making
the second and third anything more than feeble echoes of the first.
Add but a fourth adjective, and, of her initial friendliness, there
would be nothing left. Moreover, with a certain refined simplicity
which cannot have failed to produce a considerable impression upon her
family and indeed in her circle of acquaintance, Mme. de Cambremer had
acquired the habit of substituting for the word (which might in time
begin to ring false) 'sincere,' the word 'true.' And to shew that it
was indeed by sincerity that she was impelled, she broke the
conventional rule that would have placed the adjective 'true' before
its noun, and planted it boldly after. Her letters ended with:
"_Croyez à mon amitié vraie_." "_Croyez à ma sympathie vraie_."
Unfortunately, this had become so stereotyped a formula that the
affectation of frankness was more suggestive of a polite fiction than
the time-honoured formulas, of the meaning of which people have ceased
to think. I was, however, hindered from reading her letter by the
confused sound of conversation over which rang out the louder accents
of M. de Charlus, who, still on the same topic, was saying to M. de
Cambremer: "You reminded me, when you offered me your chair, of a
gentleman from whom I received a letter this morning, addressed: 'To
His Highness, the Baron de Charlus,' and beginning 'Monseigneur.'" "To
be sure, your correspondent was slightly exaggerating," replied M. de
Cambremer, giving way to a discreet show of mirth. M. de Charlus had
provoked this; he did not partake in it. "Well, if it comes to that,
my dear fellow," he said, "I may observe that, heraldically speaking,
he was entirely in the right. I am not regarding it as a personal
matter, you understand. I should say the same of anyone else. But one
has to face the facts, history is history, we can't alter it and it is
not in our power to rewrite it. I need not cite the case of the
Emperor William, who at Kiel never ceased to address me as
'Monseigneur.' I have heard it said that he gave the same title to all
the Dukes of France, which was an abuse of the privilege, but was
perhaps simply a delicate attention aimed over our heads at France
herself." "More delicate, perhaps, than sincere," said M. de
Cambremer. "Ah! There I must differ from you. Observe that,
personally, a gentleman of the lowest rank such as that Hohenzollern,
a Protestant to boot, and one who has usurped the throne of my cousin
the King of Hanover, can be no favourite of mine," added M. de
Charlus, with whom the annexation of Hanover seemed to rankle more
than that of Alsace-Lorraine. "But I believe the feeling that turns
the Emperor in our direction to be profoundly sincere. Fools will tell
you that he is a stage emperor. He is on the contrary marvellously
intelligent; it is true that he knows nothing about painting, and has
forced Herr Tschudi to withdraw the Elstirs from the public galleries.
But Louis XIV did not appreciate the Dutch Masters, he had the same
fondness for display, and yet he was, when all is said, a great
Monarch. Besides, William II has armed his country from the military
and naval point of view in a way that Louis XIV failed to do, and I
hope that his reign will never know the reverses that darkened the
closing days of him who is fatuously styled the Roi Soleil. The
Republic made a great mistake, to my mind, in rejecting the overtures
of the Hohenzollern, or responding to them only in driblets. He is
very well aware of it himself and says, with that gift that he has for
the right expression: 'What I want is a clasped hand, not a raised
hat.' As a man, he is vile; he has abandoned, surrendered, denied his
best friends, in circumstances in which his silence was as deplorable
as theirs was grand," continued M. de Charlus, who was irresistibly
drawn by his own tendencies to the Eulenburg affair, and remembered
what one of the most highly placed of the culprits had said to him:
"The Emperor must have relied upon our delicacy to have dared to allow
such a trial. But he was not mistaken in trusting to our discretion.
We would have gone to the scaffold with our lips sealed." "All that,
however, has nothing to do with what I was trying to explain, which is
that, in Germany, mediatised Princes like ourselves are _Durchlaucht_,
and in France our rank of Highness was publicly recognised.
Saint-Simon tries to make out that this was an abuse on our part, in
which he is entirely mistaken. The reason that he gives, namely that
Louis XIV forbade us to style him the Most Christian King and ordered
us to call him simply the King, proves merely that we held our title
from him, and not that we had not the rank of Prince. Otherwise, it
would have to be withheld from the Duc de Lorraine and ever so many
others. Besides, several of our titles come from the House of Lorraine
through Thérèse d'Espinay, my great-grandmother, who was the daughter
of the Damoiseau de Commercy." Observing that Morel was listening, M.
de Charlus proceeded to develop the reasons for his claim. "I have
pointed out to my brother that it is not in the third part of Gotha,
but in the second, not to say the first, that the account of our
family ought to be included," he said, without stopping to think that
Morel did not know what 'Gotha' was. "But that is his affair, he is
the Head of my House, and so long as he raises no objection and allows
the matter to pass, I have only to shut my eyes." "M. Brichot
interests me greatly," I said to Mme. Verdurin as she joined me, and I
slipped Mme. de Cambremer's letter into my pocket. "He has a cultured
mind and is an excellent man," she replied coldly. "Of course what he
lacks is originality and taste, he has a terrible memory. They used to
say of the 'forebears' of the people we have here this evening, the
_émigrés_, that they had forgotten nothing. But they had at least the
excuse," she said, borrowing one of Swann's epigrams, "that they had
learned nothing. Whereas Brichot knows everything, and hurls chunks of
dictionary at our heads during dinner. I'm sure you know everything
now about the names of all the towns and villages." While Mme.
Verdurin was speaking, it occurred to me that I had determined to ask
her something, but I could not remember what it was. I could not at
this moment say what Mme. Verdurin was wearing that evening. Perhaps
even then I was no more able to say, for I have not an observant mind.
But feeling that her dress was not unambitious I said to her something
polite and even admiring. She was like almost all women, who imagine
that a compliment that is paid to them is a literal statement of the
truth, and is a judgment impartially, irresistibly pronounced, as
though it referred to a work of art that has no connexion with a
person. And so it was with an earnestness which made me blush for my
own hypocrisy that she replied with the proud and artless question,
habitual in the circumstances: "You like it?" "I know you're talking
about Brichot. Eh, Chantepie, Freycinet, he spared you nothing. I had
my eye on you, my little Mistress!" "I saw you, it was all I could do
not to laugh." "You are talking about Chantepie, I am certain," said
M. Verdurin, as he came towards us. I had been alone, as I thought of
my strip of green cloth and of a scent of wood, in failing to notice
that, while he discussed etymologies, Brichot had been provoking
derision. And inasmuch as the expressions which, for me, gave their
value to things were of the sort which other people either do not feel
or reject without thinking of them, as unimportant, they were entirely
useless to me and had the additional drawback of making me appear
stupid in the eyes of Mme. Verdurin who saw that I had 'swallowed'
Brichot, as before I had appeared stupid to Mme. de Guermantes,
because I enjoyed going to see Mme. d'Arpajon. With Brichot, however,
there was another reason. I was not one of the little clan. And in
every clan, whether it be social, political, literary, one contracts a
perverse facility in discovering in a conversation, in an official
speech, in a story, in a sonnet, everything that the honest reader
would never have dreamed of finding there. How many times have I found
myself, after reading with a certain emotion a tale skilfully told by
a learned and slightly old-fashioned Academician, on the point of
saying to Bloch or to Mme. de Guermantes: "How charming this is!" when
before I had opened my mouth they exclaimed, each in a different
language: "If you want to be really amused, read a tale by So-and-so.
Human stupidity has never sunk to greater depths." Bloch's scorn was
aroused principally by the discovery that certain effects of style,
pleasant enough in themselves, were slightly faded; that of Mme. de
Guermantes because the tale seemed to prove the direct opposite of
what the author meant, for reasons of fact which she had the ingenuity
to deduce but which would never have occurred to me. I was no less
surprised to discover the irony that underlay the Verdurins' apparent
friendliness for Brichot than to hear, some days later, at Féterne,
the Cambremers say to me, on hearing my enthusiastic praise of la
Raspelière: "It's impossible that you can be sincere, after all
they've done to it." It is true that they admitted that the china was
good. Like the shocking windscreens, it had escaped my notice.
"Anyhow, when you go back to Balbec, you will know what Balbec means,"
said M. Verdurin ironically. It was precisely the things Brichot had
told me that interested me. As for what they called his mind, it was
exactly the same mind that had at one time been so highly appreciated
by the little clan. He talked with the same irritating fluency, but
his words no longer carried, having to overcome a hostile silence or
disagreeable echoes; what had altered was not the things that he said
but the acoustics of the room and the attitude of his audience. "Take
care," Mme. Verdurin murmured, pointing to Brichot. The latter, whose
hearing remained keener than his vision, darted at the mistress the
hastily withdrawn gaze of a short-sighted philosopher. If his bodily
eyes were less good, his mind's eye on the contrary had begun to take
a larger view of things. He saw how little was to be expected of human
affection, and resigned himself to it. Undoubtedly the discovery
pained him. It may happen that even the man who on one evening only,
in a circle where he is usually greeted with joy, realises that the
others have found him too frivolous or too pedantic or too loud, or
too forward, or whatever it may be, returns home miserable. Often it
is a difference of opinion, or of system, that has made him appear to
other people absurd or old-fashioned. Often he is perfectly well aware
that those others are inferior to himself. He could easily dissect the
sophistries with which he has been tacitly condemned, he is tempted to
pay a call, to write a letter: on second thoughts, he does nothing,
awaits the invitation for the following week. Sometimes, too, these
discomfitures, instead of ending with the evening, last for months.
Arising from the instability of social judgments, they increase that
instability further. For the man who knows that Mme. X— despises him,
feeling that he is respected at Mme. Y's, pronounces her far superior
to the other and emigrates to her house. This however is not the
proper place to describe those men, superior to the life of society
but lacking the capacity to realise their own worth outside it, glad
to be invited, embittered by being disparaged, discovering annually
the faults of the hostess to whom they have been offering incense and
the genius of her whom they have never properly appreciated, ready to
return to the old love when they shall have felt the drawbacks to be
found equally in the new, and when they have begun to forget those of
the old. We may judge by these temporary discomfitures the grief that
Brichot felt at one which he knew to be final. He was not unaware that
Mme. Verdurin sometimes laughed at him publicly, even at his
infirmities, and knowing how little was to be expected of human
affection, submitting himself to the facts, he continued nevertheless
to regard the Mistress as his best friend. But, from the blush that
swept over the scholar's face, Mme. Verdurin saw that he had heard
her, and made up her mind to be kind to him for the rest of the
evening. I could not help remarking to her that she had not been very
kind to Saniette. "What! Not kind to him! Why, he adores us, you can't
imagine what we are to him. My husband is sometimes a little irritated
by his stupidity, and you must admit that he has every reason, but
when that happens why doesn't he rise in revolt, instead of cringing
like a whipped dog? It is not honest. I don't like it. That doesn't
mean that I don't always try to calm my husband, because if he went
too far, all that would happen would be that Saniette would stay away;
and I don't want that because I may tell you that he hasn't a penny in
the world, he needs his dinners. But after all, if he does mind, he
can stay away, it has nothing to do with me, when a person depends on
other people he should try not to be such an idiot." "The Duchy of
Aumale was in our family for years before passing to the House of
France," M. de Charlus was explaining to M. de Cambremer, before a
speechless Morel, for whom, as a matter of fact, the whole of this
dissertation was, if not actually addressed to him, intended. "We took
precedence over all foreign Princes; I could give you a hundred
examples. The Princesse de Croy having attempted, at the burial of
Monsieur, to fall on her knees after my great-great-grandmother, that
lady reminded her sharply that she had not the privilege of the
hassock, made the officer on duty remove it, and reported the matter
to the King, who ordered Mme. de Croy to call upon Mme. de Guermantes
and offer her apologies. The Duc de Bourgogne having come to us with
ushers with raised wands, we obtained the King's authority to have
them lowered. I know it is not good form to speak of the merits of
one's own family. But it is well known that our people were always to
the fore in the hour of danger. Our battle-cry, after we abandoned
that of the Dukes of Brabant, was _Passavant_! So that it is fair
enough after all that this right to be everywhere the first, which we
had established for so many centuries in war, should afterwards have
been confirmed to us at Court. And, egad, it has always been admitted
there. I may give you a further instance, that of the Princess of
Baden. As she had so far forgotten herself as to attempt to challenge
the precedence of that same Duchesse de Guermantes of whom I was
speaking just now, and had attempted to go in first to the King's
presence, taking advantage of a momentary hesitation which my relative
may perhaps have shewn (although there could be no reason for it), the
King called out: 'Come in, cousin, come in; Mme. de Baden knows very
well what her duty is to you.' And it was as Duchesse de Guermantes
that she held this rank, albeit she was of no mean family herself,
since she was through her mother niece to the Queen of Poland, the
Queen of Hungary, the Elector Palatine, the Prince of Savoy-Carignano
and the Elector of Hanover, afterwards King of England." "_Maecenas
atavis edite regibus_!" said Brichot, addressing M. de Charlus, who
acknowledged the compliment with a slight inclination of his head.
"What did you say?" Mme. Verdurin asked Brichot, anxious to make
amends to him for her previous speech. "I was referring, Heaven
forgive me, to a dandy who was the pick of the basket" (Mme. Verdurin
winced) "about the time of Augustus" (Mme. Verdurin, reassured by the
remoteness in time of this basket, assumed a more serene expression),
"of a friend of Virgil and Horace who carried their sycophancy to the
extent of proclaiming to his face his more than aristocratic, his
royal descent, in a word I was referring to Maecenas, a bookworm who
was the friend of Horace, Virgil, Augustus. I am sure that M. de
Charlus knows all about Maecenas." With a gracious, sidelong glance at
Mme. Verdurin, because he had heard her make an appointment with Morel
for the day after next and was afraid that she might not invite him
also, "I should say," said M. de Charlus, "that Maecenas was more or
less the Verdurin of antiquity." Mme. Verdurin could not altogether
suppress a smile of satisfaction. She went over to Morel. "He's nice,
your father's friend," she said to him. "One can see that he's an
educated man, and well bred. He will get on well in our little
nucleus. What is his address in Paris?" Morel preserved a haughty
silence and merely proposed a game of cards. Mme. Verdurin insisted
upon a little violin music first. To the general astonishment, M. de
Charlus, who never referred to his own considerable gifts,
accompanied, in the purest style, the closing passage (uneasy,
tormented, Schumannesque, but, for all that, earlier than Franck's
Sonata) of the Sonata for piano and violin by Fauré. I felt that he
would furnish Morel, marvellously endowed as to tone and virtuosity,
with just those qualities that he lacked, culture and style. But I
thought with curiosity of this combination in a single person of a
physical blemish and a spiritual gift. M. de Charlus was not very
different from his brother, the Duc de Guermantes. Indeed, a moment
ago (though this was rare), he had spoken as bad French as his
brother. He having reproached me (doubtless in order that I might
speak in glowing terms of Morel to Mme. Verdurin) with never coming to
see him, and I having pleaded discretion, he had replied: "But, since
it is I that asks you, there is no one but I who am in a position to
take offence." This might have been said by the Duc de Guermantes. M.
de Charlus was only a Guermantes when all was said. But it had been
enough that nature should upset the balance of his nervous system
sufficiently to make him prefer to the woman that his brother the Duke
would have chosen one of Virgil's shepherds or Plato's disciples, and
at once qualities unknown to the Duc de Guermantes and often combined
with this want of balance had made M. de Charlus an exquisite pianist,
an amateur painter who was not devoid of taste, an eloquent talker.
Who would ever have detected that the rapid, eager, charming style
with which M. de Charlus played the Schumannesque passage of Fauré's
Sonata had its equivalent—one dares not say its cause—in elements
entirely physical, in the nervous defects of M. de Charlus? We shall
explain later on what we mean by nervous defects, and why it is that a
Greek of the time of Socrates, a Roman of the time of Augustus might
be what we know them to have been and yet remain absolutely normal
men, and not men-women such as we see around us to-day. Just as he had
genuine artistic tendencies, which had never come to fruition, so M.
de Charlus had, far more than the Duke, loved their mother, loved his
own wife, and indeed, years after her death, if anyone spoke of her to
him would shed tears, but superficial tears, like the perspiration of
an over-stout man, whose brow will glisten with sweat at the slightest
exertion. With this difference, that to the latter we say: "How hot
you are," whereas we pretend not to notice other people's tears. We,
that is to say, people in society; for the humbler sort are as
distressed by the sight of tears as if a sob were more serious than a
hemorrhage. His sorrow after the death of his wife, thanks to the
habit of falsehood, did not debar M. de Charlus from a life which was
not in harmony with it. Indeed later on, he sank so low as to let it
be known that, during the funeral rites, he had found an opportunity
of asking the acolyte for his name and address. And it may have been
true.

When the piece came to an end, I ventured to ask for some Franck,
which appeared to cause Mme. de Cambremer such acute pain that I did
not insist. "You can't admire that sort of thing," she said to me.
Instead she asked for Debussy's _Fêtes_, which made her exclaim: "Ah!
How sublime!" from the first note. But Morel discovered that he
remembered the opening bars only, and in a spirit of mischief, without
any intention to deceive, began a March by Meyerbeer. Unfortunately,
as he left little interval and made no announcement, everybody
supposed that he was still playing Debussy, and continued to exclaim
'Sublime!' Morel, by revealing that the composer was that not of
_Pelléas_ but of _Robert le Diable_ created a certain chill. Mme. de
Cambremer had scarcely time to feel it, for she had just discovered a
volume of Scarlatti, and had flung herself upon it with an hysterical
impulse. "Oh! Play this, look, this piece, it's divine," she cried.
And yet, of this composer long despised, recently promoted to the
highest honours, what she had selected in her feverish impatience was
one of those infernal pieces which have so often kept us from
sleeping, while a merciless pupil repeats them indefinitely on the
next floor. But Morel had had enough music, and as he insisted upon
cards, M. de Charlus, to be able to join in, proposed a game of whist.
"He was telling the Master just now that he is a Prince," said Ski to
Mme. Verdurin, "but it's not true, they're quite a humble family of
architects." "I want to know what it was you were saying about
Maecenas. It interests me, don't you know!" Mme. Verdurin repeated to
Brichot, with an affability that carried him off his feet. And so, in
order to shine in the Mistress's eyes, and possibly in mine: "Why, to
tell you the truth, Madame, Maecenas interests me chiefly because he
is the earliest apostle of note of that Chinese god who numbers more
followers in France to-day than Brahma, than Christ himself, the
all-powerful God Ubedamd." Mme. Verdurin was no longer content, upon
these occasions, with burying her head in her hands. She would descend
with the suddenness of the insects called ephemeral upon Princess
Sherbatoff; were the latter within reach the Mistress would cling to
her shoulder, dig her nails into it, and hide her face against it for
a few moments like a child playing at hide and seek. Concealed by this
protecting screen, she was understood to be laughing until she cried
and was as well able to think of nothing at all as people are who
while saying a prayer that is rather long take the wise precaution of
burying their faces in their hands. Mme. Verdurin used to imitate them
when she listened to Beethoven quartets, so as at the same time to let
it be seen that she regarded them as a prayer and not to let it be
seen that she was asleep. "I am quite serious, Madame," said Brichot.
"Too numerous, I consider, to-day is become the person who spends his
time gazing at his navel as though it were the hub of the universe. As
a matter of doctrine, I have no objection to offer to some Nirvana
which will dissolve us in the great Whole (which, like Munich and
Oxford, is considerably nearer to Paris than Asnières or
Bois-Colombes), but it is unworthy either of a true Frenchman, or of a
true European even, when the Japanese are possibly at the gates of our
Byzantium, that socialised anti-militarists should be gravely
discussing the cardinal virtues of free verse." Mme. Verdurin felt
that she might dispense with the Princess's mangled shoulder, and
allowed her face to become once more visible, not without pretending
to wipe her eyes and gasping two or three times for breath. But
Brichot was determined that I should have my share in the
entertainment, and having learned, from those oral examinations which
he conducted so admirably, that the best way to flatter the young is
to lecture them, to make them feel themselves important, to make them
regard you as a reactionary: "I have no wish to blaspheme against the
Gods of Youth," he said, with that furtive glance at myself which a
speaker turns upon a member of his audience whom he has mentioned by
name. "I have no wish to be damned as a heretic and renegade in the
Mallarmean chapel in which our new friend, like all the young men of
his age, must have served the esoteric mass, at least as an acolyte,
and have shewn himself deliquescent or Rosicrucian. But, really, we
have seen more than enough of these intellectuals worshipping art with
a big A, who, when they can no longer intoxicate themselves upon Zola,
inject themselves with Verlaine. Become etheromaniacs out of
Baudelairean devotion, they would no longer be capable of the virile
effort which the country may, one day or another, demand of them,
anaesthetised as they are by the great literary neurosis in the
heated, enervating atmosphere, heavy with unwholesome vapours, of a
symbolism of the opium-pipe." Feeling incapable of feigning any trace
of admiration for Brichot's inept and motley tirade, I turned to Ski
and assured him that he was entirely mistaken as to the family to
which M. de Charlus belonged; he replied that he was certain of his
facts, and added that I myself had said that his real name was Gandin,
Le Gandin. "I told you," was my answer, "that Mme. de Cambremer was
the sister of an engineer, M. Legrandin. I never said a word to you
about M. de Charlus. There is about as much connexion between him and
Mme. de Cambremer as between the Great Condé and Racine." "Indeed! I
thought there was," said Ski lightly, with no more apology for his
mistake than he had made a few hours earlier for the mistake that had
nearly made his party miss the train. "Do you intend to remain long on
this coast?" Mme. Verdurin asked M. de Charlus, in whom she foresaw an
addition to the faithful and trembled lest he should be returning too
soon to Paris. "Good Lord, one never knows," replied M. de Charlus in
a nasal drawl. "I should like to stay here until the end of
September." "You are quite right," said Mme. Verdurin; "that is the
time for fine storms at sea." "To tell you the truth, that is not what
would influence me. I have for some time past unduly neglected the
Archangel Saint Michael, my patron, and I should like to make amends
to him by staying for his feast, on the 29th of September, at the
Abbey on the Mount." "You take an interest in all that sort of thing?"
asked Mme. Verdurin, who might perhaps have succeeded in hushing the
voice of her outraged anti-clericalism, had she not been afraid that
so long an expedition might make the violinist and the Baron 'fail'
her for forty-eight hours. "You are perhaps afflicted with
intermittent deafness," M. de Charlus replied insolently. "I have told
you that Saint Michael is one of my glorious patrons." Then, smiling
with a benevolent ecstasy, his eyes gazing into the distance, his
voice strengthened by an excitement which seemed now to be not merely
aesthetic but religious: "It is so beautiful at the offertory when
Michael stands erect by the altar, in a white robe, swinging a golden
censer heaped so high with perfumes that the fragrance of them mounts
up to God." "We might go there in a party," suggested Mme. Verdurin,
notwithstanding her horror of the clergy. "At that moment, when the
offertory begins," went on M. de Charlus who, for other reasons but in
the same manner as good speakers in Parliament, never replied to an
interruption and would pretend not to have heard it, "it would be
wonderful to see our young friend Palestrinising, indeed performing an
aria by Bach. The worthy Abbot, too, would be wild with joy, and that
is the greatest homage, at least the greatest public homage that I can
pay to my Holy Patron. What an edification for the faithful! We must
mention it presently to the young Angelico of music, a warrior like
Saint Michael."

Saniette, summoned to make a fourth, declared that he did not know how
to play whist. And Cottard, seeing that there was not much time left
before our train, embarked at once on a game of écarté with Morel. M.
Verdurin was furious, and bore down with a terrible expression upon
Saniette. "Is there anything in the world that you can play?" he
cried, furious at being deprived of the opportunity for a game of
whist, and delighted to have found one to insult the old registrar.
He, in his terror, did his best to look clever. "Yes, I can play the
piano," he said. Cottard and Morel were seated face to face. "Your
deal," said Cottard. "Suppose we go nearer to the card-table," M. de
Charlus, worried by the sight of Morel in Cottard's company, suggested
to M. de Cambremer. "It is quite as interesting as those questions of
etiquette which in these days have ceased to count for very much. The
only kings that we have left, in France at least, are the kings in the
pack of cards, who seem to me to be positively swarming in the hand of
our young virtuoso," he added a moment later, from an admiration for
Morel which extended to his way of playing cards, to flatter him also,
and finally to account for his suddenly turning to lean over the young
violinist's shoulder. "I-ee cut," said (imitating the accent of a
cardsharper) Cottard, whose children burst out laughing, like his
students and the chief dresser, whenever the master, even by the
bedside of a serious case, uttered with the emotionless face of an
epileptic one of his hackneyed witticisms. "I don't know what to
play," said Morel, seeking advice from M. de Charlus. "Just as you
please, you're bound to lose, whatever you play, it's all the same
(_c'est égal_)." "_Egal_... Ingalli?" said the doctor, with an
insinuating, kindly glance at M. de Cambremer. "She was what we call
a true diva, she was a dream, a Carmen such as we shall never see
again. She was wedded to the part. I used to enjoy too listening to
Ingalli—married." The Marquis drew himself up with that contemptuous
vulgarity of well-bred people who do not realise that they are
insulting their host by appearing uncertain whether they ought to
associate with his guests, and adopt English manners by way of apology
for a scornful expression: "Who is that gentleman playing cards, what
does he do for a living, what does he _sell_? I rather like to know
whom I am meeting, so as not to make friends with any Tom, Dick or
Harry. But I didn't catch his name when you did me the honour of
introducing me to him." If M. Verdurin, availing himself of this
phrase, had indeed introduced M. de Cambremer to his fellow-guests,
the other would have been greatly annoyed. But, knowing that it was
the opposite procedure that was observed, he thought it gracious to
assume a genial and modest air, without risk to himself. The pride
that M. Verdurin took in his intimacy with Cottard had increased if
anything now that the doctor had become an eminent professor. But it
no longer found expression in the artless language of earlier days.
Then, when Cottard was scarcely known to the public, if you spoke to
M. Verdurin of his wife's facial neuralgia: "There is nothing to be
done," he would say, with the artless self-satisfaction of people who
assume that anyone whom they know must be famous, and that everybody
knows the name of their family singing-master. "If she had an ordinary
doctor, one might look for a second opinion, but when that doctor is
called Cottard" (a name which he pronounced as though it were Bouchard
or Charcot) "one has simply to bow to the inevitable." Adopting a
reverse procedure, knowing that M. de Cambremer must certainly have
heard of the famous Professor Cottard, M. Verdurin adopted a tone of
simplicity. "He's our family doctor, a worthy soul whom we adore and
who would let himself be torn in pieces for our sakes; he is not a
doctor, he is a friend, I don't suppose you have ever heard of him or
that his name would convey anything to you, in any case to us it is
the name of a very good man, of a very dear friend, Cottard." This
name, murmured in a modest tone, took in M. de Cambremer who supposed
that his host was referring to some one else. "Cottard? You don't mean
Professor Cottard?" At that moment one heard the voice of the said
Professor who, at an awkward point in the game, was saying as he
looked at his cards: "This is where Greek meets Greek." "Why, yes, to
be sure, he is a professor," said M. Verdurin. "What! Professor
Cottard! You are not making a mistake?-You are quite sure it's the
same man? The one who lives in the Rue du Bac?" "Yes, his address is
43, Rue du Bac. You know him?" "But everybody knows Professor Cottard.
He's at the top of the tree! You might as well ask me if I knew Bouffe
de Saint-Blaise or Courtois-Suffit. I could see when I heard him
speak that he was not an ordinary person, that is why I took the
liberty of asking you." "Come now, what shall I play, trumps?" asked
Cottard. Then abruptly, with a vulgarity which would have been
offensive even in heroic circumstances, as when a soldier uses a
coarse expression to convey his contempt for death, but became doubly
stupid in the safe pastime of a game of cards, Cottard, deciding to
play a trump, assumed a sombre, suicidal air, and, borrowing the
language of people who are risking their skins, played his card as
though it were his life, with the exclamation: "There it is, and be
damned to it!" It was not the right card to play, but he had a
consolation. In the middle of the room, in a deep armchair, Mme.
Cottard, yielding to the effect, which she always found irresistible,
of a good dinner, had succumbed after vain efforts to the vast and
gentle slumbers that were overpowering her. In vain might she sit up
now and again, and smile, whether at her own absurdity or from fear of
leaving unanswered some polite speech that might have been addressed
to her, she sank back, in spite of herself, into the clutches of the
implacable and delicious malady. More than the noise, what awakened
her thus for an instant only, was the glance (which, in her wifely
affection she could see even when her eyes were shut, and foresaw, for
the same scene occurred every evening and haunted her dreams like the
thought of the hour at which one will have to rise), the glance with
which the Professor drew the attention of those present to his wife's
slumbers. To begin with, he merely looked at her and smiled, for if
as a doctor he disapproved of this habit of falling asleep after
dinner (or at least gave this scientific reason for growing annoyed
later on, but it is not certain whether it was a determining reason,
so many and diverse were the views that he held about it), as an
all-powerful and teasing husband, he was delighted to be able to make
a fool of his wife, to rouse her only partly at first, so that she
might fall asleep again and he have the pleasure of waking her afresh.

By this time, Mme. Cottard was sound asleep. "Now then, Léontine
you're snoring," the professor called to her. "I am listening to Mme.
Swann, my dear," Mme. Cottard replied faintly, and dropped back into
her lethargy. "It's perfect nonsense," exclaimed Cottard, "she'll be
telling us presently that she wasn't asleep. She's like the patients
who come to consult us and insist that they never sleep at all." "They
imagine it, perhaps," said M. de Cambremer with a laugh. But the
doctor enjoyed contradicting no less than teasing, and would on no
account allow a layman to talk medicine to him. "People do not imagine
that they never sleep," he promulgated in a dogmatic tone. "Ah!"
replied the Marquis with a respectful bow, such as Cottard at one time
would have made. "It is easy to see," Cottard went on, "that you have
never administered, as I have, as much as two grains of trional
without succeeding in provoking somnolescence." "Quite so, quite so,"
replied the Marquis, laughing with a superior air, "I have never taken
trional, or any of those drugs which soon cease to have any effect but
ruin your stomach. When a man has been out shooting all night, like
me, in the forest of Chantepie, I can assure you he doesn't need any
trional to make him sleep." "It is only fools who say that," replied
the Professor. "Trional frequently has a remarkable effect on the
nervous tone. You mention trional, have you any idea what it is?"
"Well... I've heard people say that it is a drug to make one sleep."
"You are not answering my question," replied the Professor, who,
thrice weekly, at the Faculty, sat on the board of examiners. "I don't
ask you whether it makes you sleep or not, but what it is. Can you
tell me what percentage it contains of amyl and ethyl?" "No," replied
M. de Cambremer with embarrassment. "I prefer a good glass of old
brandy or even 345 Port." "Which are ten times as toxic," the
Professor interrupted. "As for trional," M. de Cambremer ventured,
"my wife goes in for all that sort of thing, you'd better talk to her
about it." "She probably knows just as much about it as yourself. In
any case, if your wife takes trional to make her sleep, you can see
that mine has no need of it. Come along, Léontine, wake up, you're
getting ankylosed, did you ever see me fall asleep after dinner? What
will you be like when you're sixty, if you fall asleep now like an old
woman? You'll go and get fat, you're arresting the circulation. She
doesn't even hear what I'm saying." "They're bad for one's health,
these little naps after dinner, ain't they, Doctor?" said M. de
Cambremer, seeking to rehabilitate himself with Cottard. "After a
heavy meal one ought to take exercise." "Stuff and nonsense!" replied
the Doctor. "We have taken identical quantities of food from the
stomach of a dog that has lain quiet and from the stomach of a dog
that has been running about and it is in the former that digestion is
more advanced." "Then it is sleep that stops digestion." "That depends
upon whether you mean oesophagic digestion, stomachic digestion,
intestinal digestion; it is useless to give you explanations which you
would not understand since you have never studied medicine. Now then,
Léontine, quick march, it is time we were going." This was not true,
for the doctor was going merely to continue his game, but he hoped
thus to cut short in a more drastic fashion the slumbers of the deaf
mute to whom he had been addressing without a word of response the
most learned exhortations. Whether a determination to remain awake
survived in Mme. Cottard, even in the state of sleep, or because the
armchair offered no support to her head, it was jerked mechanically
from left to right, and up and down, in the empty air, like a lifeless
object, and Mme. Cottard, with her nodding poll, appeared now to be
listening to music, now to be in the last throes of death. Where her
husband's increasingly vehement admonitions failed of their effect,
her sense of her own stupidity proved successful. "My bath is nice and
hot," she murmured, "but the feathers in the dictionary..." she
exclaimed as she sat bolt upright. "Oh! Good lord, what a fool I am.
Whatever have I been saying, I was thinking about my hat, I'm sure I
said something silly, in another minute I should have been asleep,
it's that wretched fire." Everybody began to laugh, for there was no
fire in the room.*

[* In the French text of Sodome et Gomorrhe, Volume II ends at
this point.]





"You are making fun of me," said Mme. Cottard, herself laughing, and
raising her hand to her brow to wipe away, with the light touch of a
hypnotist and the sureness of a woman putting her hair straight, the
last traces of sleep, "I must offer my humble apologies to dear Mme.
Verdurin and ask her to tell me the truth." But her smile at once grew
sorrowful, for the Professor who knew that his wife sought to please
him and trembled lest she should fail, had shouted at her: "Look at
yourself in the glass, you are as red as if you had an eruption of
acne, you look just like an old peasant." "You know, he is charming,"
said Mme. Verdurin, "he has such a delightfully sarcastic side to his
character. And then, he snatched my husband from the jaws of death
when the whole Faculty had given him up. He spent three nights by his
bedside, without ever lying down. And so Cottard to me, you know," she
went on, in a grave and almost menacing tone, raising her hand to the
twin spheres, shrouded in white tresses, of her musical temples, and
as though we had wished to assault the doctor, "is sacred! He could
ask me for anything in the world! As it is, I don't call him Doctor
Cottard, I call him Doctor God! And even in saying that I am
slandering him, for this God does everything in his power to remedy
some of the disasters for which the other is responsible." "Play a
trump," M. de Charlus said to Morel with a delighted air. "A trump,
here goes," said the violinist. "You ought to have declared your king
first," said M. de Charlus, "you're not paying attention to the game,
but how well you play!" "I have the king," said Morel. "He's a fine
man," replied the Professor. "What's all that business up there with
the sticks?" asked Mme. Verdurin, drawing M. de Cambremer's attention
to a superb escutcheon carved over the mantelpiece. "Are they your
arms?" she added with an ironical disdain. "No, they are not ours,"
replied M. de Cambremer. "We bear, _barry of five, embattled
counter-embattled or and gules, as many trefoils countercharged_. No,
those are the arms of the Arrachepels, who were not of our stock, but
from whom we inherited the house, and nobody of our line has ever made
any changes here. The Arrachepels (formerly Pelvilains, we are told)
bore _or five piles couped in base gules_. When they allied themselves
with the Féterne family, their blazon changed, but remained _cantoned
within twenty cross crosslets fitchee in base or, a dexter canton
ermine_." "That's one for her!" muttered Mme. de Cambremer. "My
great-grandmother was a d'Arrachepel or de Rachepel, as you please,
for both forms are found in the old charters," continued M. de
Cambremer, blushing vividly, for only then did the idea for which his
wife had given him credit occur to him, and he was afraid that Mme.
Verdurin might have applied to herself a speech which had been made
without any reference to her. "The history books say that, in the
eleventh century, the first Arrachepel, Mace, named Pelvilain, shewed
a special aptitude, in siege warfare, in tearing up piles. Whence the
name Arrachepel by which he was ennobled, and the piles which you see
persisting through the centuries in their arms. These are the piles
which, to render fortifications more impregnable, used to be driven,
plugged, if you will pardon the expression, into the ground in front
of them, and fastened together laterally. They are what you quite
rightly called sticks, though they had nothing to do with the floating
sticks of our good Lafontaine. For they were supposed to render a
stronghold unassailable. Of course, with our modern artillery, they
make one smile. But you must bear in mind that I am speaking of the
eleventh century." "It is all rather out of date," said Mme. Verdurin,
"but the little campanile has a character." "You have," said Cottard,
"the luck of... turlututu," a word which he gladly repeated to avoid
using Molière's. "Do you know why the king of diamonds was turned out
of the army?" "I shouldn't mind being in his shoes," said Morel, who
was tired of military service. "Oh! What a bad patriot," exclaimed M.
de Charlus, who could not refrain from pinching the violinist's ear.
"No, you don't know why the king of diamonds was turned out of the
army," Cottard pursued, determined to make his joke, "it's because he
has only one eye." "You are up against it, Doctor," said M. de
Cambremer, to shew Cottard that he knew who he was. "This young man is
astonishing," M. de Charlus interrupted innocently. "He plays like a
god." This observation did not find favour with the doctor, who
replied: "Never too late to mend. Who laughs last, laughs longest."
"Queen, ace," Morel, whom fortune was favouring, announced
triumphantly. The doctor bowed his head as though powerless to deny
this good fortune, and admitted, spellbound: "That's fine." "We are so
pleased to have met M. de Charlus," said Mme. de Cambremer to Mme.
Verdurin. "Had you never met him before? He is quite nice, he is
unusual, he is _of a period_" (she would have found it difficult to
say which), replied Mme. Verdurin with the satisfied smile of a
connoisseur, a judge and a hostess. Mme. de Cambremer asked me if I
was coming to Féterne with Saint-Loup. I could not suppress a cry of
admiration when I saw the moon hanging like an orange lantern beneath
the vault of oaks that led away from the house. "That's nothing,
presently, when the moon has risen higher and the valley is lighted
up, it will be a thousand times better." "Are you staying any time in
this neighbourhood, Madame?" M. de Cambremer asked Mme. Cottard, a
speech that might be interpreted as a vague intention to invite and
dispensed him for the moment from making any more precise engagement.
"Oh, certainly, Sir, I regard this annual exodus as most important for
the children. Whatever you may say, they must have fresh air. The
Faculty wanted to send me to Vichy; but it is too stuffy there, and I
can look after my stomach when those big boys of mine have grown a
little bigger. Besides, the Professor, with all the examinations he
has to hold, has always got his shoulder to the wheel, and the hot
weather tires him dreadfully. I feel that a man needs a thorough rest
after he has been on the go all the year like that. Whatever happens
we shall stay another month at least." "Ah! In that case we shall meet
again." "Besides, I shall be all the more obliged to stay here as my
husband has to go on a visit to Savoy, and won't be finally settled
here for another fortnight." "I like the view of the valley even more
than the sea view," Mme. Verdurin went on. "You are going to have a
splendid night for your journey." "We ought really to find out whether
the carriages are ready, if you are absolutely determined to go back
to Balbec to-night," M. Verdurin said to me, "for I see no necessity
for it myself. We could drive you over to-morrow morning. It is
certain to be fine. The roads are excellent." I said that it was
impossible. "But in any case it is not time yet," the Mistress
protested. "Leave them alone, they have heaps of time. A lot of good
it will do them to arrive at the station with an hour to wait. They
are far happier here. And you, my young Mozart," she said to Morel,
not venturing to address M. de Charlus directly, "won't you stay the
night? We have some nice rooms facing the sea." "No, he can't," M. de
Charlus replied on behalf of the absorbed card-player who had not
heard. "He has a pass until midnight only. He must go back to bed like
a good little boy, obedient, and well-behaved," he added in a
complaisant, mannered, insistent voice, as though he derived some
sadic pleasure from the use of this chaste comparison and also from
letting his voice dwell, in passing, upon any reference to Morel, from
touching him with (failing his fingers) words that seemed to explore
his person.

From the sermon that Brichot had addressed to me, M. de Cambremer had
concluded that I was a Dreyfusard. As he himself was as
anti-Dreyfusard as possible, out of courtesy to a foe, he began to
sing me the praises of a Jewish colonel who had always been very
decent to a cousin of the Chevregny and had secured for him the
promotion he deserved. "And my cousin's opinions were the exact
opposite," said M. de Cambremer; he omitted to mention what those
opinions were, but I felt that they were as antiquated and misshapen
as his own face, opinions which a few families in certain small towns
must long have entertained. "Well, you know, I call that really fine!"
was M. de Cambremer's conclusion. It is true that he was hardly
employing the word 'fine' in the aesthetic sense in which it would
have suggested to his wife and mother different works, but works,
anyhow, of art. M. de Cambremer often made use of this term, when for
instance he was congratulating a delicate person who had put on a
little flesh. "What, you have gained half-a-stone in two months. I
say, that's fine!" Refreshments were set out on a table. Mme.
Verdurin invited the gentlemen to go and choose whatever drinks they
preferred. M. de Charlus went and drank his glass and at once returned
to a seat by the card-table from which he did not stir. Mme. Verdurin
asked him: "Have you tasted my orangeade?" Upon which M. de Charlus,
with a gracious smile, in a crystalline tone which he rarely sounded
and with endless motions of his lips and body, replied: "No, I
preferred its neighbour, it was strawberry-juice, I think, it was
delicious." It is curious that a certain order of secret actions has
the external effect of a manner of speaking or gesticulating which
reveals them. If a gentleman believes or disbelieves in the Immaculate
Conception, or in the innocence of Dreyfus, or in a plurality of
worlds, and wishes to keep his opinion to himself, you will find
nothing in his voice or in his movements that will let you read his
thoughts. But on hearing M. de Charlus say in that shrill voice and
with that smile and waving his arms: "No, I preferred its neighbour,
the strawberry-juice," one could say: "There, he likes the stronger
sex," with the same certainty as enables a judge to sentence a
criminal who has not confessed, a doctor a patient suffering from
general paralysis who himself is perhaps unaware of his malady but has
made some mistake in pronunciation from which one can deduce that he
will be dead in three years. Perhaps the people who conclude from a
man's way of saying: "No, I preferred its neighbour, the
strawberry-juice," a love of the kind called unnatural, have no need
of any such scientific knowledge. But that is because there is a more
direct relation between the revealing sign and the secret. Without
saying it in so many words to oneself, one feels that it is a gentle,
smiling lady who is answering and who appears mannered because she is
pretending to be a man and one is not accustomed to seeing men adopt
such mannerisms. And it is perhaps more pleasant to think that for
long years a certain number of angelic women have been included by
mistake in the masculine sex where, in exile, ineffectually beating
their wings towards men in whom they inspire a physical repulsion,
they know how to arrange a drawing-room, compose 'interiors.' M. de
Charlus was not in the least perturbed that Mme. Verdurin should be
standing, and remained installed in his armchair so as to be nearer to
Morel. "Don't you think it criminal," said Mme. Verdurin to the Baron,
"that that creature who might be enchanting us with his violin should
be sitting there at a card-table. When anyone can play the violin like
that!" "He plays cards well, he does everything well, he is so
intelligent," said M. de Charlus, keeping his eye on the game, so as
to be able to advise Morel. This was not his only reason, however, for
not rising from his chair for Mme. Verdurin. With the singular amalgam
that he had made of the social conceptions at once of a great nobleman
and an amateur of art, instead of being polite in the same way that a
man of his world would be, he would create a sort of tableau-vivant
for himself after Saint-Simon; and at that moment was amusing himself
by impersonating the Maréchal d'Uxelles, who interested him from other
aspects also, and of whom it is said that he was so proud as to remain
seated, with a pretence of laziness, before all the most distinguished
persons at court. "By the way, Charlus," said Mme. Verdurin, who was
beginning to grow familiar, "you don't know of any ruined old nobleman
in your Faubourg who would come to me as porter?" "Why, yes... why,
yes," replied M. de Charlus with a genial smile, "but I don't advise
it." "Why not?" "I should be afraid for your sake, that your smart
visitors would call at the lodge and go no farther." This was the
first skirmish between them. Mme. Verdurin barely noticed it. There
were to be others, alas, in Paris. M. de Charlus remained glued to his
chair. He could not, moreover, restrain a faint smile, seeing how his
favourite maxims as to aristocratic prestige and middle-class
cowardice were confirmed by the so easily won submission of Mme.
Verdurin. The Mistress appeared not at all surprised by the Baron's
posture, and if she left him it was only because she had been
perturbed by seeing me taken up by M. de Cambremer. But first of all,
she wished to clear up the mystery of M. de Charlus's relations with
Comtesse Molé. "You told me that you knew Mme. de Molê. Does that
mean, you go there?" she asked, giving to the words 'go there' the
sense of being received there, of having received authority from the
lady to go and call upon her. M. de Charlus replied with an inflexion
of disdain, an affectation of precision and in a sing-song tone: "Yes,
sometimes." This 'sometimes' inspired doubts in Mme. Verdurin, who
asked: "Have you ever met the Duc de Guermantes there?" "Ah! That I
don't remember." "Oh!" said Mme. Verdurin, "you don't know the Duc de
Guermantes?" "And how should I not know him?" replied M. de Charlus,
his lips curving in a smile. This smile was ironical; but as the Baron
was afraid of letting a gold tooth be seen, he stopped it with a
reverse movement of his lips, so that the resulting sinuosity was that
of a good-natured smile. "Why do you say: 'How should I not know him?'
" "Because he is my brother," said M. de Charlus carelessly, leaving
Mme. Verdurin plunged in stupefaction and in the uncertainty whether
her guest was making fun of her, was a natural son, or a son by
another marriage. The idea that the brother of the Duc de Guermantes
might be called Baron de Charlus never entered her head. She bore down
upon me. "I heard M. de Cambremer invite you to dinner just now. It
has nothing to do with me, you understand. But for your own sake, I do
hope you won't go. For one thing, the place is infested with bores.
Oh! If you like dining with provincial Counts and Marquises whom
nobody knows, you will be supplied to your heart's content." "I think
I shall be obliged to go there once or twice. I am not altogether
free, however, for I have a young cousin whom I cannot leave by
herself" (I felt that this fictitious kinship made it easier for me to
take Albertine about). "But as for the Cambremers, as I have been
introduced to them...." "You shall do just as you please. One thing I
can tell you: it's extremely unhealthy; when you have caught
pneumonia, or a nice little chronic rheumatism, you'll be a lot better
off!" "But isn't the place itself very pretty?" "Mmmmyesss.... If you
like. For my part, I confess frankly that I would a hundred times
rather have the view from here over this valley. To begin with, if
they'd paid us I wouldn't have taken the other house because the sea
air is fatal to M. Verdurin. If your cousin suffers at all from
nerves.... But you yourself have bad nerves, I think you have
choking fits. Very well! You shall see. Go there once, you won't sleep
for a week after it; but it's not my business." And without thinking
of the inconsistency with what she had just been saying: "If it would
amuse you to see the house, which is not bad, pretty is too strong a
word, still it is amusing with its old moat, and the old drawbridge,
as I shall have to sacrifice myself and dine there once, very well,
come that day, I shall try to bring all my little circle, then it will
be quite nice. The day after to-morrow we are going to Harambouville
in the carriage. It's a magnificent drive, the cider is delicious.
Come with us. You, Brichot, you shall come too. And you too, Ski.
That will make a party which, as a matter of fact, my husband must
have arranged already. I don't know whom all he has invited, Monsieur
de Charlus, are you one of them?" The Baron, who had not heard the
whole speech, and did not know that she was talking of an excursion to
Harambouville, gave a start. "A strange question," he murmured in a
mocking tone by which Mme. Verdurin felt hurt. "Anyhow," she said to
me, "before you dine with the Cambremers, why not bring her here, your
cousin? Does she like conversation, and clever people? Is she
pleasant? Yes, very well then. Bring her with you. The Cambremers
aren't the only people in the world. I can understand their being glad
to invite her, they must find it difficult to get anyone. Here she
will have plenty of fresh air, and lots of clever men. In any case, I
am counting on you not to fail me next Wednesday. I heard you were
having a tea-party at Rivebelle with your cousin, and M. de Charlus,
and I forget who' else. You must arrange to bring the whole lot on
here, it would be nice if you all came in a body. It's the easiest
thing in the world to get here, the roads are charming; if you like I
can send down for you. I can't imagine what you find attractive in
Rivebelle, it's infested with mosquitoes. You are thinking perhaps of
the reputation of the rock-cakes. My cook makes them far better. I can
let you have them, here, Norman rock-cakes, the real article, and
shortbread; I need say no more. Ah! If you like the filth they give
you at Rivebelle, that I won't give you, I don't poison my guests,
Sir, and even if I wished to, my cook would refuse to make such
abominations and would leave my service. Those rock-cakes you get down
there, you can't tell what they are made of. I knew a poor girl who
got peritonitis from them, which carried her off in three days. She
was only seventeen. It was sad for her poor mother," added Mme.
Verdurin with a melancholy air beneath the spheres of her temples
charged with experience and suffering. "However, go and have tea at
Rivebelle, if you enjoy being fleeced and flinging money out of the
window. But one thing I beg of you, it is a confidential mission I am
charging you with, on the stroke of six, bring all your party here,
don't allow them to go straggling away by themselves. You can bring
whom you please. I wouldn't say that to everybody. But I am sure that
your friends are nice, I can see at once that we understand one
another. Apart from the little nucleus, there are some very pleasant
people coming on Wednesday. You don't know little Madame de Longpont.
She is charming, and so witty, not in the least a snob, you will find,
you'll like her immensely. And she's going to bring a whole troop of
friends too," Mme. Verdurin added to shew me that this was the right
thing to do and encourage me by the other's example. "We shall see
which has most influence and brings most people, Barbe de Longpont or
you. And then I believe somebody's going to bring Bergotte," she added
with a vague air, this meeting with a celebrity being rendered far
from likely by a paragraph which had appeared in the papers that
morning, to the effect that the great writer's health was causing
grave anxiety. "Anyhow, you will see that it will be one of my most
successful Wednesdays, I don't want to have any boring women. You
mustn't judge by this evening, it has been a complete failure. Don't
try to be polite, you can't have been more bored than I was, I thought
myself it was deadly. It won't always be like to-night, you know! I'm
not thinking of the Cambremers, who are impossible, but I have known
society people who were supposed to be pleasant, well, compared with
my little nucleus, they didn't exist. I heard you say that you thought
Swann clever. I must say, to my mind, his cleverness was greatly
exaggerated, but without speaking of the character of the man, which I
have always found fundamentally antipathetic, sly, underhand, I have
often had him to dinner on Wednesdays. Well, you can ask the others,
even compared with Brichot, who is far from being anything wonderful,
a good assistant master, whom I got into the Institute, Swann was
simply nowhere. He was so dull!" And, as I expressed a contrary
opinion: "It's the truth. I don't want to say a word against him to
you, since he was your friend, indeed he was very fond of you, he has
spoken to me about you in the most charming way, but ask the others
here if he ever said anything interesting, at our dinners. That, after
all, is the supreme test. Well, I don't know why it was, but Swann,
in my house, never seemed to come off, one got nothing out of him. And
yet anything there ever was in him he picked up here." I assured her
that he was highly intelligent. "No, you only think that, because you
haven't known him as long as I have. One got to the end of him very
soon. I was always bored to death by him." (Which may be interpreted:
"He went to the La Trémoïlles and the Guermantes and knew that I
didn't.") "And I can put up with anything, except being bored. That, I
cannot and will not stand!" Her horror of boredom was now the reason
upon which Mme. Verdurin relied to explain the composition of the
little group. She did not yet entertain duchesses because she was
incapable of enduring boredom, just as she was unable to go for a
cruise, because of sea-sickness. I thought to myself that what Mme.
Verdurin said was not entirely false, and, whereas the Guermantes
would have declared Brichot to be the stupidest man they had ever met,
I remained uncertain whether he were not in reality superior, if not
to Swann himself, at least to the other people endowed with the wit of
the Guermantes who would have had the good taste to avoid and the
modesty to blush at his pedantic pleasantries; I asked myself the
question as though a fresh light might be thrown on the nature of the
intellect by the answer that I should make, and with the earnestness
of a Christian influenced by Port-Royal when he considers the problem
of Grace. "You will see," Mme. Verdurin continued, "when one has
society people together with people of real intelligence, people of
our set, that's where one has to see them, the society man who is
brilliant in the kingdom of the blind, is only one-eyed here. Besides,
the others don't feel at home any longer. So much so that I'm inclined
to ask myself whether, instead of attempting mixtures that spoil
everything, I shan't start special evenings confined to the bores so
as to have the full benefit of my little nucleus. However: you are
coming again with your cousin. That's settled. Good. At any rate you
will both find something to eat here. Féterne is starvation corner.
Oh, by the way, if you like rats, go there at once, you will get as
many as you want. And they will keep you there as long as you are
prepared to stay. Why, you'll die of hunger. I'm sure, when I go
there, I shall have my dinner before I start. The more the merrier,
you must come here first and escort me. We shall have high tea, and
supper when we get back. Do you like apple-tarts? Yes, very well then,
our chef makes the best in the world. You see, I was quite right when
I told you that you were meant to live here. So come and stay. You
know, there is far more room in the house than people think. I don't
speak of it, so as not to let myself in for bores. You might bring
your cousin to stay. She would get a change of air from Balbec. With
this air here, I maintain I can cure incurables. I have cured them, I
may tell you, and not only this time. For I have stayed quite close to
here before, a place I discovered and got for a mere song, a very
different style of house from their Raspelière. I can shew you it if
we go for a drive together. But I admit that even here the air is
invigorating. Still, I don't want to say too much about it, the whole
of Paris would begin to take a fancy to my little corner. That has
always been my luck. Anyhow, give your cousin my message. We shall put
you in two nice rooms looking over the valley, you ought to see it in
the morning, with the sun shining on the mist! By the way, who is this
Robert de Saint-Loup of whom you were speaking?" she said with a
troubled air, for she had heard that I was to pay him a visit at
Doncières, and was afraid that he might make me fail her. "Why not
bring him here instead, if he's not a bore. I have heard of him from
Morel; I fancy he's one of his greatest friends," said Mme. Verdurin
with entire want of truth, for Saint-Loup and Morel were not even
aware of one another's existence. But having heard that Saint-Loup
knew M. de Charlus, she supposed that it was through the violinist,
and wished to appear to know all about them. "He's not taking up
medicine, by any chance, or literature? You know, if you want any
help about examinations, Cottard can do anything, and I make what use
of him I please. As for the Academy later on, for I suppose he's not
old enough yet, I have several notes in my pocket. Your friend would
find himself on friendly soil here, and it might amuse him perhaps to
see over the house. Life's not very exciting at Doncières. But you
shall do just what you please, then you can arrange what you think
best," she concluded, without insisting, so as not to appear to be
trying to know people of noble birth, and because she always
maintained that the system by which she governed the faithful, to wit
despotism, was named liberty. "Why, what's the matter with you," she
said, at the sight of M. Verdurin who, with gestures of impatience,
was making for the wooden terrace that ran along the side of the
drawing-room above the valley, like a man who is bursting with rage
and must have fresh air. "Has Saniette been annoying you again? But
you know what an idiot he is, you have to resign yourself to him,
don't work yourself up into such a state. I dislike this sort of
thing," she said to me, "because it is bad for him, it sends the blood
to his head. But I must say that one would need the patience of an
angel at times to put up with Saniette, and one must always remember
that it is a charity to have him in the house. For my part I must
admit that he's so gloriously silly, I can't help enjoying him. I dare
say you heard what he said after dinner: 'I can't play whist, but I
can the piano.' Isn't it superb? It is positively colossal, and
incidentally quite untrue, for he knows nothing at all about either.
But my husband, beneath his rough exterior, is very sensitive, very
kind-hearted, and Saniette's self-centred way of always thinking about
the effect he is going to make drives him _crazy_. Come, dear, calm
yourself, you know Cottard told you that it was bad for your liver.
And it is I that will have to bear the brunt of it all," said Mme.
Verdurin. "To-morrow Saniette will come back all nerves and tears.
Poor man, he is very ill indeed. Still, that is no reason why he
should kill other people. Besides, even at times when he is in pain,
when one would like to be sorry for him, his silliness hardens one's
heart. He is really too stupid. You have only to tell him quite
politely that these scenes make you both ill, and he is not to come
again, since that's what he's most afraid of, it will have a soothing
effect on his nerves," Mme. Verdurin whispered to her husband.

One could barely make out the sea from the windows on the right. But
those on the other side shewed the valley, now shrouded in a snowy
cloak of moonlight. Now and again one heard the voices of Morel and
Cottard. "You have a trump?" "Yes." "Ah! You're in luck, you are,"
said M. de Cambremer to Morel, in answer to his question, for he had
seen that the doctor's hand was full of trumps. "Here comes the lady
of diamonds," said the doctor. "That's a trump, you know? My trick.
But there isn't a Sorbonne any longer," said the doctor to M. de
Cambremer; "there's only the University of Paris." M. de Cambremer
confessed his inability to understand why the doctor made this remark
to him. "I thought you were talking about the Sorbonne," replied the
doctor. "I heard you say: _tu nous la sors bonne_," he added, with a
wink, to shew that this was meant for a pun. "Just wait a moment," he
said, pointing to his adversary, "I have a Trafalgar in store for
him." And the prospect must have been excellent for the doctor, for in
his joy his shoulders began to shake rapturously with laughter, which
in his family, in the 'breed' of the Cottards, was an almost
zoological sign of satisfaction. In the previous generation the
gesture of rubbing the hands together as though one were soaping them
used to accompany this movement. Cottard himself had originally
employed both forms simultaneously, but one fine day, nobody ever knew
by whose intervention, wifely, professorial perhaps, the rubbing of
the hands had disappeared. The doctor even at dominoes, when he got
his adversary on the run, and made him take the double six, which was
to him the keenest of pleasures, contented himself with shaking his
shoulders. And when—which was as seldom as possible—he went down to
his native village for a few days, and met his first cousin, who was
still at the hand-rubbing stage, he would say to Mme. Cottard on his
return: "I thought poor René very common." "Have you the little
dee-ar?" he said, turning to Morel. "No? Then I play this old David."
"Then you have five, you have won!" "That's a great victory, Doctor,"
said the Marquis. "A Pyrrhic victory," said Cottard, turning to face
the Marquis and looking at him over his glasses to judge the effect of
his remark. "If there is still time," he said to Morel, "I give you
your revenge. It is my deal. Ah! no, here come the carriages, it will
have to be Friday, and I shall shew you a trick you don't see every
day." M. and Mme. Verdurin accompanied us to the door. The Mistress
was especially coaxing with Saniette so as to make certain of his
returning next time. "But you don't look to me as if you were properly
wrapped up, my boy," said M. Verdurin, whose age allowed him to
address me in this paternal tone. "One would say the weather had
changed." These words filled me with joy, as though the profoundly
hidden life, the uprising of different combinations which they implied
in nature, hinted at other changes, these occurring in my own life,
and created fresh possibilities in it. Merely by opening the door upon
the park, before leaving, one felt that a different 'weather' had, at
that moment, taken possession of the scene; cooling breezes, one of
the joys of summer, were rising in the fir plantation (where long ago
Mme. de Cambremer had dreamed of Chopin) and almost imperceptibly, in
caressing coils, capricious eddies, were beginning their gentle
nocturnes. I declined the rug which, on subsequent evenings, I was to
accept when Albertine was with me, more to preserve the secrecy of my
pleasure than to avoid the risk of cold. A vain search was made for
the Norwegian philosopher. Had he been seized by a colic? Had he been
afraid of missing the train? Had an aeroplane come to fetch him? Had
he been carried aloft in an Assumption? In any case he had vanished
without anyone's noticing his departure, like a god. "You are unwise,"
M. de Cambremer said to me, "it's as cold as charity." "Why charity?"
the doctor inquired. "Beware of choking," the Marquis went on. "My
sister never goes out at night. However, she is in a pretty bad state
at present. In any case you oughtn't to stand about bare-headed, put
your tile on at once." "They are not frigorific chokings," said
Cottard sententiously. "Oh, indeed!" M. de Cambremer bowed. "Of
course, if that's your opinion...." "Opinions of the press!" said the
doctor, smiling round his glasses. M. de Cambremer laughed, but,
feeling certain that he was in the right, insisted: "All the same," he
said, "whenever my sister goes out after dark, she has an attack."
"It's no use quibbling," replied the doctor, regardless of his want of
manners. "However, I don't practise medicine by the seaside, unless I
am called in for a consultation. I am here on holiday." He was perhaps
even more on holiday than he would have liked. M. de Cambremer having
said to him as they got into the carriage together: "We are fortunate
in having quite close to us (not on your side of the Day, on the
opposite side, but it is quite narrow at that point) another medical
celebrity, Doctor du Boulbon," Cottard, who, as a rule, from
'deontology,' abstained from criticising his colleagues, could not
help exclaiming, as he had exclaimed to me on the fatal day when we
had visited the little casino: "But he is not a doctor. He practises
'a literary medicine, it is all fantastic therapeutics, charlatanism.
All the same, we are on quite good terms. I should take the boat and
go over and pay him a visit, if I weren't leaving." But, from the air
which Cottard assumed in speaking of du Boulbon to M. de Cambremer, I
felt that the boat which he would gladly have taken to call upon him
would have greatly resembled that vessel which, in order to go and
ruin the waters discovered by another literary doctor, Virgil (who
took all their patients from them as well), the doctors of Salerno had
chartered, but which sank with them on the voyage. "Good-bye, my dear
Saniette, don't forget to come to-morrow, you know how my husband
enjoys seeing you. He enjoys your wit, your intellect; yes indeed,
you know quite well, he takes sudden moods, but he can't live without
seeing you. It's always the first thing he asks me: 'Is Saniette
coming? I do so enjoy seeing him.'" "I never said anything of the
sort," said M. Verdurin to Saniette with a feigned frankness which
seemed perfectly to reconcile what the Mistress had just said with the
manner in which he treated Saniette. Then looking at his watch,
doubtless so as not to prolong the leave-taking in the damp night air,
he warned the coachmen not to lose any time, but to be careful when
going down the hill, and assured us that we should be in plenty of
time for our train. This was to set down the faithful, one at one
station, another at another, ending with myself, for no one else was
going as far as Balbec, and beginning with the Cambremers. They, so
as not to bring their horses all the way up to la Raspelière at night,
took the train with us at Douville-Féterne. The station nearest to
them was indeed not this, which, being already at some distance from
the village, was farther still from the mansion, but la Sogne. On
arriving at the station of Douville-Féterne, M. de Cambremer made a
point of giving a 'piece,' as Françoise used to say, to the Verdurins'
coachman (the nice, sensitive coachman, with melancholy thoughts), for
M. de Cambremer was generous, and in that respect took, rather, 'after
his mamma.' But, possibly because his 'papa's' strain intervened at
this point, he felt a scruple, or else that there might be a
mistake—either on his part, if, for instance, in the dark, he were to
give a you instead of a franc, or on the recipient's who might not
perceive the importance of the present that was being given him. And
so he drew attention to it: "It is a franc I'm giving you, isn't it?"
he said to the coachman, turning the coin until it gleamed in the
lamplight, and so that the faithful might report his action to Mme.
Verdurin. "Isn't it? Twenty sous is right, as it's only a short
drive." He and Mme. de Cambremer left us at la Sogne. "I shall tell
my sister," he repeated to me, "that you have choking fits, I am sure
she will be interested." I understood that he meant: 'will be
pleased.' As for his wife, she employed, in saying good-bye to me, two
abbreviations which, even in writing, used to shock me at that time in
a letter, although one has grown accustomed to them since, but which,
when spoken, seem to me to-day even to contain in their deliberate
carelessness, in their acquired familiarity, something insufferably
pedantic: "Pleased to have met you," she said to me; "greetings to
Saint-Loup, if you see him." In making this speech, Mme. de Cambremer
pronounced the name 'Saint-Loupe.' I have never discovered who had
pronounced it thus in her hearing, or what had led her to suppose that
it ought to be so pronounced. However it may be, for some weeks
afterwards, she continued to say 'Saint-Loupe' and a man who had a
great admiration for her and echoed her in every way did the same. If
other people said 'Saint-Lou,' they would insist, would say
emphatically 'Saint-Loupe,' whether to teach the others an indirect
lesson or to be different from them. But, no doubt, women of greater
brilliance than Mme. de Cambremer told her, or gave her indirectly to
understand that this was not the correct pronunciation, and that what
she regarded as a sign of originality was a mistake which would make
people think her little conversant with the usages of society, for
shortly afterwards Mme. de Cambremer was again saying 'Saint-Lou,' and
her admirer similarly ceased to hold out, whether because she had
lectured him, or because he had noticed that she no longer sounded the
final consonant, and had said to himself that if a woman of such
distinction, energy and ambition had yielded, it must have been on
good grounds. The worst of her admirers was her husband. Mme. de
Cambremer loved to tease other people in a way that was often highly
impertinent. As soon as she began to attack me, or anyone else, in
this fashion, M. de Cambremer would start watching her victim,
laughing the while. As the Marquis had a squint—a blemish which gives
an effect of wit to the mirth even of imbeciles—the effect of this
laughter was to bring a segment of pupil into the otherwise complete
whiteness of his eye. So a sudden rift brings a patch of blue into an
otherwise clouded sky. His monocle moreover protected, like the glass
over a valuable picture, this delicate operation. As for the actual
intention of his laughter, it was hard to say whether it was friendly:
"Ah! You rascal! You're in an enviable position, aren't you. You have
won the favour of a lady who has a pretty wit!" Or coarse: "Well, Sir,
I hope you'll learn your lesson, you've got to eat a slice of humble
pie." Or obliging: "I'm here, you know, I take it with a laugh because
it's all pure fun, but I shan't let you be ill-treated." Or cruelly
accessory: "I don't need to add my little pinch of salt, but you can
see, I'm revelling in all the insults she is showering on you. I'm
wriggling like a hunchback, therefore I approve, I, the husband. And
so, if you should take it into your head to answer back, you would
have me to deal with, my young Sir. I should first of all give you a
pair of resounding smacks, well aimed, then we should go and cross
swords in the forest of Chantepie."

Whatever the correct interpretation of the husband's merriment, the
wife's whimsies soon came to an end. Whereupon M. de Cambremer ceased
to laugh, the temporary pupil vanished and as one had forgotten for a
minute or two to expect an entirely white eyeball, it gave this ruddy
Norman an air at once anaemic and ecstatic, as though the Marquis had
just undergone an operation, or were imploring heaven, through his
monocle, for the palms of martyrdom.





CHAPTER III

The sorrows of M. de Charlus.—His sham duel.—The stations on the
'Transatlantic.'—Weary of Albertine, I decide to break with her.


I was dropping with sleep. I was taken up to my floor not by the
lift-boy, but by the squinting page, who to make conversation informed
me that his sister was still with the gentleman who was so rich, and
that, on one occasion, when she had made up her mind to return home
instead of sticking to her business, her gentleman friend had paid a
visit to the mother of the squinting page and of the other more
fortunate children, who had very soon made the silly creature return
to her protector. "You know, Sir, she's a fine lady, my sister is. She
plays the piano, she talks Spanish. And you would never take her for
the sister of the humble employee who brings you up in the lift, she
denies herself nothing; Madame has a maid to herself, I shouldn't be
surprised if one day she keeps her carriage. She is very pretty, if
you could see her, a little too high and mighty, but, good lord, you
can understand that. She's full of fun. She never leaves a hotel
without doing something first in a wardrobe or a drawer, just to leave
a little keepsake with the chambermaid who will have to wipe it up.
Sometimes she does it in a cab, and after she's paid her fare, she'll
hide behind a tree, and she doesn't half laugh when the cabby finds
he's got to clean his cab after her. My father had another stroke of
luck when he found my young brother that Indian Prince he used to know
long ago. It's not the same style of thing, of course. But it's a
superb position. The travelling by itself would be a dream. I'm the
only one still on the shelf. But you never know. We're a lucky family;
perhaps one day I shall be President of the Republic. But I'm keeping
you talking" (I had not uttered a single word and was beginning to
fall asleep as I listened to the flow of his). "Good-night, Sir. Oh!
Thank you, Sir. If everybody had as kind a heart as you, there
wouldn't be any poor people left. But, as my sister says, 'there will
always have to be the poor so that now I'm rich I can s—t on them.'
You'll pardon the expression. Goodnight, Sir."

Perhaps every night we accept the risk of facing, while we are asleep,
sufferings which we regard as unreal and unimportant because they will
be felt in the course of a sleep which we suppose to be unconscious.
And indeed on these evenings when I came back late from la Raspelière
I was very sleepy. But after the weather turned cold I could not get
to sleep at once, for the fire lighted up the room as though there
were a lamp burning in it. Only it was nothing more than a blazing
log, and—like a lamp too, for that matter, like the day when night
gathers—its too bright light was not long in fading; and I entered a
state of slumber which is like a second room that we take, into which,
leaving our own room, we go when we want to sleep. It has noises of
its own and we are sometimes violently awakened by the sound of a
bell, perfectly heard by our ears, although nobody has rung. It has
its servants, its special visitors who call to take us out so that we
are ready to get up when we are compelled to realise, by our almost
immediate transmigration into the other room, the room of overnight,
that it is empty, that nobody has called.
The race that inhabits it is, like that of our first human ancestors,
androgynous. A man in it appears a moment later in the form of a
woman. Things in it shew a tendency to turn into men, men into
friends and enemies. The time that elapses for the sleeper, during
these spells of slumber, is absolutely different from the time in
which the life of the waking man is passed. Sometimes its course is
far more rapid, a quarter of an hour seems a day, at other times far
longer, we think we have taken only a short nap, when we have slept
through the day. Then, in the chariot of sleep, we descend into depths
in which memory can no longer overtake it, and on the brink of which
the mind has been obliged to retrace its steps. The horses of sleep,
like those of the sun, move at so steady a pace, in an atmosphere in
which there is no longer any resistance, that it requires some little
aerolith extraneous to ourselves (hurled from the azure by some
Unknown) to strike our regular sleep (which otherwise Would have no
reason to stop, and would continue with a similar motion world without
end) and to make it swing sharply round, return towards reality,
travel without pause, traverse the regions bordering on life in which
presently the sleeper will hear the sounds that come from life, quite
vague still, but already perceptible, albeit corrupted—and come to
earth suddenly and awake. Then from those profound slumbers we awake
in a dawn, not knowing who we are, being nobody, newly born, ready for
anything, our brain being emptied of that past which was previously
our life. And perhaps it is more pleasant still when our landing at
the waking-point is abrupt and the thoughts of our sleep, hidden by a
cloak of oblivion, have not time to return to us in order, before
sleep ceases. Then, from the black tempest through which we seem to
have passed (but we do not even say _we_), we emerge prostrate,
without a thought, a we that is void of content. What hammer-blow has
the person or thing that is lying there received to make it
unconscious of anything, stupefied until the moment when memory,
flooding back, restores to it consciousness or personality? Moreover,
for both these kinds of awakening, we must avoid falling asleep, even
into deep slumber, under the law of habit. For everything that habit
ensnares in her nets, she watches closely, we must escape her, take
our sleep at a moment when we thought we were doing anything else than
sleeping, take, in a word, a sleep that does not dwell under the
tutelage of foresight, in the company, albeit latent, of reflexion. At
least, in these awakenings which I have just described, and which I
experienced as a rule when I had been dining overnight at la
Raspelière, everything occurred as though by this process, and I can
testify to it, I the strange human being who, while he waits for death
to release him, lives behind closed shutters, knows nothing of the
world, sits motionless as an owl, and like that bird begins to see
things a little plainly only when darkness falls. Everything occurs as
though by this process, but perhaps only a layer of wadding has
prevented the sleeper from taking in the internal dialogue of memories
and the incessant verbiage of sleep. For (and this may be equally
manifest in the other system, vaster, more mysterious, more astral) at
the moment of his entering the waking state, the sleeper hears a voice
inside him saying: "Will you come to this dinner to-night, my dear
friend, it would be such fun?" and thinks: "Yes, what fun it will be,
I shall go"; then, growing wider awake, he suddenly remembers: "My
grandmother has only a few weeks to live, the Doctor assures us." He
rings, he weeps at the thought that it will not be, as in the past,
his grandmother, his dying grandmother, but an indifferent waiter that
will come in answer to his summons. Moreover, when sleep bore him so
far away from the world inhabited by memory and thought, through an
ether in which he was alone, more than alone; not having that
companion in whom we perceive things, ourself, he was outside the
range of time and its measures. But now the footman is in the room,
and he dares not ask him the time, for he does not know whether he has
slept, for how many hours he has slept (he asks himself whether it
should not be how many days, returning thus with weary body and mind
refreshed, his heart sick for home, as from a journey too distant not
to have taken a long time). We may of course insist that there is but
one time, for the futile reason that it is by looking at the clock
that we have discovered to have been merely a quarter of an hour what
we had supposed a day. But at the moment when we make this discovery
we are a man awake, plunged in the time of waking men, we have
deserted the other time. Perhaps indeed more than another time:
another life. The pleasures that we enjoy in sleep, we do not include
them in the list of the pleasures that we have felt in the course of
our existence. To allude only to the most grossly sensual of them all,
which of us, on waking, has not felt a certain irritation at having
experienced in his sleep a pleasure which, if he is anxious not to
tire himself, he is not, once he is awake, at liberty to repeat
indefinitely during the day. It seems a positive waste. We have had
pleasure, in another life, which is not ours. Sufferings and pleasures
of the dream-world (which generally vanish soon enough after our
waking), if we make them figure in a budget, it is not in the current
account of our life.

Two times, I have said; perhaps there is only one after all, not that
the time of the waking man has any validity for the sleeper, but
perhaps because the other life, the life in which he sleeps, is
not—in its profounder part—included in the category of time. I came
to this conclusion when on the mornings after dinners at la Raspelière
I used to lie so completely asleep. For this reason. I was beginning
to despair, on waking, when I found that, after I had rung the bell
ten times, the waiter did not appear. At the eleventh ring he came. It
was only the first after all. The other ten had been mere suggestions
in my sleep which still hung about me, of the peal that I had been
meaning to sound. My numbed hands had never even moved. Well, on those
mornings (and this is what makes me say that sleep is perhaps
unconscious of the law of time) my effort to awaken consisted chiefly
in an effort to make the obscure, undefined mass of the sleep in which
I had just been living enter into the scale of time. It is no easy
task; sleep, which does not know whether we have slept for two hours
or two days, cannot provide any indication. And if we do not find one
outside, not being able to re-enter time, we fall asleep again, for
five minutes which seem to us three hours.

I have always said—and have proved by experiment—that the most
powerful soporific is sleep itself. After having slept profoundly for
two hours, having fought against so many giants, and formed so many
lifelong friendships, it is far more difficult to awake than after
taking several grammes of veronal. And so, reasoning from one thing to
the other, I was surprised to hear from the Norwegian philosopher, who
had it from M. Boutroux, "my eminent colleague—pardon me, my
brother," what M. Bergson thought of the peculiar effects upon the
memory of soporific drugs. "Naturally," M. Bergson had said to M.
Boutroux, if one was to believe the Norwegian philosopher,
"soporifics, taken from time to time in moderate doses, have no effect
upon that solid memory of our everyday life which is so firmly
established within us. But there are other forms of memory, loftier,
but also more unstable. One of my colleagues lectures upon ancient
history. He tells me that if, overnight, he has taken a tablet to make
him sleep, he has great difficulty, during his lecture, in recalling
the Greek quotations that he requires. The doctor who recommended
these tablets assured him that they had no effect upon the memory.
'That is perhaps because you do not have to quote Greek,' the
historian answered, not without a note of derisive pride."

I cannot say whether this conversation between M. Bergson and M.
Boutroux is accurately reported. The Norwegian philosopher, albeit so
profound and so lucid, so passionately attentive, may have
misunderstood. Personally, in my own experience I have found the
opposite result. The moments of oblivion that come to us in the
morning after we have taken certain narcotics have a resemblance that
is only partial, though disturbing, to the oblivion that reigns during
a night of natural and profound sleep. Now what I find myself
forgetting in either case is not some line of Baudelaire, which on the
other hand keeps sounding in my ear, it is not some concept of one of
the philosophers above-named, it is the actual reality of the ordinary
things that surround me—if I am asleep—my non-perception of which
makes me an idiot; it is, if I am awakened and proceed to emerge from
an artificial slumber, not the system of Porphyry or Plotinus, which I
can discuss as fluently as at any other time, but the answer that I
have promised to give to an invitation, the memory of which is
replaced by a universal blank. The lofty thought remains in its place;
what the soporific has put out of action is the power to act in little
things, in everything that demands activity in order to-seize at the
right moment, to grasp some memory of everyday life. In spite of all
that may be said about survival after the destruction of the brain, I
observe that each alteration of the brain is a partial death. We
possess all our memories, but not the faculty of recalling them, said,
echoing M. Bergson, the eminent Norwegian philosopher whose language I
have made no attempt to imitate in order not to prolong my story
unduly. But not the faculty of recalling them. But what, then, is a
memory which we do not recall? Or, indeed, let us go farther. We do
not recall our memories of the last thirty years; but we are wholly
steeped in them; why then stop short at thirty years, why not prolong
back to before out birth this anterior life? The moment that I do not
know a whole section of the memories that are behind me, the moment
that they are invisible to me, that I have not the faculty of calling
them to me, who can assure me that in that _mass_ unknown to me there
are not some that extend back much farther than my human life. If I
can have in me and round me so many memories which I do not remember,
this oblivion (a _de facto_ oblivion, at least, since I have not the
faculty of seeing anything) may extend over a life which I have lived
in the body of another man, even upon another planet. A common
oblivion effaces all. But what, in that case, signifies that
immortality of the soul the reality of which the Norwegian philosopher
affirmed? The person that I shall be after death has no more reason to
remember the man whom I have been since my birth than the latter to
remember what I was before it.

The waiter came in. I did not mention to him that I had rung several
times, for I was beginning to realise that hitherto I had only dreamed
that I was ringing. I was alarmed nevertheless by the thought that
this dream had had the clear precision of experience. Experience
would, reciprocally, have the irreality of a dream.

Instead I asked him who it was that had been ringing so often during
the night. He told me: "Nobody," and could prove his statement, for
the bell-board would have registered any ring. And yet I could hear
the repeated, almost furious peals which were still echoing in my ears
and were to remain perceptible for several days. It is however seldom
that sleep thus projects into our waking life memories that do not
perish with it. We can count these aeroliths. If it is an idea that
sleep has forged, it soon breaks up into slender, irrecoverable
fragments. But, in this instance, sleep had fashioned sounds. More
material and simpler, they lasted longer. I was astonished by the
relative earliness of the hour, as told me by the waiter. I was none
the less refreshed. It is the light sleeps that have a long duration,
because, being an intermediate state between waking and sleeping,
preserving a somewhat faded but permanent impression of the former,
they require infinitely more time to refresh us than a profound sleep,
which may be short. I felt quite comfortable for another reason. If
remembering that we are tired is enough to make us feel our tiredness,
saying to oneself: "I am refreshed," is enough to create refreshment.
Now I had been dreaming that M. de Charlus was a hundred and ten years
old, and had just boxed the ears of his own mother, Madame Verdurin,
because she had paid five thousand millions for a bunch of violets; I
was therefore assured that I had slept profoundly, had dreamed the
reverse of what had been in my thoughts overnight and of all the
possibilities of life at the moment; this was enough to make me feel
entirely refreshed.


I should greatly have astonished my mother, who could not understand
M. de Charlus's assiduity in visiting the Verdurins, had I told her
whom (on the very day on which Albertine's toque had been ordered,
without a word about it to her, in order that it might come as a
surprise) M. de Charlus had brought to dine in a private room at the
Grand Hotel, Balbec. His guest was none other than the footman of a
lady who was a cousin of the Cambremers. This footman was very smartly
dressed, and, as he crossed the hall, with the Baron, 'did the man of
fashion' as Saint-Loup would have said in the eyes of the visitors.
Indeed, the young page-boys, the Levites who were swarming down the
temple steps at that moment because it was the time when they came on
duty, paid no attention to the two strangers, one of whom, M. de
Charlus, kept his eyes lowered to shew that he was paying little if
any to them. He appeared to be trying to carve his way through their
midst. "Prosper, dear hope of a sacred nation," he said, recalling a
passage from Racine, and applying to it a wholly different meaning.
"Pardon?" asked the footman, who was not well up in the classics. M.
de Charlus made no reply, for he took a certain pride in never
answering questions and in marching straight ahead as though there
were no other visitors in the hotel, or no one existed in the world
except himself, Baron de Charlus. But, having continued to quote the
speech of Josabeth: "Come, come, my children," he felt a revulsion and
did not, like her, add: "Bid them approach," for these young people
had not yet reached the age at which sex is completely developed, and
which appealed to M. de Charlus. Moreover, if he had written to
Madame de Chevregny's footman, because he had had no doubt of his
docility, he had hoped to meet some one more virile. On seeing him, he
found him more effeminate than he would have liked. He told him that
he had been expecting some one else, for he knew by sight another of
Madame de Chevregny's footmen, whom he had noticed upon the box of her
carriage. This was an extremely rustic type of peasant, the very
opposite of him who had come, who, on the other hand, regarding his
own effeminate ways as adding to his attractiveness, and never
doubting that it was this man-of-the-world air that had captivated M.
de Charlus, could not even guess whom the Baron meant. "But there is
no one else in the house, except one that you can't have given the eye
to, he is hideous, just like a great peasant." And at the thought that
it was perhaps this rustic whom the Baron had seen, he felt his
self-esteem wounded. The Baron guessed this, and, widening his quest:
"But I have not taken a vow that I will know only Mme. de Chevregny's
men," he said. "Surely there are plenty of fellows in one house or
another here or in Paris, since you are leaving soon, that you could
introduce to me?" "Oh, no!" replied the footman, "I never go with
anyone of my own class. I only speak to them on duty. But there is one
very nice person I can make you know." "Who?" asked the Baron. "The
Prince de Guermantes." M. de Guermantes was vexed at being offered
only a man so advanced in years, one, moreover, to whom he had no need
to apply to a footman for an introduction. And so he declined the
offer in a dry tone and, not letting himself be discouraged by the
menial's social pretensions, began to explain to him again what he
wanted, the style, the type, a jockey, for instance, and so on....
Fearing lest the solicitor, who went past at that moment, might have
heard them, he thought it cunning to shew that he was speaking of
anything in the world rather than what his hearer might suspect, and
said with emphasis and in ringing tones, but as though he were simply
continuing his conversation: "Yes, in spite of my age, I still keep up
a passion for collecting, a passion for pretty things, I will do
anything to secure an old bronze, an early lustre. I adore the
Beautiful." But to make the footman understand the change of subject
he had so rapidly executed, M. de Charlus laid such stress upon each
word, and what was more, to be heard by the solicitor, he shouted his
words so loud that this charade should in itself have been enough to
reveal what it concealed from ears more alert than those of the
officer of the court. He suspected nothing, any more than any of the
other residents in the hotel, all of whom saw a fashionable foreigner
in the footman so smartly attired. On the other hand, if the gentlemen
were deceived and took him for a distinguished American, no sooner did
he appear before the servants than he was spotted by them, as one
convict recognises another, indeed scented afar off, as certain
animals scent one another. The head waiters raised their eyebrows.
Aimé cast a suspicious glance. The wine waiter, shrugging his
shoulders, uttered behind his hand (because he thought it polite) an
offensive expression which everybody heard. And even our old
Françoise, whose sight was failing and who went past at that moment at
the foot of the staircase to dine with the _courriers_, raised her
head, recognised a servant where the hotel guests never suspected
one—as the old nurse Euryclea recognises Ulysses long before the
suitors seated at the banquet—and seeing, arm in arm with him, M. de
Charlus, assumed an appalled expression, as though all of a sudden
slanders which she had heard repeated and had not believed had
acquired a heartrending probability in her eyes. She never spoke to
me, nor to anyone else, of this incident, but it must have caused a
considerable commotion in her brain, for afterwards, whenever in Paris
she happened to see 'Julien,' to whom until then she had been so
greatly attached, she still treated him with politeness, but with a
politeness that had cooled and was always tempered with a strong dose
of reserve. This same incident led some one else to confide in me:
this was Aimé. When I encountered M. de Charlus, he, not having
expected to meet me, raised his hand and called out "Good evening"
with the indifference—outwardly, at least—of a great nobleman who
believes that everything is allowed him and thinks it better not to
appear to be hiding anything. Aimé, who at that moment was watching
him with a suspicious eye and saw that I greeted the companion of the
person in whom he was certain that he detected a. servant, asked me
that same evening who he was. For, for some time past, Aimé had shewn
a fondness for talking, or rather, as he himself put it, doubtless in
order to emphasise the character—philosophical, according to him—of
these talks, 'discussing' with me. And as I often said to him that it
distressed me that he should have to stand beside the table while I
ate instead of being able to sit down and share my meal, he declared
that he had never seen a guest shew such 'sound reasoning.' He was
talking at that moment to two waiters. They had bowed to me, I did not
know why their faces were unfamiliar, albeit their conversation
sounded a note which seemed to me not to be novel. Aimé was scolding
them both because of their matrimonial engagements, of which he
disapproved. He appealed to me, I said that I could not have any
opinion on the matter since I did not know them. They told me their
names, reminded me that they had often waited upon me at Rivebelle.
But one had let his moustache grow, the other had shaved his off and
had had his head cropped; and for this reason, albeit it was the same
head as before that rested upon the shoulders of each of them (and not
a different head as in the faulty restorations of Notre-Dame), it had
remained almost as invisible to me as those objects which escape the
most minute search and are actually staring everybody in the face
where nobody notices them, on the mantelpiece. As soon as I knew their
names, I recognised exactly the uncertain music of their voices
because I saw once more the old face which made it clear. "They want
to get married and they haven't even learned English!" Aimé said to
me, without reflecting that I was little versed in the ways of hotel
service, and could not be aware that a person who does not know
foreign languages cannot be certain of getting a situation. I, who
supposed that he would have no difficulty in finding out that the
newcomer was M. de Charlus, and indeed imagined that he must remember
him, having waited upon him in the dining-room when the Baron came,
during my former visit to Balbec, to see Mme. de Villeparisis, I told
him his name. Not only did Aimé not remember the Baron de Charlus, but
the name appeared to make a profound impression upon him. He told me
that he would look for a letter next day in his room which I might
perhaps be able to explain to him. I was all the more astonished in
that M. de Charlus, when he had wished to give me one of Bergotte's
books, at Balbec, the other year, had specially asked for Aimé, whom
he must have recognised later on in that Paris restaurant where I had
taken luncheon with Saint-Loup and his mistress and where M. de
Charlus had come to spy upon us. It is true that Aimé had not been
able to execute these commissions in person, being on the former
occasion in bed, and on the latter engaged in waiting. I had
nevertheless grave doubts as to his sincerity, when he pretended not
to know M. de Charlus. For one thing, he must have appealed to the
Baron. Like all the upstairs waiters of the Balbec Hotel, like several
of the Prince de Guermantes's footmen, Aimé belonged to a race more
ancient than that of the Prince, therefore more noble. When you asked
for a sitting-room, you thought at first that you were alone. But
presently, in the service-room you caught sight of a sculptural
waiter, of that ruddy Etruscan kind of which Aimé was typical,
slightly aged by excessive consumption of champagne and seeing the
inevitable hour approach for Contrexéville water. Not all the visitors
asked them merely to wait upon them. The underlings who were young,
conscientious, busy, who had mistresses waiting for them outside, made
off. Whereupon Aimé reproached them with not being serious. He had
every right to do so. He himself was serious. He had a wife and
children, and was ambitious on their behalf. And so the advances made
to him by a strange lady or gentleman he never repulsed, though it
meant his staying all night. For business must come before everything.
He was so much of the type that attracted M. de Charlus that I
suspected him of falsehood when he told me that he did not know him. I
was wrong. The page had been perfectly truthful when he told the Baron
that Aimé (who had given him a dressing-down for it next day) had gone
to bed (or gone out), and on the other occasion was busy waiting. But
imagination outreaches reality. And the page-boy's embarrassment had
probably aroused in M. de Charlus doubts as to the sincerity of his
excuses that had wounded sentiments of which Aimé had no suspicion.
We have seen moreover that Saint-Loup had prevented Aimé from going
out to the carriage in which M. de Charlus, who had managed somehow or
other to discover the waiter's new address, received a further
disappointment. Aimé, who had not noticed him, felt an astonishment
that may be imagined when, on the evening of that very day on which I
had taken luncheon with Saint-Loup and his mistress, he received a
letter sealed with the Guermantes arms, from which I shall quote a few
passages here as an example of unilateral insanity in an intelligent
man addressing an imbecile endowed with sense. "Sir, I have been
unsuccessful, notwithstanding efforts that would astonish many people
who have sought in vain to be greeted and welcomed by myself, in
persuading you to listen to certain explanations which you have not
asked of me but which I have felt it to be incumbent upon my dignity
and your own to offer you. I am going therefore to write down here
what it would have been more easy to say to you in person. I shall not
conceal from you that, the first time that I set eyes upon you at
Balbec, I found your face frankly antipathetic." Here followed
reflexions upon the resemblance—remarked only on the following
day—to a deceased friend to whom M. de Charlus had been deeply
attached. "The thought then suddenly occurred to me that you might,
without in any way encroaching upon the demands of your profession,
come to see me and, by joining me in the card games with which his
mirth used to dispel my gloom, give me the illusion that he was not
dead. Whatever the nature of the more or less fatuous suppositions
which you probably formed, suppositions more within the mental range
of a servant (who does not even deserve the name of servant since he
has declined to serve) than the comprehension of so lofty a sentiment,
you probably thought that you were giving yourself importance, knowing
not who I was nor what I was, by sending word to me, when I asked you
to fetch me a book, that you were in bed; but it is a mistake to
imagine that impolite behaviour ever adds to charm, in which you
moreover are entirely lacking. I should have ended matters there had I
not, by chance, the following morning, found an opportunity of
speaking to you. Your resemblance to my poor friend was so
accentuated, banishing even the Intolerable protuberance of your too
prominent chin, that I realised that it was the deceased who at that
moment was lending you his own kindly expression so as to permit you
to regain your hold over me and to prevent you from missing the unique
opportunity that was being offered you. Indeed, although I have no
wish, since there is no longer any object and it is unlikely that I
shall meet you again in this life, to introduce coarse questions of
material interest, I should have been only too glad to obey the prayer
of my dead friend (for I believe in the Communion of Saints and in
their deliberate intervention in the destiny of the living), that I
should treat you as I used to treat him, who had his carriage, his
servants, and to whom it was quite natural that I should consecrate
the greater part of my fortune since I loved him as a father loves his
son. You have decided otherwise. To my request that you should fetch
me a book you sent the reply that you were obliged to go out. And
this morning when I sent to ask you to come to my carriage, you then,
if I may so speak without blasphemy, denied me for the third time.
You will excuse my not enclosing in this envelope the lavish gratuity
which I intended to give you at Balbec and to which it would be too
painful to me to restrict myself in dealing with a person with whom I
had thought for a moment of sharing all that I possess. At least you
might spare me the trouble of making a fourth vain attempt to find you
at your restaurant, to which my patience will not extend." (Here M. de
Charlus gave his address, stated the hours at which he would be at
home, etc.) "Farewell, Sir. Since I assume that, resembling so
strongly the friend whom I have lost, you cannot be entirely stupid,
otherwise physiognomy would be a false science, I am convinced that
if, one day, you think of this incident again, it will not be without
feeling some regret and some remorse. For my part, believe that I am
quite sincere in saying that I retain no bitterness. I should have
preferred that we should part with a less unpleasant memory than this
third futile endeavour. It will soon be forgotten. We are like those
vessels which you must often have seen at Balbec, which have crossed
one another's course for a moment; it might have been to the advantage
of each of them to stop; but one of them has decided otherwise;
presently they will no longer even see one another on the horizon and
their meeting is a thing out of mind; but, before this final parting,
each of them salutes the other, and so at this point, Sir, wishing you
all good fortune, does

THE BARON DE CHARLUS."


Aimé had not even read this letter through, being able to make nothing
of it and suspecting a hoax. When I had explained to him who the Baron
was, he appeared to be lost in thought and to be feeling the regret
that M. de Charlus had anticipated. I would not be prepared to swear
that he would not at that moment have written a letter of apology to a
man who gave carriages to his friends. But in the interval M. de
Charlus had made Morel's acquaintance. It was true that, his relations
with Morel being possibly Platonic, M. de Charlus occasionally sought
to spend an evening in company such as that in which I had just met
him in the hall. But he was no longer able to divert from Morel the
violent sentiment which, at liberty a few years earlier, had asked
nothing better than to fasten itself upon Aimé and had dictated the
letter which had distressed me, for its writer's sake, when the head
waiter shewed me it. It was, in view of the anti-social nature of M.
de Charlus's love, a more striking example of the insensible, sweeping
force of these currents of passion by which the lover, like a swimmer,
is very soon carried out of sight of land. No doubt the love of a
normal man may also, when the lover, by the successive invention of
his desires, regrets, disappointments, plans, constructs a whole
romance about a woman whom he does not know, allow the two legs of the
compass to gape at a quite remarkably wide angle. All the same, such
an angle was singularly enlarged by the character of a passion which
is not generally shared and by the difference in social position
between M. de Charlus and Aimé.

Every day I went out with Albertine. She had decided to take up
painting again and had chosen as the subject of her first attempts the
church of Saint-Jean de la Haise which nobody ever visited and very
few had even heard of, a spot difficult to describe, impossible to
discover without a guide, slow of access in its isolation, more than
half an hour from the Epreville station, after one had long left
behind one the last houses of the village of Quetteholme. As to the
name Epreville I found that the curé's book and Brichot's information
were at variance. According to one, Epreville was the ancient
Sprevilla; the other derived the name from Aprivilla. On our first
visit we took a little train in the opposite direction from Féterne,
that is to say towards Grattevast. But we were in the dog days and it
had been a terrible strain simply to go out of doors immediately after
luncheon. I should have preferred not to start so soon; the luminous
and burning air provoked thoughts of indolence and cool retreats. It
filled my mother's room and mine, according to their exposure, at
varying temperatures, like rooms in a Turkish bath. Mamma's
dressing-room, festooned by the sun with a dazzling, Moorish
whiteness, appeared to be sunk at the bottom of a well, because of the
four plastered walls on which it looked out, while far above, in the
empty space, the sky, whose fleecy white waves one saw slip past, one
behind another, seemed (because of the longing that one felt), whether
built upon a terrace or seen reversed in a mirror hung above the
window, a tank filled with blue water, reserved for bathers.
Notwithstanding this scorching temperature, we had taken the one
o'clock train. But Albertine had been very hot in the carriage, hotter
still in the long walk across country, and I was afraid of her
catching cold when she proceeded to sit still in that damp hollow
where the sun's rays did not penetrate. Having, on the other hand, as
long ago as our first visits to Elstir, made up my mind that she would
appreciate not merely luxury but even a certain degree of comfort of
which her want of money deprived her, I had made arrangements with a
Balbec jobmaster that a carriage was to be sent every day to take us
out. To escape from the heat we took the road through the forest of
Chantepie. The invisibility of the innumerable birds, some of them
almost sea-birds, that conversed with one another from the trees on
either side of us, gave the same impression of repose that one has
when one shuts one's eyes. By Albertine's side, enchained by her arms
within the carriage, I listened to these Oceanides. And when by chance
I caught sight of one of these musicians as he flitted from one leaf
to the shelter of another, there was so little apparent connexion
between him and his songs that I could not believe that I beheld their
cause in the little body, fluttering, humble, startled and unseeing.
The carriage could not take us all the way to the church. I stopped it
when we had passed through Quetteholme and bade Albertine good-bye.
For she had alarmed me by saying to me of this church as of other
buildings, of certain pictures: "What a pleasure it would be to see
that with you!" This pleasure was one that I did not feel myself
capable of giving her. I felt it myself in front of beautiful things
only if I was alone or pretended to be alone and did not speak. But
since she supposed that she might, thanks to me, feel sensations of
art which are not communicated thus—I thought it more prudent to say
that I must leave her, would come back to fetch her at the end of the
day, but that in the meantime I must go back with the carriage to pay
a call on Mme. Verdurin or on the Cambremers, or even spend an hour
with Mamma at Balbec, but never farther afield. To begin with, that is
to say. For, Albertine having once said to me petulantly: "It's a bore
that Nature has arranged things so badly and put Saint-Jean de la
Haise in one direction, la Raspelière in another, so that you're
imprisoned for the whole day in the part of the country you've
chosen;" as soon as the toque and veil had come I ordered, to my
eventual undoing, a motor-car from Saint-Fargeau (_Sanctus Ferreolus_,
according to the curé's book). Albertine, whom I had kept in ignorance
and who had come to call for me, was surprised when she heard in front
of the hotel the purr of the engine, delighted when she learned that
this motor was for ourselves. I made her come upstairs for a moment to
my room. She jumped for joy. "We are going to pay a call on the
Verdurins." "Yes, but you'd better not go dressed like that since you
are going to have your motor. There, you will look better in these."
And I brought out the toque and veil which I had hidden. "They're for
me? Oh! You are an angel," she cried, throwing her arms round my neck.
Aimé who met us on the stairs, proud of Albertine's smart attire and
of our means of transport, for these vehicles were still comparatively
rare at Balbec, gave himself the pleasure of coming downstairs behind
us. Albertine, anxious to display herself in her new garments, asked
me to have the car opened, as we could shut it later on when we wished
to be more private. "Now then," said Aimé to the driver, with whom he
was not acquainted and who had not stirred, "don't you (_tu_) hear,
you're to open your roof?" For Aimé, sophisticated by hotel life, in
which moreover he had won his way to exalted rank, was not as shy as
the cab driver to whom Françoise was a 'lady'; notwithstanding the
want of any formal introduction, plebeians whom he had never seen
before he addressed as tu, though it was hard to say whether this was
aristocratic disdain on his part or democratic fraternity. "I am
engaged," replied the chauffeur, who did not know me by sight. "I am
ordered for Mlle. Simonet. I can't take this gentleman." Aimé burst
out laughing: "Why, you great pumpkin," he said to the driver, whom he
at once convinced, "this is Mademoiselle Simonet, and Monsieur, who
tells you to open the roof of your car, is the person who has engaged
you." And as Aimé, although personally he had no feeling for
Albertine, was for my sake proud of the garments she was wearing, he
whispered to the chauffeur: "Don't get the chance of driving a
Princess like that every day, do you?" On this first occasion it was
not I alone that was able to go to la Raspelière as I did on other
days, while Albertine painted; she decided to go there with me. She
did indeed think that we might stop here and there on our way, but
supposed it to be impossible to start by going to Saint-Jean de la
Haise. That is to say in another direction, and to make an excursion
which seemed to be reserved for a different day. She learned on the
contrary from the driver that nothing could be easier than to go to
Saint-Jean, which he could do in twenty minutes, and that we might
stay there if we chose for hours, or go on much farther, for from
Quetteholme to la Raspelière would not take more than thirty-five
minutes. We realised this as soon as the vehicle, starting off,
covered in one bound twenty paces of an excellent horse. Distances are
only the relation of space to time and vary with that relation. We
express the difficulty that we have in getting to a place in a system
of miles or kilometres which becomes false as soon as that difficulty
decreases. Art is modified by it also, when a village which seemed to
be in a different world from some other village becomes its neighbour
in a landscape whose dimensions are altered. In any case the
information that there may perhaps exist a universe in which two and
two make five and the straight line is not the shortest way between
two points would have astonished Albertine far less than to hear the
driver say that it was easy to go in a single afternoon to Saint-Jean
and la Raspelière, Douville and Quetteholme, Saint-Mars le Vieux and
Saint-Mars le Vêtu, Gourville and Old Balbec, Tourville and Féterne,
prisoners hitherto as hermetically confined in the cells of distinct
days as long ago were Méséglise and Guermantes, upon which the same
eyes could not gaze in the course of one afternoon, delivered now by
the giant with the seven-league boots, came and clustered about our
tea-time their towers and steeples, their old gardens which the
encroaching wood sprang back to reveal.

Coming to the foot of the cliff road, the car took it in its stride,
with a continuous sound like that of a knife being ground, while the
sea falling away grew broader beneath us. The old rustic houses of
Montsurvent ran towards us, clasping to their bosoms vine or
rose-bush; the firs of la Raspelière, more agitated than when the
evening breeze was rising, ran in every direction to escape from us
and a new servant whom I had never seen before came to open the door
for us on the terrace, while the gardener's son, betraying a
precocious bent, devoured the machine with his gaze. As it was not a
Monday we did not know whether we should find Mme. Verdurin, for
except upon that day, when he was at home, it was unsafe to call upon
her without warning. No doubt she was 'principally' at home, but this
expression, which Mme. Swann employed at the time when she too was
seeking to form her little clan, and to draw visitors to herself
without moving towards them, an expression which she interpreted as
meaning 'on principle,' meant no more than 'as a general rule,' that
is to say with frequent exceptions. For not only did Mme. Verdurin
like going out, but she carried her duties as a hostess to extreme
lengths, and when she had had people to luncheon, immediately after
the coffee, liqueurs and cigarettes (notwithstanding the first
somnolent effects of the heat and of digestion in which they would
have preferred to watch through the leafy boughs of the terrace the
Jersey packet passing over the enamelled sea), the programme included
a series of excursions in the course of which her guests, installed by
force in carriages, were conveyed, willy-nilly, to look at one or
other of the views that abound in the neighbourhood of Douville.
This second part of the entertainment was, as it happened (once the
effort to rise and enter the carriage had been made), no less
satisfactory than the other to the guests, already prepared by the
succulent dishes, the vintage wines or sparkling cider to let
themselves be easily intoxicated by the purity of the breeze and the
magnificence of the views. Mme. Verdurin used to make strangers visit
these rather as though they were portions (more or less detached) of
her property, which you could not help going to see the moment you
came to luncheon with her and which conversely you would never have
known had you not been entertained by the Mistress. This claim to
arrogate to herself the exclusive right over walks and drives, as over
Morel's and formerly Dechambre's playing, and to compel the landscapes
to form part of the little clan, was not for that matter so absurd as
it appears at first sight. Mme. Verdurin deplored the want of taste
which, according to her, the Cambremers shewed in the furnishing of la
Raspelière and the arrangement of the garden, but still more their
want of initiative in the excursions that they took or made their
guests take in the surrounding country. Just as, according to her, la
Raspelière was only beginning to become what it should always have
been now that it was the asylum of the little clan, so she insisted
that the Cambremers, perpetually exploring in their barouche, along
the railway line, by the shore, the one ugly road that there was in
the district, had been living in the place all their lives but did not
know it. There was a grain of truth in this assertion. From force of
habit, lack of imagination, want of interest in a country which seemed
hackneyed because it was so near, the Cambremers when they left their
home went always to the same places and by the same roads. To be sure
they laughed heartily at the Verdurins' offer to shew them their
native country. But when it came to that, they and even their coachman
would have been incapable of taking us to the splendid, more or less
secret places, to which M. Verdurin brought us, now forcing the
barrier of a private but deserted property upon which other people
would not have thought it possible to venture, now leaving the
carriage to follow a path which was not wide enough for wheeled
traffic, but in either case with the certain recompense of a
marvellous view. Let us say in passing that the garden at la
Raspelière was in a sense a compendium of all the excursions to be
made in a radius of many miles. For one thing because of its
commanding position, overlooking on one side the valley, on the other
the sea, and also because, on one and the same side, the seaward side
for instance, clearings had been made through the trees in such a way
that from one point you embraced one horizon, from another another.
There was at each of these points of view a bench; you went and sat
down in turn upon the bench from which there was the view of Balbec,
or Parville, or Douville. Even to command a single view one bench
would have been placed more or less on the edge of the cliff, another
farther back. From the latter you had a foreground of verdure and a
horizon which seemed already the vastest imaginable, but which became
infinitely larger if, continuing along a little path, you went to the
next bench from which you scanned the whole amphitheatre of the sea.
There you could make out exactly the sound of the waves which did not
penetrate to the more secluded parts of the garden, where the sea was
still visible but no longer audible. These resting-places bore at la
Raspelière among the occupants of the house the name of 'views.' And
indeed they assembled round the mansion the finest views of the
neighbouring places, coastline or forest, seen greatly diminished by
distance, as Hadrian collected in his villa reduced models of the most
famous monuments of different countries. The name that followed the
word 'view' was not necessarily that of a place on the coast, but
often that of the opposite shore of the bay which you could make out,
standing out in a certain relief notwithstanding the extent of the
panorama. Just as you took a book from M. Verdurin's library to go
and read for an hour at the 'view of Balbec,' so if the sky was clear
the liqueurs would be served at the 'view of Rivebelle,' on condition
however that the wind was not too strong, for, in spite of the trees
planted on either side, the air up there was keen. To come back to the
carriage parties that Mme. Verdurin used to organise for the
afternoons, the Mistress, if on her return she found the cards of some
social butterfly 'on a flying visit to the coast,' would pretend to be
overjoyed, but was actually broken-hearted at having missed his visit
and (albeit people at this date came only to 'see the house' or to
make the acquaintance for a day of a woman whose artistic salon was
famous, but outside the pale in Paris) would at once make M. Verdurin
invite him to dine on the following Wednesday. As the tourist was
often obliged to leave before that day, or was afraid to be out late,
Mme. Verdurin had arranged that on Mondays she was always to be found
at teatime. These tea-parties were not at all large, and I had known
more brilliant gatherings of the sort in Paris, at the Princesse de
Guermantes's, at Mme. de Gallifet's or Mme. d'Arpajon's. But this was
not Paris, and the charm of the setting enhanced, in my eyes, not
merely the pleasantness of the party but the merits of the visitors. A
meeting with some social celebrity, which in Paris would have given me
no pleasure, but which at la Raspelière, whither he had come from a
distance by Féterne or the forest of Chantepie, changed in character,
in importance, became an agreeable incident. Sometimes it was a person
whom I knew quite well and would not have gone a yard to meet at the
Swanns'. But his name sounded differently upon this cliff, like the
name of an actor whom one has constantly heard in a theatre, printed
upon the announcement, in a different colour, of an extraordinary gala
performance, where his notoriety is suddenly multiplied by the
unexpectedness of the rest. As in the country people behave without
ceremony, the social celebrity often took it upon him to bring the
friends with whom he was staying, murmuring the excuse in Mme.
Verdurin's ear that he could not leave them behind as he was living in
their house; to his hosts on the other hand he pretended to offer, as
a sort of courtesy, the distraction, in a monotonous seaside life, of
being taken to a centre of wit and intellect, of visiting a
magnificent mansion and of making an excellent tea. This composed at
once an assembly of several persons of semi-distinction; and if a
little slice of garden with a few trees, which would seem shabby in
the country, acquires an extraordinary charm in the Avenue Gabriel or
let us say the Rue de Monceau, where only multi-millionaires can
afford such a luxury, inversely gentlemen who are of secondary
importance at a Parisian party stood out at their full value on a
Monday afternoon at la Raspelière. No sooner did they sit down at the
table covered with a cloth embroidered in red, beneath the painted
panels, to partake of the rock cakes, Norman puff pastry, tartlets
shaped like boats filled with cherries like beads of coral,
'diplomatic' cakes, than these guests were subjected, by the proximity
of the great bowl of azure upon which the window opened, and which you
could not help seeing when you looked at them, to a profound
alteration, a transmutation which changed them into something more
precious than before. What was more, even before you set eyes on
them, when you came on a Monday to Mme. Verdurin's, people who in
Paris would scarcely turn their heads to look, so familiar was the
sight of a string of smart carriages waiting outside a great house,
felt their hearts throb at the sight of the two or three broken-down
dog-carts drawn up in front of la Raspelière, beneath the tall firs.
No doubt this was because the rustic setting was different, and social
impressions thanks to this transposition regained a kind of novelty.
It was also because the broken-down carriage that one hired to pay a
call upon Mme. Verdurin called to mind a pleasant drive and a costly
bargain struck with a coachman who had demanded 'so much' for the
whole day. But the slight stir of curiosity with regard to fresh
arrivals, whom it was still impossible to distinguish, made everybody
ask himself: "Who can this be?" a question which it was difficult to
answer, when one did not know who might have come down to spend a week
with the Cambremers or elsewhere, but which people always enjoy
putting to themselves in rustic, solitary lives where a meeting with a
human creature whom one has not seen for a long time ceases to be the
tiresome affair that it is in the life of Paris, and forms a delicious
break in the empty monotony of lives that are too lonely, in which
even the postman's knock becomes a pleasure. And on the day on which
we arrived in a motor-car at la Raspelière, as it was not Monday, M.
and Mme. Verdurin must have been devoured by that craving to see
people which attacks men and women and inspires a longing to throw
himself out of the window in the patient who has been shut up away
from his family and friends, for a cure of strict isolation. For the
new and more swift-footed servant, who had already made himself
familiar with these expressions, having replied that "if Madame has
not gone out she must be at the view of Douville," and that he would
go and look for her, came back immediately to tell us that she was
coming to welcome us. We found her slightly dishevelled, for she came
from the flower beds, farmyard and kitchen garden, where she had gone
to feed her peacocks and poultry, to hunt for eggs, to gather fruit
and flowers to 'make her table-centre,' which would suggest her park
in miniature; but on the table it conferred the distinction of making
it support the burden of only such things as were useful and good to
eat; for round those other presents from the garden which were the
pears, the whipped eggs, rose the tall stems of bugloss, carnations,
roses and coreopsis, between which one saw, as between blossoming
boundary posts, move from one to another beyond the glazed windows,
the ships at sea. From the astonishment which M. and Mme. Verdurin,
interrupted while arranging their flowers to receive the visitors that
had been announced, shewed upon finding that these visitors were
merely Albertine and myself, it was easy to see that the new servant,
full of zeal but not yet familiar with my name, had repeated it
wrongly and that Mme. Verdurin, hearing the names of guests whom she
did not know, had nevertheless bidden him let them in, in her need of
seeing somebody, no matter whom. And the new servant stood
contemplating this spectacle from the door in order to learn what part
we played in the household. Then he made off at a run, taking long
strides, for he had entered upon his duties only the day before. When
Albertine had quite finished displaying her toque and veil to the
Verdurins, she gave me a warning look to remind me that we had not too
much time left for what we meant to do. Mme. Verdurin begged us to
stay to tea, but we refused, when all of a sudden a suggestion was
mooted which would have made an end of all the pleasures that I
promised myself from my drive with Albertine: the Mistress, unable to
face the thought of tearing herself from us, or perhaps of allowing a
novel distraction to escape, decided to accompany us. Accustomed for
years past to the experience that similar offers on her part were not
well received, and being probably dubious whether this offer would
find favour with us, she concealed beneath an excessive assurance the
timidity that she felt when addressing us and, without even appearing
to suppose that there could be any doubt as to our answer, asked us no
question, but said to her husband, speaking of Albertine and myself,
as though she were conferring a favour on us: "I shall see them home,
myself." At the same time there hovered over her lips a smile that did
not belong to them, a smile which I had already seen on the faces of
certain people when they said to Bergotte with a knowledgeable air: "I
have bought your book, it's not bad," one of those collective,
universal smiles which, when they feel the need of them—as we make
use of railways and removal vans—individuals borrow, except a few who
are extremely refined, like Swann or M. de Charlus on whose lips I
have never seen that smile settle. From that moment my visit was
poisoned. I pretended not to have understood. A moment later it became
evident that M. Verdurin was to be one of the party. "But it will be
too far for M. Verdurin," I objected. "Not at all," replied Mme.
Verdurin with a condescending, cheerful air, "he says it will amuse
him immensely to go with you young people over a road he has travelled
so many times; if necessary, he will sit beside the engineer, that
doesn't frighten him, and we shall come back quietly by the train like
a good married couple. Look at him, he's quite delighted." She seemed
to be speaking of an aged and famous painter full of friendliness,
who, younger than the youngest, takes a delight in scribbling figures
on paper to make his grandchildren laugh. What added to my sorrow was
that Albertine seemed not to share it and to find some amusement in
the thought of dashing all over the countryside like this with the
Verdurins. As for myself, the pleasure that I had vowed that I would
take with her was so imperious that I refused to allow the Mistress to
spoil it; I invented falsehoods which the irritating threats of Mme.
Verdurin made excusable, but which Albertine, alas, contradicted. "But
we have a call to pay," I said. "What call?" asked Albertine. "You
shall hear about it later, there's no getting out of it." "Very well,
we can wait outside," said Mme. Verdurin, resigned to anything. At the
last minute my anguish at seeing wrested from me a happiness for which
I had so longed gave me the courage to be impolite. I refused point
blank, alleging in Mme. Verdurin's ear that because of some trouble
which had befallen Albertine and about which she wished to consult me,
it was absolutely necessary that I should be alone with her. The
Mistress appeared vexed: "All right, we shan't come," she said to me
in a voice tremulous with rage. I felt her to be so angry that, so as
to appear to be giving way a little: "But we might perhaps..." I
began. "No," she replied, more furious than ever, "when I say no, I
mean no." I supposed that I was out of favour with her, but she called
us back at the door to urge us not to 'fail' on the following
Wednesday, and not to come with that contraption, which was dangerous
at night, but by the train with the little group, and she made me stop
the car, which was moving down hill across the park, because the
footman had forgotten to put in the hood the slice of tart and the
shortbread which she had had made into a parcel for us. We started
off, escorted for a moment by the little houses that came running to
meet us with their flowers. The face of the countryside seemed to us
entirely changed, so far, in the topographical image that we form in
our minds of separate places, is the notion of space from being the
most important factor. We have said that the notion of time segregates
them even farther. It is not the only factor either. Certain places
which we see always in isolation seem to us to have no common measure
with the rest, to be almost outside the world, like those people whom
we have known in exceptional periods of our life, during our military
service, in our childhood, and whom we associate with nothing. In my
first year at Balbec there was a piece of high ground to which Mme. de
Villeparisis liked to take us because from it you saw only the water
and the woods, and which was called Beaumont. As the road that she
took to approach it, and preferred to other routes because of its old
trees, went up hill all the way, her carriage was obliged to go at a
crawling pace and took a very long time. When we reached the top we
used to alight, stroll about for a little, get into the carriage
again, return by the same road, without seeing a single village, a
single country house. I knew that Beaumont was something very special,
very remote, very high, I had no idea of the direction in which it was
to be found, having never taken the Beaumont road to go anywhere else;
besides, it took a very long time to get there in a carriage. It was
obviously in the same Department (or in the same Province) as Balbec,
but was situated for me on another plane, enjoyed a special privilege
of extra-territoriality. But the motor-car respects no mystery, and,
having passed beyond Incarville, whose houses still danced before my
eyes, as we were going down the cross road that leads to Parville
(_Paterni villa_), catching sight of the sea from a natural terrace
over which we were passing, I asked the name of the place, and before
the chauffeur had time to reply recognised Beaumont, close by which I
passed thus unconsciously whenever I took the little train, for it was
within two minutes of Parville. Like an officer of my regiment who
might have seemed to me a creature apart, too kindly and simple to be
of a great family, too remote already and mysterious to be simply of a
great family, and of whom I was afterwards to learn that he was the
brother-in-law, the cousin of people with whom I was dining, so
Beaumont, suddenly brought in contact with places from which I
supposed it to be so distinct, lost its mystery and took its place in
the district, making me think with terror that Madame Bovary and the
Sanseverina might perhaps have seemed to me to be like ordinary
people, had I met them elsewhere than in the close atmosphere of a
novel. It may be thought that my love of magic journeys by train
ought to have prevented me from sharing Albertine's wonder at the
motor-car which takes even the invalid wherever he wishes to go and
destroys our conception—which I had held hitherto—of position in
space as the individual mark, the irreplaceable essence of irremovable
beauties. And no doubt this position in space was not to the
motor-car, as it had been to the railway train, when I came from Paris
to Balbec, a goal exempt from the contingencies of ordinary life,
almost ideal at the moment of departure, and, as it remains so at that
of arrival, at our arrival in that great dwelling where no one dwells
and which bears only the name of the town, the station, seeming to
promise at last the accessibility of the town, as though the station
were its materialisation. No, the motor-car did not convey us thus by
magic into a town which we saw at first in the whole that is
summarised by its name, and with the illusions of a spectator in a
theatre. It made us enter that theatre by the wings which were the
streets, stopped to ask the way of an inhabitant. But, as a
compensation for so familiar a progress one has the gropings of the
chauffeur uncertain of his way and retracing his course, the 'general
post' of perspective which sets a castle dancing about with a hill, a
church and the sea, while one draws nearer to it, in spite of its vain
efforts to hide beneath its primeval foliage; those ever narrowing
circles which the motor-car describes round a spellbound town which
darts off in every direction to escape it and upon which finally it
drops down, straight, into the heart of the valley where it lies
palpitating on the ground; so that this position in space, this unique
point, which the motor-car seems to have stripped of the mystery of
express trains, it gives us on the contrary the impression of
discovering, of determining for ourselves as with a compass, of
helping us to feel with a more fondly exploring hand, with a finer
precision, the true geometry, the fair measure of the earth.

What unfortunately I did not know at that moment and did not learn
until more than two years later was that one of the chauffeur's
patrons was M. de Charlus, and that Morel, instructed to pay him and
keeping part of the money for himself (making the chauffeur triple and
quintuple the mileage), had become very friendly with him (while
pretending not to know him before other people) and made use of his
car for long journeys. If I had known this at the time, and that the
confidence which the Verdurins were presently to feel in this
chauffeur came, unknown to them, from that source, perhaps many of the
sorrows of my life in Paris, in the year that followed, much of my
trouble over Albertine would have been avoided, but I had not the
slightest suspicion of it. In themselves M. de Charlus's excursions by
motor-car with Morel were of no direct interest to me. They were
moreover confined as a rule to a luncheon or dinner in some restaurant
along the coast where M. de Charlus was regarded as an old and
penniless servant and Morel, whose duty it was to pay the bill, as a
too kind-hearted gentleman. I report the conversation at one of these
meals, which may give an idea of the others. It was in a restaurant of
elongated shape at Saint-Mars-le-Vêtu. "Can't you get them to remove
this thing?" M. de Charlus asked Morel, as though appealing to an
intermediary without having to address the staff directly. 'This
thing' was a vase containing three withered roses with which a
well-meaning head waiter had seen fit to decorate the table. "Yes..."
said Morel in embarrassment. "You don't like roses?" "My request
ought on the contrary to prove that I do like them, since there are no
roses here" (Morel appeared surprised) "but as a matter of fact I do
not care much for them. I am rather sensitive to names; and whenever a
rose is at all beautiful, one learns that it is called Baronne de
Rothschild or Maréchale Niel, which casts a chill. Do you like names?
Have you found beautiful titles for your little concert numbers?"
"There is one that is called _Poème triste_." "That is horrible,"
replied M. de Charlus in a shrill voice that rang out like a blow.
"But I ordered champagne?" he said to the head waiter who had supposed
he was obeying the order by placing by the diners two glasses of
foaming liquid. "Yes, Sir." "Take away that filth, which has no
connexion with the worst champagne in the world. It is the emetic
known as _cup_, which consists, as a rule, of three rotten
strawberries swimming in a mixture of vinegar and soda-water. Yes," he
went on, turning again to Morel, "you don't seem to know what a title
is. And even in the interpretation of the things you play best, you
seem not to be aware of the mediumistic side." "You mean to say?"
asked Morel, who, not having understood one word of what the Baron had
said, was afraid that he might be missing something of importance,
such as an invitation to luncheon. M. de Charlus having failed to
regard "You mean to say?" as a question, Morel, having in Consequence
received no answer, thought it best to change the conversation and to
give it a sensual turn: "There, look at the fair girl selling the
flowers you don't like; I'm certain she's got a little mistress. And
the old woman dining at the table at the end, too." "But how do you
know all that?" asked M. de Charlus, amazed at Morel's intuition. "Oh!
I can spot them in an instant. If we went out together in a crowd, you
would see that I never make a mistake." And anyone looking at Morel at
that moment, with his girlish air enshrined in his masculine beauty,
would have understood the obscure divination which made him no less
obvious to certain women than them to him. He was anxious to supplant
Jupien, vaguely desirous of adding to his regular income the profits
which, he supposed, the tailor derived from the Baron. "And with boys
I am surer still, I could save you from making any mistake. We shall
be having the fair soon at Balbec, we shall find lots of things there.
And in Paris too, you'll see, you'll have a fine time." But the
inherited caution of a servant made him give a different turn to the
sentence on which he had already embarked. So that M. de Charlus
supposed that he was still referring to girls. "Listen," said Morel,
anxious to excite in a fashion which he considered less compromising
for himself (albeit it was actually more immoral) the Baron's senses,
"what I should like would be to find a girl who was quite pure, make
her fall in love with me, and take her virginity." M. de Charlus could
not refrain from pinching Morel's ear affectionately, but added
innocently: "What good would that be to you? If you took her
maidenhead, you would be obliged to marry her." "Marry her?" cried
Morel, guessing that the Baron was fuddled, or else giving no thought
to the man, more scrupulous in reality than he supposed, to whom he
was speaking. "Marry her? Balls! I should promise, but once the
little operation was performed, I should clear out and leave her." M.
de Charlus was in the habit, when a fiction was capable of causing him
a momentary sensual pleasure, of believing in its truth, while keeping
himself free to withdraw his credulity altogether a minute later, when
his pleasure was at an end. "You would really do that?" he said to
Morel with a laugh, squeezing him more tightly still. "And why not?"
said Morel, seeing that he was not shocking the Baron by continuing to
expound to him what was indeed one of his desires. "It is dangerous,"
said M. de Charlus. "I should have my kit packed and ready, and buzz
off and leave no address." "And what about me?" asked M. de Charlus.
"I should take you with me, of course," Morel made haste to add, never
having thought of what would become of the Baron who was the least of
his responsibilities. "I say, there's a kid I should love to try that
game on, she's a little seamstress who keeps a shop in M. le Duc's
_hôtel_." "Jupien's girl," the Baron exclaimed, as the wine-waiter
entered the room. "Oh! Never," he added, whether because the presence
of a third person had cooled his ardour, or because even in this sort
of black mass in which he took a delight in defiling the most sacred
things, he could not bring himself to allow the mention of people to
whom he was bound by ties of friendship. "Jupien is a good man, the
child is charming, it would be a shame to make them unhappy." Morel
felt that he had gone too far and was silent, but his gaze continued
to fix itself in imagination upon the girl for whose benefit he had
once begged me to address him as 'dear great master' and from whom he
had ordered a waistcoat. An industrious worker, the child had not
taken any holiday, but I learned afterwards that while the violinist
was in the neighbourhood of Balbec she never ceased to think of his
handsome face, ennobled by the accident that having seen Morel in my
company she had taken him for a 'gentleman.'

"I never heard Chopin play," said the Baron, "and yet I might have
done so, I took lessons from Stamati, but he forbade me to go and hear
the Master of the Nocturnes at my aunt Chimay's." "That was damned
silly of him," exclaimed Morel. "On the contrary," M. de Charlus
retorted warmly, in a shrill voice. "He shewed his intelligence. He
had realised that I had a 'nature' and that I would succumb to
Chopin's influence. It made no difference, because when I was quite
young I gave up music, and everything else, for that matter. Besides
one can more or less imagine him," he added in a slow, nasal, drawling
tone, "there are still people who did hear him, who can give you an
idea. However, Chopin was only an excuse to come back to the
mediumistic aspect which you are neglecting."

The reader will observe that, after an interpolation of common
parlance, M. de Charlus had suddenly become as precious and haughty in
his speech as ever. The idea of Morel's 'dropping' without compunction
a girl whom he had outraged had given him a sudden and entire
pleasure. From that moment his sensual appetites were satisfied for a
time and the sadist (a true medium, he, if you like) who had for a few
moments taken the place of M. de Charlus had fled, leaving a clear
field for the real M. de Charlus, full of artistic refinement,
sensibility, goodness. "You were playing the other day the
transposition for the piano of the Fifteenth Quartet, which is absurd
in itself because nothing could be less pianistic. It is meant for
people whose ears are hurt by the too highly strained chords of the
glorious Deaf One. Whereas it is precisely that almost bitter
mysticism that is divine. In any case you played it very badly and
altered all the movements. You ought to play it as though you were
composing it: the young Morel, afflicted with a momentary deafness and
with a non-existent genius stands for an instant motionless. Then,
seized by the divine frenzy, he plays, he composes the opening bars.
After which, exhausted by this initial effort, he gives way, letting
droop his charming forelock to please Mme. Verdurîn, and, what is
more, gives himself time to recreate the prodigious quantity of grey
matter which he has commandeered for the Pythian objectivation. Then,
having regained his strength, seized by a fresh and overmastering
inspiration, he flings himself upon the sublime, imperishable phrase
which the virtuoso of Berlin" (we suppose M. de Charlus to have meant
by this expression Mendelssohn) "was to imitate without ceasing. It is
in this, the only really transcendent and animating fashion, that I
shall make you play in Paris." When M. de Charlus gave him advice of
this sort, Morel was far more alarmed than when he saw the head waiter
remove his scorned roses and 'cup,' for he asked himself with anxiety
what effect it would create among his 'class.' But he was unable to
dwell upon these reflexions, for M. de Charlus said to him
imperiously: "Ask the head waiter if he has a Bon Chrétien." "A good
Christian, I don't understand." "Can't you see we've reached the
dessert, it's a pear. You may be sure, Mme. de Cambremer has them in
her garden, for the Comtesse d'Escarbagnas whose double she is had
them. M. Thibaudier sends her them, saying: 'Here is a Bon Chrétien
which is worth tasting.'" "No, I didn't know." "I can see that you
know nothing. If you have never even read Molière.... Oh, well, since
you are no more capable of ordering food than of anything else, ask
simply for a pear which is grown in this neighbourhood, the
Louise-Bonne d'Avranches." "The?" "Wait a minute, since you are so
stupid, I shall ask him myself for others, which I prefer. Waiter,
have you any Doyennée des Comices? Charlie, you must read the
exquisite passage about that pear by the Duchesse Emilie de
Clermont-Tonnerre." "No, Sir, there aren't any." "Have you Triomphe de
Jodoigne?" "No, Sir." "Any Virginie-Dallet? Or Passe-Colmar? No? Very
well, since you've nothing, we may as well go. The Duchesse
d'Angoulême is not in season yet, come along, Charlie." Unfortunately
for M. de Charlus, his want of common sense, perhaps too the chastity
of what were probably his relations with Morel, made him go out of his
way at this period to shower upon the violinist strange bounties which
the other was incapable of understanding, and to which his nature,
impulsive in its own way, but mean and ungrateful, could respond only
by a harshness or a violence that were steadily intensified and
plunged M. de Charlus—formerly so proud, now quite timid—in fits of
genuine despair. We shall see how, in the smallest matters, Morel, who
fancied himself a M. de Charlus a thousand times more important,
completely misunderstood, by taking it literally, the Baron's arrogant
information with regard to the aristocracy. Let us for the moment say
simply this, while Albertine waits for me at Saint-Jean de la Haise,
that if there was one thing which Morel set above nobility (and this
was in itself distinctly noble, especially in a person whose pleasure
was to pursue little girls—on the sly—with the chauffeur), it was
his artistic reputation and what the others might think of him in the
violin class. No doubt it was an ugly trait in his character that
because he felt M. de Charlus to be entirely devoted to him he
appeared to disown him, to make fun of him, in the same way as, when I
had promised not to reveal the secret of his father's position with my
great-uncle, he treated me with contempt. But on the other hand his
name, as that of a recognised artist, Morel, appeared to him superior
to a 'name.' And when M. de Charlus, in his dreams of Platonic
affection, tried to make him adopt one of his family titles, Morel
stoutly refused.

When Albertine thought it better to remain at Saint-Jean de la Haise
and paint, I would take the car, and it was not merely to Gourville
and Féterne, but to Saint-Mars le Vêtu and as far as Criquetot that I
was able to penetrate before returning to fetch her. While pretending
to be occupied with anything rather than herself, and to be obliged to
forsake her for other pleasures, I thought only of her. As often as
not I went no farther than the great plain which overlooks Gourville,
and as it resembles slightly the plain that begins above Combray, in
the direction of Méséglise, even at a considerable distance from
Albertine, I had the joy of thinking that if my gaze could not reach
her, still, travelling farther than in my vision, that strong and
gentle sea breeze which was sweeping past me must be flowing down,
without anything to arrest it as far as Quetteholme, until it stirred
the branches of the trees that bury Saint-Jean de la Haise in their
foliage, caressing the face of my mistress, and must thus be extending
a double tie between her and myself in this retreat indefinitely
enlarged, but without danger, as in those games in which two children
find themselves momentarily out of sight and earshot of one another,
and yet, while far apart, remain together. I returned by those roads
from which there is a view of the sea, and on which in the past,
before it appeared among the branches, I used to shut my eyes to
reflect that what I was going to see was indeed the plaintive
ancestress of the earth, pursuing as in the days when no living
creature yet existed its lunatic, immemorial agitation. Now, these
roads were no longer, simply the means of rejoining Albertine; when I
recognised each of them in their uniformity, knowing how far they
would run in a straight line, where they would turn, I remembered that
I had followed them while I thought of Mlle. de Stermaria, and also
that this same eagerness to find Albertine I had felt in Paris as I
walked the streets along which Mme. de Guermantes might pass; they
assumed for me the profound monotony, the moral significance of a sort
of ruled line that my character must follow. It was natural, and yet
it was not without importance; they reminded me that it was my fate to
pursue only phantoms, creatures whose reality existed to a great
extent in my imagination; there are people indeed—and this had been
my case from my childhood—for whom all the things that have a fixed
value, assessable by others, fortune, success, high positions, do not
count; what they must have, is phantoms. They sacrifice all the rest,
leave no stone unturned, make everything else subservient to the
capture of some phantom. But this soon fades away; then they run after
another, prepared to return later on to the first. It was not the
first time that I had gone in quest of Albertine, the girl I had seen
that first year outlined against the sea. Other women, it is true, had
been interposed between the Albertine whom I had first loved and her
from whom I was scarcely separated at this moment; other women,
notably the Duchesse de Guermantes. But, the reader will say, why give
yourself so much anxiety with regard to Gilberte, take so much trouble
over Madame de Guermantes, if, when you have become the friend of the
latter, it is with the sole result of thinking no more of her, but
only of Albertine? Swann, before his own death, might have answered
the question, he who had been a lover of phantoms. Of phantoms
pursued, forgotten, sought afresh sometimes for a single meeting and
in order to establish contact with an unreal life which at once
escaped, these Balbec roads were full. When I thought that their
trees, pear trees, apple trees, tamarisks, would outlive me, I seemed
to receive from them the warning to set myself to work at last, before
the hour should strike of rest everlasting.

I left the carriage at Quetteholme, ran down the sunken path, crossed
the brook by a plank and found Albertine painting in front of the
church all spires and crockets, thorny and red, blossoming like a rose
bush. The lantern alone shewed an unbroken front; and the smiling
surface of the stone was abloom with angels who continued, before the
twentieth century couple that we were, to celebrate, taper in hand,
the ceremonies of the thirteenth. It was they that Albertine was
endeavouring to portray on her prepared canvas, and, imitating Elstir,
she was laying on the paint in sweeping strokes, trying to obey the
noble rhythm set, the great master had told her, by those angels so
different from any that he knew. Then she collected her things.
Leaning upon one another we walked back up the sunken path, leaving
the little church, as quiet as though it had never seen us, to listen
to the perpetual sound of the brook. Presently the car started, taking
us home by a different way. We passed Marcouville l'Orgueilleuse.
Over its church, half new, half restored, the setting sun spread its
patina as fine as that of centuries. Through it the great bas-reliefs
seemed to be visible only through a floating layer, half liquid, half
luminous; the Blessed Virgin, Saint Elizabeth, Saint Joachim swam in
the impalpable tide, almost on dry land, on the water's or the
sunlight's surface. Rising in a warm dust, the many modern statues
reached, on their pillars, halfway up the golden webs of sunset. In
front of the church a tall cypress seemed to be in a sort of
consecrated enclosure. We left the car for a moment to look at it and
strolled for a little. No less than of her limbs, Albertine was
directly conscious of her toque of Leghorn straw and of the silken
veil (which were for her the source of no less satisfaction), and
derived from them, as we strolled round the church, a different sort
of impetus, revealed by a contentment which was inert but in which I
found a certain charm; veil and toque which were but a recent,
adventitious part of my friend, but a part that was already dear to
me, as I followed its trail with my eyes, past the cypress in the
evening air. She herself could not see it, but guessed that the effect
was pleasing, for she smiled at me, harmonising the poise of her head
with the headgear that completed it. "I don't like it, it's restored,"
she said to me, pointing to the church and remembering what Elstir had
said to her about the priceless, inimitable beauty of old stone.
Albertine could tell a restoration at a glance. One could not help
feeling surprised at the sureness of the taste she had already
acquired in architecture, as contrasted with the deplorable taste she
still retained in music. I cared no more than Elstir for this church,
it was with no pleasure to myself that its sunlit front had come and
posed before my eyes, and I had got out of the car to examine it only
out of politeness to Albertine. I found, however, that the great
impressionist had contradicted himself; why exalt this fetish of its
objective architectural value, and not take into account the
transfiguration of the church by the sunset? "No, certainly not," said
Albertine, "I don't like it; I like its name _orgueilleuse_. But what
I must remember to ask Brichot is why Saint-Mars is called _le Vêtu_.
We shall be going there next, shan't we?" she said, gazing at me out
of her black eyes over which her toque was pulled down, like her
little polo cap long ago. Her veil floated behind her. I got back into
the car with her, happy in the thought that we should be going next
day to Saint-Mars, where, in this blazing weather when one could think
only of the delights of a bath, the two ancient steeples, salmon-pink,
with their lozenge-shaped tiles, gaping slightly as though for air,
looked like a pair of old, sharp-snouted fish, coated in scales,
moss-grown and red, which without seeming to move were rising in a
blue, transparent water. On leaving Marcouville, to shorten the road,
we turned aside at a crossroads where there is a farm. Sometimes
Albertine made the car stop there and asked me to go alone to fetch,
so that she might drink it in the car, a bottle of Calvados or cider,
which the people assured me was not effervescent, and which proceeded
to drench us from head to foot. We sat pressed close together. The
people of the farm could scarcely see Albertine in the closed car, I
handed them back their bottles; we moved on again, as though to
continue that private life by ourselves, that lovers' existence which
they might suppose us to lead, and of which this halt for refreshment
had been only an insignificant moment; a supposition that would have
appeared even less far-fetched if they had seen us after Albertine had
drunk her bottle of cider; she seemed then positively unable to endure
the existence of an interval between herself and me which as a rule
did not trouble her; beneath her linen skirt her legs were pressed
against mine, she brought close against my cheeks her own cheeks which
had turned pale, warm and red over the cheekbones, with something
ardent and faded about them such as one sees in girls from the slums.
At such moments, almost as quickly as her personality, her voice
changed also, she forsook her own voice to adopt another, raucous,
bold, almost dissolute. Night began to fall. What a pleasure to feel
her leaning against me, with her toque and her veil, reminding me that
it is always thus, seated side by side, that we meet couples who are
in love. I was perhaps in love with Albertine, but as I did not
venture to let her see my love, although it existed in me, it could
only be like an abstract truth, of no value until one has succeeded in
checking it by experiment; as it was, it seemed to me unrealisable and
outside the plane of life. As for my jealousy, it urged me to leave
Albertine as little as possible, although I knew that it would not be
completely cured until I had parted from her for ever. I could even
feel it in her presence, but would then take care that the
circumstances should not be repeated which had aroused it. Once, for
example, on a fine morning, we went to luncheon at Rivebelle. The
great glazed doors of the dining-room and of that hall in the form of
a corridor in which tea was served stood open revealing the sunlit
lawns beyond, of which the huge restaurant seemed to form a part. The
waiter with the flushed face and black hair that writhed like flames
was flying from end to end of that vast expanse less rapidly than in
the past, for he was no longer an assistant but was now in charge of a
row of tables; nevertheless, owing to his natural activity, sometimes
far off, in the dining-room, at other times nearer, but out of doors,
serving visitors who had preferred to feed in the garden, one caught
sight of him, now here, now there, like successive statues of a young
god running, some in the interior, which for that matter was well
lighted, of a mansion bounded by a vista of green grass, others
beneath the trees, in the bright radiance of an open air life. For a
moment he was close to ourselves. Albertine replied absent-mindedly
to what I had just said to her. She was gazing at him with rounded
eyes. For a minute or two I felt that one may be close to the person
whom one loves and yet not have her with one. They had the appearance
of being engaged in a mysterious conversation, rendered mute by my
presence, and the sequel possibly of meetings in the past of which I
knew nothing, or merely of a glance that he had given her—at which I
was the _terzo incomodo_, from whom the others try to hide things.
Even when, forcibly recalled by his employer, he had withdrawn from
us, Albertine while continuing her meal seemed to be regarding the
restaurant and its gardens merely as a lighted running-track, on which
there appeared here and there amid the varied scenery the swift-foot
god with the black tresses. At one moment I asked myself whether she
was not going to rise up and follow him, leaving me alone at my table.
But in the days that followed I began to forget for ever this painful
impression, for I had decided never to return to Rivebelle, I had
extracted a promise from Albertine, who assured me that she had never
been there before and would never return there. And I denied that the
nimble-footed waiter had had eyes only for her, so that she should not
believe that my company had deprived her of a pleasure. It happened
now and again that I would revisit Rivebelle, but alone, and drink too
much, as I had done there in the past. As I drained a final glass I
gazed at a round pattern painted on the white wall, concentrated upon
it the pleasure that I felt. It alone in the world had any existence
for me; I pursued it, touched it and lost it by turns with my wavering
glance, and felt indifferent to the future, contenting myself with my
painted pattern like a butterfly circling about a poised butterfly
with which it is going to end its life in an act of supreme
consummation. The moment was perhaps particularly well chosen for
giving up a woman whom no very recent or very keen suffering obliged
me to ask for this balm for a malady which they possess who have
caused it. I was calmed by these very drives, which, even if I did not
think of them at the moment save as a foretaste of a morrow which
itself, notwithstanding the longing with which it filled me, was not
to be different from to-day, had the charm of having been torn from
the places which Albertine had frequented hitherto and where I had not
been with her, her aunt's house, those of her girl friends. The charm
not of a positive joy, but only of the calming of an anxiety, and
quite strong nevertheless. For at an interval of a few days, when my
thoughts turned to the farm outside which we had sat drinking cider,
or simply to the stroll we had taken round Saint-Mars le Vêtu,
remembering that Albertine had been walking by my side in her toque,
the sense of her presence added of a sudden so strong a virtue to the
trivial image of the modern church that at the moment when the sunlit
front came thus of its own accord to pose before me in memory, it was
like a great soothing compress laid upon my heart. I dropped Albertine
at Parville, but only to join her again in the evening and lie
stretched out by her side, in the darkness, upon the beach. No doubt I
did not see her every day, still I could say to myself: "If she were
to give an account of how she spent her time, of her life, it would
still be myself that played the largest part in it;" and we spent
together long hours on end which brought into my days so sweet an
intoxication that even when, at Parville, she jumped from the car
which I was to send to fetch her an hour later, I no more felt myself
to be alone in it than if before leaving me she had strewn it with
flowers. I might have dispensed with seeing her every day; I was going
to be happy when I left her, and I knew that the calming effect of
that happiness might be prolonged over many days. But at that moment I
heard Albertine as she left me say to her aunt or to a girl friend:
"Then to-morrow at eight-thirty. We mustn't be late, the others will
be ready at a quarter past." The conversation of a woman one loves is
like the soil that covers a subterranean and dangerous water; one
feels at every moment beneath the words the presence, the penetrating
chill of an invisible pool; one perceives here and there its
treacherous percolation, but the water itself remains hidden. The
moment I heard these words of Albertine, my calm was destroyed. I
wanted to ask her to let me see her the following morning, so as to
prevent her from going to this mysterious rendezvous at half-past
eight which had been mentioned in my presence only in covert terms.
She would no doubt have begun by obeying me, while regretting that she
had to give up her plans; in time she would have discovered my
permanent need to upset them; I should have become the person from
whom one hides everything. Besides, it is probable that these
gatherings from which I was excluded amounted to very little, and that
it was perhaps from the fear that I might find one of the other girls
there vulgar or boring that I was not invited to them. Unfortunately
this life so closely involved with Albertine's had a reaction not only
upon myself; to me it brought calm; to my mother it caused an anxiety,
her confession of which destroyed my calm. As I entered the hotel
happy in my own mind, determined to terminate, one day soon, an
existence the end of which I imagined to depend upon my own volition,
my mother said to me, hearing me send a message to the chauffeur to go
and fetch Albertine: "How you do waste your money." (Françoise in her
simple and expressive language said with greater force: "That's the
way the money goes.") "Try," Mamma went on, "not to become like
Charles de Sévigné, of whom his mother said: 'His hand is a crucible
in which money melts.' Besides, I do really think you have gone about
quite enough with Albertine. I assure you, you're overdoing it, even
to her it may seem ridiculous. I was delighted to think that you found
her a distraction, I am not asking you never to see her again, but
simply that it may not be impossible to meet one of you without the
other." My life with Albertine, a life devoid of keen pleasures—that
is to say of keen pleasures that I could feel—that life which I
intended to change at any moment, choosing a calm interval, became
once again suddenly and for a time necessary to me when, by these
words of Mamma's, it found itself threatened. I told my mother that
what she had just said would delay for perhaps two months the decision
for which she asked, which otherwise I would have reached before the
end of that week. Mamma began to laugh (so as not to depress me) at
this instantaneous effect of her advice, and promised not to speak of
the matter to me again so as not to prevent the rebirth of my good
intentions. But since my grandmother's death, whenever Mamma allowed
herself to laugh, the incipient laugh would be cut short and would end
in an almost heartbroken expression of sorrow, whether from remorse at
having been able for an instant to forget, or else from the
recrudescence which this brief moment of oblivion had given to her
cruel obsession. But to the thoughts aroused in her by the memory of
my grandmother, which was rooted in my mother's mind, I felt that on
this occasion there were added others, relative to myself, to what my
mother dreaded as the sequel of my intimacy with Albertine; an
intimacy to which she dared not, however, put a stop, in view of what
I had just told her. But she did not appear convinced that I was not
mistaken. She remembered all the years in which my grandmother and she
had refrained from speaking to me of my work, and of a more wholesome
rule of life which, I said, the agitation into which their
exhortations threw me alone prevented me from beginning, and which,
notwithstanding their obedient silence, I had failed to pursue. After
dinner the car brought Albertine back; there was still a glimmer of
daylight; the air was not so warm, but after a scorching day we both
dreamed of strange and delicious coolness; then to our fevered eyes
the narrow slip of moon appeared at first (as on the evening when I
had gone to the Princesse de Guermantes's and Albertine had telephoned
to me) like the slight, fine rind, then like the cool section of a
fruit which an invisible knife was beginning to peel in the sky.
Sometimes too, it was I that went in search of my mistress, a little
later in that case; she would be waiting for me before the arcade of
the market at Maineville. At first I could not make her out; I would
begin to fear that she might not be coming, that she had misunderstood
me. Then I saw her in her white blouse with blue spots spring into the
car by my side with the light bound of a young animal rather than a
girl. And it was like a dog too that she began to caress me
interminably. When night had fallen and, as the manager of the hotel
remarked to me, the sky was all 'studied' with stars, if we did not go
for a drive in the forest with a bottle of champagne, then, without
heeding the strangers who were still strolling upon the faintly
lighted front, but who could not have seen anything a yard away on the
dark sand, we would lie down in the shelter of the dunes; that same
body in whose suppleness abode all the feminine, marine and sportive
grace of the girls whom I had seen for the first time pass before a
horizon of waves, I held pressed against my own, beneath the same rug,
by the edge of the motionless sea divided by a tremulous path of
light; and we listened to the sea without tiring and with the same
pleasure, both when it held its breath, suspended for so long that one
thought the reflux would never come, and when at last it gasped out at
our feet the long awaited murmur. Finally I took Albertine back to
Parville. When we reached her house, we were obliged to break off our
kisses for fear lest some one should see us; not wishing to go to bed
she returned with me to Balbec, from where I took her back for the
last time to Parville; the chauffeurs of those early days of the
motor-car were people who went to bed at all hours. And as a matter of
fact I returned to Balbec only with the first dews of morning, alone
this time, but still surrounded with the presence of my mistress,
gorged with an inexhaustible provision of kisses. On my table I would
find a telegram or a postcard. Albertine again! She had written them
at Quetteholme when I had gone off by myself in the car, to tell me
that she was thinking of me. I got into bed as I read them over. Then
I caught sight, over the curtains, of the bright streak of daylight
and said to myself that we must be in love with one another after all,
since we had spent the night in one another's arms. When next morning
I caught sight of Albertine on the front, I was so afraid of her
telling me that she was not free that day, and could not accede to my
request that we should go out together, that I delayed as long as
possible making the request. I was all the more uneasy since she wore
a cold, preoccupied air; people were passing whom she knew; doubtless
she had made plans for the afternoon from which I was excluded. I
looked at her, I looked at that charming body, that blushing head of
Albertine, rearing in front of me the enigma of her intentions, the
unknown decision which was to create the happiness or misery of my
afternoon. It was a whole state of the soul, a whole future existence
that had assumed before my eyes the allegorical and fatal form of a
girl. And when at last I made up my mind, when with the most
indifferent air that I could muster, I asked: "Are we to go out
together now, and again this evening?" and she replied: "With the
greatest pleasure," then the sudden replacement, in the rosy face, of
my long uneasiness by a-delicious sense of ease made even more
precious to me those outlines to which I was perpetually indebted for
the comfort, the relief that we feel after a storm has broken. I
repeated to myself: "How sweet she is, what an adorable creature!" in
an excitement less fertile than that caused by intoxication, scarcely
more profound than that of friendship, but far superior to the
excitement of social life. We cancelled our order for the car only on
the days when there was a dinner-party at the Verdurins' and on those
when, Albertine not being free to go out with me, I took the
opportunity to inform anybody who wished to see me that I should be
remaining at Balbec. I gave Saint-Loup permission to come on these
days, but on these days only. For on one occasion when he had arrived
unexpectedly, I had preferred to forego the pleasure of seeing
Albertine rather than run the risk of his meeting her, than endanger
the state of happy calm in which I had been dwelling for some time and
see my jealousy revive. And I had been at my ease only after
Saint-Loup had gone. And so he pledged himself, with regret, but with
scrupulous observance, never to come to Balbec unless summoned there
by myself. In the past, when I thought with longing of the hours that
Mme. de Guermantes passed in his company, how I valued the privilege
of seeing him! Other people never cease to change places in relation
to ourselves. In the imperceptible but eternal march of the world, we
regard them as motionless in a moment of vision, too short for us to
perceive the motion that is sweeping them on. But we have only to
select in our memory two pictures taken of them at different moments,
close enough together however for them not to have altered in
themselves—perceptibly, that is to say—and the difference between
the two pictures is a measure of the displacement that they have
undergone in relation to us. He alarmed me dreadfully by talking to me
of the Verdurins, I was afraid that he might ask me to take him there,
which would have been quite enough, what with the jealousy that I
should be feeling all the time, to spoil all the pleasure that I found
in going there with Albertine. But fortunately Robert assured me that,
on the contrary, the one thing he desired above all others was not to
know them. "No," he said to me, "I find that sort of clerical
atmosphere maddening." I did not at first understand the application
of the adjective clerical to the Verdurins, but the end of
Saint-Loup's speech threw a light on his meaning, his concessions to
those fashions in words which one is often astonished to see adopted
by intelligent men. "I mean the houses," he said, "where people form a
tribe, a religious order, a chapel. You aren't going to tell me that
they're not a little sect; they're all butter and honey to the people
who belong, no words bad enough for those who don't. The question is
not, as for Hamlet, to be or not to be, but to belong or not to
belong. You belong, my uncle Charlus belongs. I can't help it, I never
have gone in for that sort of thing, it isn't my fault."

I need hardly say that the rule which I had imposed upon Saint-Loup,
never to come and see me unless I had expressly invited him, I
promulgated no less strictly for all and sundry of the persons with
whom I had gradually begun to associate at la Raspelière, Féterne,
Montsurvent, and elsewhere; and when I saw from the hotel the smoke of
the three o'clock train which in the anfractuosity of the cliffs of
Parville left its stable plume which long remained hanging from the
flank of the green slopes, I had no hesitation as to the identity of
the visitor who was coming to tea with me and was still, like a
classical deity, concealed from me by that little cloud. I am obliged
to confess that this visitor, authorised by me beforehand to come, was
hardly ever Saniette, and I have often reproached myself for this
omission. But Saniette's own consciousness of his being a bore (far
more so, naturally, when he came to pay a call than when he told a
story) had the effect that, albeit he was more learned, more
intelligent and a better man all round than most people, it seemed
impossible to feel in his company, I do not say any pleasure, but
anything save an almost intolerable irritation which spoiled one's
whole afternoon. Probably if Saniette had frankly admitted this
boredom which he was afraid of causing, one would not have dreaded his
visits. Boredom is one of the least of the evils that we have to
endure, his boringness existed perhaps only in the imagination of
other people, or had been inoculated into him by them by some process
of suggestion which had taken root in his charming modesty. But he was
so anxious not to let it be seen that he was not sought after, that he
dared not offer himself. Certainly he was right in not behaving like
the people who are so glad to be able to raise their hats in a public
place, that when, not having seen you for years, they catch sight of
you in a box with smart people whom they do not know, they give you a
furtive but resounding good-evening, seeking an excuse in the
pleasure, the emotion that they felt on seeing you, on learning that
you are going about again, that you are looking well, etc. Saniette,
on the contrary, was lacking in courage. He might, at Mme. Verdurin's
or in the little tram, have told me that it would give him great
pleasure to come and see me at Balbec, were he not afraid of
disturbing me. Such a suggestion would not have alarmed me. On the
contrary, he offered nothing, but with a tortured expression on his
face and a stare as indestructible as a fired enamel, into the
composition of which, however, there entered, with a passionate desire
to see one—provided he did not find some one else who was more
entertaining—the determination not to let this desire be manifest,
said to me with a detached air: "You don't happen to know what you
will be doing in the next few days, because I shall probably be
somewhere in the neighbourhood of Balbec? Not that it makes the
slightest difference, I just thought I would ask you." This air
deceived nobody, and the inverse signs whereby we express our
sentiments by their opposites are so clearly legible that we ask
ourselves how there can still be people who say, for instance: "I have
so many invitations that I don't know where to lay my head" to conceal
the fact that they have been invited nowhere. But what was more, this
detached air, probably on account of the heterogeneous elements that
had gone to form it, gave you, what you would never have felt in the
fear of boredom or in a frank admission of the desire to see you, that
is to say that sort of distaste, of repulsion, which in the category
of relations of simple social courtesy corresponds to—in that of
love—the disguised offer made to a lady by the lover whom she does
not love to see her on the following day, he protesting the while that
it does not really matter, or indeed not that offer but an attitude of
false coldness. There emanated at once from Saniette's person
something or other which made you answer him in the tenderest of
tones: "No, unfortunately, this week, I must explain to you...." And I
allowed to call upon me instead people who were a long way his
inferiors but had not his gaze charged with melancholy or his mouth
wrinkled with all the bitterness of all the calls which he longed,
while saying nothing about them, to pay upon this person and that.
Unfortunately it was very rarely that Saniette did not meet in the
'crawler' the guest who was coming to see me, if indeed the latter had
not said to me at the Verdurins': "Don't forget, I'm coming to see you
on Thursday," the very day on which I had just told Saniette that I
should not be at home. So that he came in the end to imagine life as
filled with entertainments arranged behind his back, if not actually
at his expense. On the other hand, as none of us is ever a single
person, this too discreet of men was morbidly indiscreet. On the one
occasion on which he happened to come and see me uninvited, a letter,
I forget from whom, had been left lying on my table. After the first
few minutes, I saw that he was paying only the vaguest attention to
what I was saying. The letter, of whose subject he knew absolutely
nothing, fascinated him and at every moment I expected his glittering
eyeballs to detach themselves from their sockets and fly to the letter
which, of no importance in itself, his curiosity had made magnetic.
You would have called him a bird about to dash into the jaws of a
serpent. Finally he could restrain himself no longer, he began by
altering its position, as though he were trying to tidy my room. This
not sufficing him, he took it up, turned it over, turned it back
again, as though mechanically. Another form of his indiscretion was
that once he had fastened himself to you he could not tear himself
away. As I was feeling unwell that day, I asked him to go back by the
next train, in half-an-hour's time. He did not doubt that I was
feeling unwell, but replied: "I shall stay for an hour and a quarter,
and then I shall go." Since then I have regretted that I did not tell
him, whenever I had an opportunity, to come and see me. Who knows?
Possibly I might have charmed away his ill fortune, other people would
have invited him for whom he would immediately have deserted myself,
so that my invitations would have had the twofold advantage of giving
him pleasure and ridding me of his company.

On the days following those on which I had been 'at home,' I naturally
did not expect any visitors and the motor-car would come to fetch us,
Albertine and myself. And, when we returned, Aimé, on the lowest step
of the hotel, could not help looking, with passionate, curious, greedy
eyes, to see what tip I was giving the chauffeur. It was no use my
enclosing my coin or note in my clenched fist, Aimé's gaze tore my
fingers apart. He turned his head away a moment later, for he was
discreet, well bred, and indeed was himself content with relatively
small wages. But the money that another person received aroused in him
an irrepressible curiosity and made his mouth water. During these
brief moments, he wore the attentive, feverish air of a boy reading
one of Jules Verne's tales, or of a diner seated at a neighbouring
table in a restaurant who, seeing the waiter carving for you a
pheasant which he himself either could not afford or would not order,
abandons for an instant his serious thoughts to fasten upon the bird a
gaze which love and longing cause to smile.

And so, day after day, these excursions in the motor-car followed one
another. But once, as I was being taken up to my room, the lift-boy
said to me: "That gentleman has been, he gave me a message for you."
The lift-boy uttered these words in an almost inaudible voice,
coughing and expectorating in my face. "I haven't half caught cold!"
he went on, as though I were incapable of perceiving this for myself.
"The doctor says it's whooping-cough," and he began once more to cough
and expectorate over me. "Don't tire yourself by trying to speak," I
said to him with an air of kindly interest, which was feigned. I was
afraid of catching the whooping-cough which, with my tendency to
choking fits, would have been a serious matter to me. But he made a
point of honour, like a virtuoso who refuses to let himself be taken
to hospital, of talking and expectorating all the time. "No, it
doesn't matter," he said ("Perhaps not to you," I thought, "but to me
it does"). "Besides, I shall be returning soon to Paris." ("Excellent,
provided he doesn't give it to me first.") "It seems," he went on,
"that Paris is quite superb. It must be even more superb than here or
Monte-Carlo, although pages, in fact visitors, and even head waiters
who have been to Monte-Carlo for the season have often told me that
Paris was not so superb as Monte-Carlo. They were cheated, perhaps,
and yet, to be a head waiter, you've got to have your wits about you;
to take all the orders, reserve tables, you need a head! I've heard it
said that it's even more terrible than writing plays and books." We
had almost reached my landing when the lift-boy carried me down again
to the ground floor because he found that the button was not working
properly, and in a moment had put it right. I told him that I
preferred to walk upstairs, by which I meant, without putting it in so
many words, that I preferred not to catch whooping-cough. But with a
cordial and contagious burst of coughing the boy thrust me back into
the lift. "There's no danger now, I've fixed the button." Seeing that
he was not ceasing to talk, preferring to learn the name of my visitor
and the message that he had left, rather than the comparative beauties
of Balbec, Paris and Monte-Carlo, I said to him (as one might say to a
tenor who is wearying one with Benjamin Godard, "Won't you sing me
some Debussy?") "But who is the person that called to see me?" "It's
the gentleman you went out with yesterday. I am going to fetch his
card, it's with my porter." As, the day before, I had dropped Robert
de Saint-Loup at Doncières station before going to meet Albertine, I
supposed that the lift-boy was referring to him, but it was the
chauffeur. And by describing him in the words: "The gentleman you went
out with," he taught me at the same time that a working man is just as
much a gentleman as a man about town. A lesson in the use of words
only. For in point of fact I had never made any distinction between
the classes. And if I had felt, on hearing a chauffeur called a
gentleman, the same astonishment as Comte X— who had only held that
rank for a week and whom, by saying: "the Comtesse looks tired," I
made turn his head round to see who it was that I meant, it was simply
because I was not familiar with that use of the word; I had never made
any difference between working men, professional men and noblemen, and
I should have been equally ready to make any of them my friends. With
a certain preference for the working men, and after them for the
noblemen, not because I liked them better, but because I knew that one
could expect greater courtesy from them towards the working men than
one finds among professional men, whether because the great nobleman
does not despise the working man as the professional man does or else
because they are naturally polite to anybody, as beautiful women are
glad to bestow a smile which they know to be so joyfully received. I
cannot however pretend that this habit that I had of putting people of
humble station on a level with people in society, even if it was quite
understood by the latter, was always entirely satisfactory to my
mother. Not that, humanly speaking, she made any difference between
one person and another, and if Françoise was ever in sorrow or in pain
she was comforted and tended by Mamma with the same devotion as her
best friend. But my mother was too much my grandmother's daughter not
to accept, in social matters, the rule of caste. People at Combray
might have kind hearts, sensitive natures, might have adopted the most
perfect theories of human equality, my mother, when a footman became
emancipated, began to say 'you' and slipped out of the habit of
addressing me in the third person, was moved by these presumptions to
the same wrath that breaks out in Saint-Simon's _Memoirs_, whenever a
nobleman who is not entitled to it seizes a pretext for assuming the
style of 'Highness' in an official document, or for not paying dukes
the deference he owes to them and is gradually beginning to lay aside.
There was a 'Combray spirit' so refractory that it will require
centuries of good nature (my mother's was boundless), of theories of
equality, to succeed in dissolving it. I cannot swear that in my
mother certain particles of this spirit had not remained insoluble.
She would have been as reluctant to give her hand to a footman as she
would have been ready to give him ten francs (which for that matter he
was far more glad to receive). To her, whether she admitted it or not,
masters were masters, and servants were the people who fed in the
kitchen. When she saw the driver of a motor-car dining with me in the
restaurant, she was not altogether pleased, and said to me: "It seems
to me you might have a more suitable friend than a mechanic," as she
might have said, had it been a question of my marriage: "You might
find somebody better than that." This particular chauffeur
(fortunately I never dreamed of inviting him to dinner) had come to
tell me that the motor-car company which had sent him to Balbec for
the season had ordered him to return to Paris on the following day.
This excuse, especially as the chauffeur was charming and expressed
himself so simply that one would always have taken anything he said
for Gospel, seemed to us to be most probably true. It was only half
so. There was as a matter of fact no more work for him at Balbec. And
in any case, the Company being only half convinced of the veracity of
the young Evangelist, bowed over the consecration cross of his
steering-wheel, was anxious that he should return as soon as possible
to Paris. And indeed if the young Apostle wrought a miracle in
multiplying his mileage when he was calculating it for M. de Charlus,
when on the other hand it was a matter of rendering his account to the
Company, he divided what he had earned by six. In consequence of which
the Company, coming to the conclusion either that nobody wanted a car
now at Balbec, which, so late in the season, was quite probable, or
that it was being robbed, decided that, upon either hypothesis, the
best thing was to recall him to Paris, not that there was very much
work for him there. What the chauffeur wished was to avoid, if
possible, the dead season. I have said—though I was unaware of this
at the time, when the knowledge of it would have saved me much
annoyance—that he was on intimate terms (without their ever shewing
any sign of acquaintance before other people) with Morel. Starting
from the day on which he was ordered back, before he realised that
there was still a way out of going, we were obliged to content
ourselves for our excursions with hiring a carriage, or sometimes, as
an amusement for Albertine and because she was fond of riding, a pair
of saddle-horses. The carriages were unsatisfactory. "What a
rattle-trap," Albertine would say. I would often, as it happened, have
preferred to be driving by myself. Without being ready to fix a date,
I longed to put an end to this existence which I blamed for making me
renounce not so much work as pleasure. It would happen also, however,
that the habits which bound me were suddenly abolished, generally when
some former self, full of the desire to live a merry life, took the
place of what was my self at the moment. I felt this longing to escape
especially strong one day when, having left Albertine at her aunt's, I
had gone on horseback to call on the Verdurins and had taken an
unfrequented path through the woods the beauty of which they had
extolled to me. Clinging to the outline of the cliffs, it alternately
climbed and then, hemmed in by dense woods on either side, dived into
savage gorges. For a moment the barren rocks by which I was
surrounded, the sea visible in their jagged intervals, swam before my
eyes, like fragments of another universe: I had recognised the
mountainous and marine landscape which Elstir had made the scene of
those two admirable water colours: 'Poet meeting a Muse,' 'Young Man
meeting a Centaur' which I had seen at the Duchesse de Guermantes's.
The thought of them transported the place in which I was so far beyond
the world of to-day that I should not have been surprised if, like the
young man of the prehistoric age that Elstir painted, I had in the
course of my ride come upon a mythological personage. Suddenly, my
horse gave a start; he had heard a strange sound; it was all I could
do to hold him and remain in the saddle, then I raised in the
direction from which the sound seemed to come my eyes filled with
tears and saw, not two hundred feet above my head, against the sun,
between two great wings of flashing metal which were carrying him on,
a creature whose barely visible face appeared to me to resemble that
of a man. I was as deeply moved as a Greek upon seeing for the first
time a demigod. I cried also, for I was ready to cry the moment I
realised that the sound came from above my head—aeroplanes were still
rare in those days—at the thought that what I was going to see for
the first time was an aeroplane. Then, just as when in a newspaper one
feels that one is coming to a moving passage, the mere sight of the
machine was enough to make me burst into tears. Meanwhile the airman
seemed to be uncertain of his course; I felt that there lay open
before him—before me, had not habit made me a prisoner—all the
routes in space, in life itself; he flew on, let himself glide for a
few moments, over the sea, then quickly making up his mind, seeming to
yield to some attraction the reverse of gravity, as though returning
to his native element, with a slight movement of his golden wings,
rose sheer into the sky.

To come back to the mechanic, he demanded of Morel that the Verdurins
should not merely replace their break by a motor-car (which, granted
their generosity towards the faithful, was comparatively easy), but,
what was less easy, replace their head coachman, the sensitive young
man who was inclined to dark thoughts, by himself, the chauffeur. This
change was carried out in a few days by the following device. Morel
had begun by seeing that the coachman was robbed of everything that he
needed for the carriage. One day it was the bit that was missing,
another day the curb. At other times it was the cushion of his
box-seat that had vanished, or his whip, his rug, his hammer, sponge,
chamois-leather. But he always managed to borrow what he required from
a neighbour; only he was late in bringing round the carriage, which
put him in M. Verdurin's bad books and plunged him in a state of
melancholy and dark thoughts. The chauffeur, who was in a hurry to
take his place, told Morel that he would have to return to Paris. It
was