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Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

Part 6 out of 9

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smells all right; it makes your head go round; it catches your breath; you
feel ticklish all over--and not the faintest clue to how it's done. The
man's a sorcerer; the thing's a conjuring-trick, it's a miracle," bursting
outright into laughter, "it's dishonest!" Then stopping, solemnly raising
his head, pitching his voice on a double-bass note which he struggled to
bring into harmony, he concluded, "And it's so loyal!"

Except at the moment when he had called it "bigger than the 'Night
Watch,'" a blasphemy which had called forth an instant protest from Mme.
Verdurin, who regarded the 'Night Watch' as the supreme masterpiece of the
universe (conjointly with the 'Ninth' and the 'Samothrace'), and at the
word "excrement," which had made Forcheville throw a sweeping glance round
the table to see whether it was 'all right,' before he allowed his lips to
curve in a prudish and conciliatory smile, all the party (save Swann) had
kept their fascinated and adoring eyes fixed upon the painter.

"I do so love him when he goes up in the air like that!" cried Mme.
Verdurin, the moment that he had finished, enraptured that the table-talk
should have proved so entertaining on the very night that Forcheville was
dining with them for the first time. "Hallo, you!" she turned to her
husband, "what's the matter with you, sitting there gaping like a great
animal? You know, though, don't you," she apologised for him to the
painter, "that he can talk quite well when he chooses; anybody would think
it was the first time he had ever listened to you. If you had only seen
him while you were speaking; he was just drinking it all in. And to-morrow
he will tell us everything you said, without missing a word."

"No, really, I'm not joking!" protested the painter, enchanted by the
success of his speech. "You all look as if you thought I was pulling your
legs, that it was just a trick. I'll take you to see the show, and then
you can say whether I've been exaggerating; I'll bet you anything you
like, you'll come away more 'up in the air' than I am!"

"But we don't suppose for a moment that you're exaggerating; we only want
you to go on with your dinner, and my husband too. Give M. Biche some more
sole, can't you see his has got cold? We're not in any hurry; you're
dashing round as if the house was on fire. Wait a little; don't serve the
salad just yet."

Mme. Cottard, who was a shy woman and spoke but seldom, was not lacking,
for all that, in self-assurance when a happy inspiration put the right
word in her mouth. She felt that it would be well received; the thought
gave her confidence, and what she was doing was done with the object not
so much of shining herself, as of helping her husband on in his career.
And so she did not allow the word 'salad,' which Mme. Verdurin had just
uttered, to pass unchallenged.

"It's not a Japanese salad, is it?" she whispered, turning towards Odette.

And then, in her joy and confusion at the combination of neatness and
daring which there had been in making so discreet and yet so unmistakable
an allusion to the new and brilliantly successful play by Dumas, she broke
down in a charming, girlish laugh, not very loud, but so irresistible that
it was some time before she could control it.

"Who is that lady? She seems devilish clever," said Forcheville.

"No, it is not. But we will have one for you if you will all come to
dinner on Friday."

"You will think me dreadfully provincial, sir," said Mme. Cottard to
Swann, "but, do you know, I haven't been yet to this famous _Francillon_
that everybody's talking about. The Doctor has been (I remember now, he
told me what a very great pleasure it had been to him to spend the evening
with you there) and I must confess, I don't see much sense in spending
money on seats for him to take me, when he's seen the play already. Of
course an evening at the Théâtre-Français is never wasted, really; the
acting's so good there always; but we have some very nice friends," (Mme.
Cottard would hardly ever utter a proper name, but restricted herself to
"some friends of ours" or "one of my friends," as being more
'distinguished,' speaking in an affected tone and with all the importance
of a person who need give names only when she chooses) "who often have a
box, and are kind enough to take us to all the new pieces that are worth
going to, and so I'm certain to see this _Francillon_ sooner or later, and
then I shall know what to think. But I do feel such a fool about it, I
must confess, for, whenever I pay a call anywhere, I find everybody
talking--it's only natural--about that wretched Japanese salad. Really and
truly, one's beginning to get just a little tired of hearing about it,"
she went on, seeing that Swann seemed less interested than she had hoped
in so burning a topic. "I must admit, though, that it's sometimes quite
amusing, the way they joke about it: I've got a friend, now, who is most
original, though she's really a beautiful woman, most popular in society,
goes everywhere, and she tells me that she got her cook to make one of
these Japanese salads, putting in everything that young M. Dumas says
you're to put in, in the play. Then she asked just a few friends to come
and taste it. I was not among the favoured few, I'm sorry to say. But she
told us all about it on her next 'day'; it seems it was quite horrible,
she made us all laugh till we cried. I don't know; perhaps it was the way
she told it," Mme. Cottard added doubtfully, seeing that Swann still
looked grave.

And, imagining that it was, perhaps, because he had not been amused by
_Francillon_: "Well, I daresay I shall be disappointed with it, after all.
I don't suppose it's as good as the piece Mme. de Crécy worships, _Serge
Panine_. There's a play, if you like; so deep, makes you think! But just
fancy giving a receipt for a salad on the stage of the Théâtre-Français!
Now, _Serge Panine_--! But then, it's like everything that comes from the
pen of M. Georges Ohnet, it's so well written. I wonder if you know the
_Maître des Forges_, which I like even better than _Serge Panine_."

"Pardon me," said Swann with polite irony, "but I can assure you that my
want of admiration is almost equally divided between those masterpieces."

"Really, now; that's very interesting. And what don't you like about them?
Won't you ever change your mind? Perhaps you think he's a little too sad.
Well, well, what I always say is, one should never argue about plays or
novels. Everyone has his own way of looking at things, and what may be
horrible to you is, perhaps, just what I like best."

She was interrupted by Forcheville's addressing Swann. What had happened
was that, while Mme. Cottard was discussing _Francillon_, Forcheville had
been expressing to Mme. Verdurin his admiration for what he called the
"little speech" of the painter. "Your friend has such a flow of language,
such a memory!" he had said to her when the painter had come to a
standstill, "I've seldom seen anything like it. He'd make a first-rate
preacher. By Jove, I wish I was like that. What with him and M. Bréchot
you've drawn two lucky numbers to-night; though I'm not so sure that,
simply as a speaker, this one doesn't knock spots off the Professor. It
comes more naturally with him, less like reading from a book. Of course,
the way he goes on, he does use some words that are a bit realistic, and
all that; but that's quite the thing nowadays; anyhow, it's not often I've
seen a man hold the floor as cleverly as that, 'hold the spittoon,' as we
used to say in the regiment, where, by the way, we had a man he rather
reminds me of. You could take anything you liked--I don't know what--this
glass, say; and he'd talk away about it for hours; no, not this glass;
that's a silly thing to say, I'm sorry; but something a little bigger,
like the battle of Waterloo, or anything of that sort, he'd tell you
things you simply wouldn't believe. Why, Swann was in the regiment then;
he must have known him."

"Do you see much of M. Swann?" asked Mme. Verdurin.

"Oh dear, no!" he answered, and then, thinking that if he made himself
pleasant to Swann he might find favour with Odette, he decided to take
this opportunity of flattering him by speaking of his fashionable friends,
but speaking as a man of the world himself, in a tone of good-natured
criticism, and not as though he were congratulating Swann upon some
undeserved good fortune: "Isn't that so, Swann? I never see anything of
you, do I?--But then, where on earth is one to see him? The creature
spends all his time shut up with the La Trémoïlles, with the Laumes and
all that lot!" The imputation would have been false at any time, and was
all the more so, now that for at least a year Swann had given up going to
almost any house but the Verdurins'. But the mere names of families whom
the Verdurins did not know were received by them in a reproachful silence.
M. Verdurin, dreading the painful impression which the mention of these
'bores,' especially when flung at her in this tactless fashion, and in
front of all the 'faithful,' was bound to make on his wife, cast a covert
glance at her, instinct with anxious solicitude. He saw then that in her
fixed resolution to take no notice, to have escaped contact, altogether,
with the news which had just been addressed to her, not merely to remain
dumb but to have been deaf as well, as we pretend to be when a friend who
has been in the wrong attempts to slip into his conversation some excuse
which we should appear to be accepting, should we appear to have heard it
without protesting, or when some one utters the name of an enemy, the very
mention of whom in our presence is forbidden; Mme. Verdurin, so that her
silence should have the appearance, not of consent but of the unconscious
silence which inanimate objects preserve, had suddenly emptied her face of
all life, of all mobility; her rounded forehead was nothing, now, but an
exquisite study in high relief, which the name of those La Trémoïlles,
with whom Swann was always 'shut up,' had failed to penetrate; her nose,
just perceptibly wrinkled in a frown, exposed to view two dark cavities
that were, surely, modelled from life. You would have said that her
half-opened lips were just about to speak. It was all no more, however,
than a wax cast, a mask in plaster, the sculptor's design for a monument,
a bust to be exhibited in the Palace of Industry, where the public would
most certainly gather in front of it and marvel to see how the sculptor,
in expressing the unchallengeable dignity of the Verdurins, as opposed to
that of the La Trémoïlles or Laumes, whose equals (if not, indeed, their
betters) they were, and the equals and betters of all other 'bores' upon
the face of the earth, had managed to invest with a majesty that was
almost Papal the whiteness and rigidity of his stone. But the marble at
last grew animated and let it be understood that it didn't do to be at all
squeamish if one went to that house, since the woman was always tipsy and
the husband so uneducated that he called a corridor a 'collidor'!

"You'd need to pay me a lot of money before I'd let any of that lot set
foot inside my house," Mme. Verdurin concluded, gazing imperially down on

She could scarcely have expected him to capitulate so completely as to
echo the holy simplicity of the pianist's aunt, who at once exclaimed: "To
think of that, now! What surprises me is that they can get anybody to go
near them; I'm sure I should be afraid; one can't be too careful. How can
people be so common as to go running after them?"

But he might, at least, have replied, like Forcheville: "Gad, she's a
duchess; there are still plenty of people who are impressed by that sort
of thing," which would at least have permitted Mme. Verdurin the final
retort, "And a lot of good may it do them!" Instead of which, Swann merely
smiled, in a manner which shewed, quite clearly, that he could not, of
course, take such an absurd suggestion seriously. M. Verdurin, who was
still casting furtive and intermittent glances at his wife, could see with
regret, and could understand only too well that she was now inflamed with
the passion of a Grand Inquisitor who cannot succeed in stamping out a
heresy; and so, in the hope of bringing Swann round to a retractation (for
the courage of one's opinions is always a form of calculating cowardice in
the eyes of the 'other side'), he broke in:

"Tell us frankly, now, what you think of them yourself. We shan't repeat
it to them, you may be sure."

To which Swann answered: "Why, I'm not in the least afraid of the Duchess
(if it is of the La Trémoïlles that you're speaking). I can assure you
that everyone likes going to see her. I don't go so far as to say that
she's at all 'deep'--" he pronounced the word as if it meant something
ridiculous, for his speech kept the traces of certain mental habits which
the recent change in his life, a rejuvenation illustrated by his passion
for music, had inclined him temporarily to discard, so that at times he
would actually state his views with considerable warmth--"but I am quite
sincere when I say that she is intelligent, while her husband is
positively a bookworm. They are charming people."

His explanation was terribly effective; Mme. Verdurin now realised that
this one state of unbelief would prevent her 'little nucleus' from ever
attaining to complete unanimity, and was unable to restrain herself, in
her fury at the obstinacy of this wretch who could not see what anguish
his words were causing her, but cried aloud, from the depths of her
tortured heart, "You may think so if you wish, but at least you need not
say so to us."

"It all depends upon what you call intelligence." Forcheville felt that it
was his turn to be brilliant. "Come now, Swann, tell us what you mean by

"There," cried Odette, "that's one of the big things I beg him to tell me
about, and he never will."

"Oh, but..." protested Swann.

"Oh, but nonsense!" said Odette.

"A water-butt?" asked the Doctor.

"To you," pursued Forcheville, "does intelligence mean what they call
clever talk; you know, the sort of people who worm their way into

"Finish your sweet, so that they can take your plate away!" said Mme.
Verdurin sourly to Saniette, who was lost in thought and had stopped
eating. And then, perhaps a little ashamed of her rudeness, "It doesn't
matter; take your time about it; there's no hurry; I only reminded you
because of the others, you know; it keeps the servants back."

"There is," began Brichot, with a resonant smack upon every syllable, "a
rather curious definition of intelligence by that pleasing old anarchist

"Just listen to this!" Mme. Verdurin rallied Forcheville and the Doctor.
"He's going to give us Fénelon's definition of intelligence. That's
interesting. It's not often you get a chance of hearing that!"

But Brichot was keeping Fénelon's definition until Swann should have given
his own. Swann remained silent, and, by this fresh act of recreancy,
spoiled the brilliant tournament of dialectic which Mme. Verdurin was
rejoicing at being able to offer to Forcheville.

"You see, it's just the same as with me!" Odette was peevish. "I'm not at
all sorry to see that I'm not the only one he doesn't find quite up to his

"These de La Trémouailles whom Mme. Verdurin has exhibited to us as so
little to be desired," inquired Brichot, articulating vigorously, "are
they, by any chance, descended from the couple whom that worthy old snob,
Sévigné, said she was delighted to know, because it was so good for her
peasants? True, the Marquise had another reason, which in her case
probably came first, for she was a thorough journalist at heart, and
always on the look-out for 'copy.' And, in the journal which she used to
send regularly to her daughter, it was Mme. de La Trémouaille, kept
well-informed through all her grand connections, who supplied the foreign

"Oh dear, no. I'm quite sure they aren't the same family," said Mme.
Verdurin desperately.

Saniette who, ever since he had surrendered his untouched plate to the
butler, had been plunged once more in silent meditation, emerged finally
to tell them, with a nervous laugh, a story of how he had once dined with
the Duc de La Trémoïlle, the point of which was that the Duke did not know
that George Sand was the pseudonym of a woman. Swann, who really liked
Saniette, felt bound to supply him with a few facts illustrative of the
Duke's culture, which would prove that such ignorance on his part was
literally impossible; but suddenly he stopped short; he had realised, as
he was speaking, that Saniette needed no proof, but knew already that the
story was untrue for the simple reason that he had at that moment invented
it. The worthy man suffered acutely from the Verdurins' always finding him
so dull; and as he was conscious of having been more than ordinarily
morose this evening, he had made up his mind that he would succeed in
being amusing, at least once, before the end of dinner. He surrendered so
quickly, looked so wretched at the sight of his castle in ruins, and
replied in so craven a tone to Swann, appealing to him not to persist in a
refutation which was already superfluous, "All right; all right; anyhow,
even if I have made a mistake that's not a crime, I hope," that Swann
longed to be able to console him by insisting that the story was
indubitably true and exquisitely funny. The Doctor, who had been
listening, had an idea that it was the right moment to interject "_Se non
è vero_," but he was not quite certain of the words, and was afraid of
being caught out.

After dinner, Forcheville went up to the Doctor. "She can't have been at
all bad looking, Mme. Verdurin; anyhow, she's a woman you can really talk
to; that's all I want. Of course she's getting a bit broad in the beam.
But Mme. de Crécy! There's a little woman who knows what's what, all
right. Upon my word and soul, you can see at a glance she's got the
American eye, that girl has. We are speaking of Mme. de Crécy," he
explained, as M. Verdurin joined them, his pipe in his mouth. "I should
say that, as a specimen of the female form--"

"I'd rather have it in my bed than a clap of thunder!" the words came
tumbling from Cottard, who had for some time been waiting in vain until
Forcheville should pause for breath, so that he might get in his hoary old
joke, a chance for which might not, he feared, come again, if the
conversation should take a different turn; and he produced it now with
that excessive spontaneity and confidence which may often be noticed
attempting to cover up the coldness, and the slight flutter of emotion,
inseparable from a prepared recitation. Forcheville knew and saw the joke,
and was thoroughly amused. As for M. Verdurin, he was unsparing of his
merriment, having recently discovered a way of expressing it by a symbol,
different from his wife's, but equally simple and obvious. Scarcely had he
begun the movement of head and shoulders of a man who was 'shaking with
laughter' than he would begin also to cough, as though, in laughing too
violently, he had swallowed a mouthful of smoke from his pipe. And by
keeping the pipe firmly in his mouth he could prolong indefinitely the
dumb-show of suffocation and hilarity. So he and Mme. Verdurin (who, at
the other side of the room, where the painter was telling her a story, was
shutting her eyes preparatory to flinging her face into her hands)
resembled two masks in a theatre, each representing Comedy, but in a
different way.

M. Verdurin had been wiser than he knew in not taking his pipe out of his
mouth, for Cottard, having occasion to leave the room for a moment,
murmured a witty euphemism which he had recently acquired and repeated now
whenever he had to go to the place in question: "I must just go and see
the Duc d'Aumale for a minute," so drolly, that M. Verdurin's cough began
all over again.

"Now, then, take your pipe out of your mouth; can't you see, you'll choke
if you try to bottle up your laughter like that," counselled Mme.
Verdurin, as she came round with a tray of liqueurs.

"What a delightful man your husband is; he has the wit of a dozen!"
declared Forcheville to Mme. Cottard. "Thank you, thank you, an old
soldier like me can never say 'No' to a drink."

"M. de Forcheville thinks Odette charming," M. Verdurin told his wife.

"Why, do you know, she wants so much to meet you again some day at
luncheon. We must arrange it, but don't on any account let Swann hear
about it. He spoils everything, don't you know. I don't mean to say that
you're not to come to dinner too, of course; we hope to see you very
often. Now that the warm weather's coming, we're going to have dinner out
of doors whenever we can. That won't bore you, will it, a quiet little
dinner, now and then, in the Bois? Splendid, splendid, that will be quite
delightful. ...

"Aren't you going to do any work this evening, I say?" she screamed
suddenly to the little pianist, seeing an opportunity for displaying,
before a 'newcomer' of Forcheville's importance, at once her unfailing wit
and her despotic power over the 'faithful.'

"M. de Forcheville was just going to say something dreadful about you,"
Mme. Cottard warned her husband as he reappeared in the room. And he,
still following up the idea of Forcheville's noble birth, which had
obsessed him all through dinner, began again with: "I am treating a
Baroness just now, Baroness Putbus; weren't there some Putbuses in the
Crusades? Anyhow they've got a lake in Pomerania that's ten times the size
of the Place de la Concorde. I am treating her for dry arthritis; she's a
charming woman. Mme. Verdurin knows her too, I believe."

Which enabled Forcheville, a moment later, finding himself alone with Mme.
Cottard, to complete his favourable verdict on her husband with: "He's an
interesting man, too; you can see that he knows some good people. Gad! but
they get to know a lot of things, those doctors."

"D'you want me to play the phrase from the sonata for M. Swann?" asked the

"What the devil's that? Not the sonata-snake, I hope!" shouted M. de
Forcheville, hoping to create an effect. But Dr. Cottard, who had never
heard this pun, missed the point of it, and imagined that M. de
Forcheville had made a mistake. He dashed in boldly to correct it: "No,
no. The word isn't _serpent-à-sonates_, it's _serpent-à-sonnettes_!" he
explained in a tone at once zealous, impatient, and triumphant.

Forcheville explained the joke to him. The Doctor blushed.

"You'll admit it's not bad, eh, Doctor?"

"Oh! I've known it for ages."

Then they were silenced; heralded by the waving tremolo of the
violin-part, which formed a bristling bodyguard of sound two octaves above
it--and as in a mountainous country, against the seeming immobility of a
vertically falling torrent, one may distinguish, two hundred feet below,
the tiny form of a woman walking in the valley--the little phrase had just
appeared, distant but graceful, protected by the long, gradual unfurling
of its transparent, incessant and sonorous curtain. And Swann, in his
heart of hearts, turned to it, spoke to it as to a confidant in the secret
of his love, as to a friend of Odette who would assure him that he need
pay no attention to this Forcheville.

"Ah! you've come too late!" Mme. Verdurin greeted one of the 'faithful,'
whose invitation had been only 'to look in after dinner,' "we've been
having a simply incomparable Brichot! You never heard such eloquence! But
he's gone. Isn't that so, M. Swann? I believe it's the first time you've
met him," she went on, to emphasize the fact that it was to her that Swann
owed the introduction. "Isn't that so; wasn't he delicious, our Brichot?"

Swann bowed politely.

"No? You weren't interested?" she asked dryly.

"Oh, but I assure you, I was quite enthralled. He is perhaps a little too
peremptory, a little too jovial for my taste. I should like to see him a
little less confident at times, a little more tolerant, but one feels that
he knows a great deal, and on the whole he seems a very sound fellow."

The party broke up very late. Cottard's first words to his wife were: "I
have rarely seen Mme. Verdurin in such form as she was to-night."

"What exactly is your Mme. Verdurin? A bit of a bad hat, eh?" said
Forcheville to the painter, to whom he had offered a 'lift.' Odette
watched his departure with regret; she dared not refuse to let Swann take
her home, but she was moody and irritable in the carriage, and, when he
asked whether he might come in, replied, "I suppose so," with an impatient
shrug of her shoulders. When they had all gone, Mme. Verdurin said to her
husband: "Did you notice the way Swann laughed, such an idiotic laugh,
when we spoke about Mme. La Trémoïlle?"

She had remarked, more than once, how Swann and Forcheville suppressed the
particle 'de' before that lady's name. Never doubting that it was done on
purpose, to shew that they were not afraid of a title, she had made up her
mind to imitate their arrogance, but had not quite grasped what
grammatical form it ought to take. Moreover, the natural corruptness of
her speech overcoming her implacable republicanism, she still said
instinctively "the de La Trémoïlles," or, rather (by an abbreviation
sanctified by the usage of music-hall singers and the writers of the
'captions' beneath caricatures, who elide the 'de'), "the d'La
Trémoïlles," but she corrected herself at once to "Madame La
Trémoïlle.--The _Duchess_, as Swann calls her," she added ironically, with
a smile which proved that she was merely quoting, and would not, herself,
accept the least responsibility for a classification so puerile and

"I don't mind saying that I thought him extremely stupid."

M. Verdurin took it up. "He's not sincere. He's a crafty customer, always
hovering between one side and the other. He's always trying to run with
the hare and hunt with the hounds. What a difference between him and
Forcheville. There, at least, you have a man who tells you straight out
what he thinks. Either you agree with him or you don't. Not like the other
fellow, who's never definitely fish or fowl. Did you notice, by the way,
that Odette seemed all out for Forcheville, and I don't blame her, either.
And then, after all, if Swann tries to come the man of fashion over us,
the champion of distressed Duchesses, at any rate the other man has got a
title; he's always Comte de Forcheville!" he let the words slip delicately
from his lips, as though, familiar with every page of the history of that
dignity, he were making a scrupulously exact estimate of its value, in
relation to others of the sort.

"I don't mind saying," Mme. Verdurin went on, "that he saw fit to utter
some most venomous, and quite absurd insinuations against Brichot.
Naturally, once he saw that Brichot was popular in this house, it was a
way of hitting back at us, of spoiling our party. I know his sort, the
dear, good friend of the family, who pulls you all to pieces on the stairs
as he's going away."

"Didn't I say so?" retorted her husband. "He's simply a failure; a poor
little wretch who goes through life mad with jealousy of anything that's
at all big."

Had the truth been known, there was not one of the 'faithful' who was not
infinitely more malicious than Swann; but the others would all take the
precaution of tempering their malice with obvious pleasantries, with
little sparks of emotion and cordiality; while the least indication of
reserve on Swann's part, undraped in any such conventional formula as "Of
course, I don't want to say anything--" to which he would have scorned to
descend, appeared to them a deliberate act of treachery. There are certain
original and distinguished authors in whom the least 'freedom of speech'
is thought revolting because they have not begun by flattering the public
taste, and serving up to it the commonplace expressions to which it is
used; it was by the same process that Swann infuriated M. Verdurin. In
his case as in theirs it was the novelty of his language which led his
audience to suspect the blackness of his designs.

Swann was still unconscious of the disgrace that threatened him at the
Verdurins', and continued to regard all their absurdities in the most rosy
light, through the admiring eyes of love.

As a rule he made no appointments with Odette except for the evenings; he
was afraid of her growing tired of him if he visited her during the day as
well; at the same time he was reluctant to forfeit, even for an hour, the
place that he held in her thoughts, and so was constantly looking out for
an opportunity of claiming her attention, in any way that would not be
displeasing to her. If, in a florist's or a jeweller's window, a plant or
an ornament caught his eye, he would at once think of sending them to
Odette, imagining that the pleasure which the casual sight of them had
given him would instinctively be felt, also, by her, and would increase
her affection for himself; and he would order them to be taken at once to
the Rue La pérouse, so as to accelerate the moment in which, as she
received an offering from him, he might feel himself, in a sense,
transported into her presence. He was particularly anxious, always, that
she should receive these presents before she went out for the evening, so
that her sense of gratitude towards him might give additional tenderness
to her welcome when he arrived at the Verdurins', might even--for all he
knew--if the shopkeeper made haste, bring him a letter from her before
dinner, or herself, in person, upon his doorstep, come on a little
extraordinary visit of thanks. As in an earlier phase, when he had
experimented with the reflex action of anger and contempt upon her
character, he sought now by that of gratification to elicit from her fresh
particles of her intimate feelings, which she had never yet revealed.

Often she was embarrassed by lack of money, and under pressure from a
creditor would come to him for assistance. He enjoyed this, as he enjoyed
everything which could impress Odette with his love for herself, or merely
with his influence, with the extent of the use that she might make of him.
Probably if anyone had said to him, at the beginning, "It's your position
that attracts her," or at this stage, "It's your money that she's really
in love with," he would not have believed the suggestion, nor would he
have been greatly distressed by the thought that people supposed her to be
attached to him, that people felt them, to be united by any ties so
binding as those of snobbishness or wealth. But even if he had accepted
the possibility, it might not have caused him any suffering to discover
that Odette's love for him was based on a foundation more lasting than
mere affection, or any attractive qualities which she might have found in
him; on a sound, commercial interest; an interest which would postpone for
ever the fatal day on which she might be tempted to bring their relations
to an end. For the moment, while he lavished presents upon her, and
performed all manner of services, he could rely on advantages not
contained in his person, or in his intellect, could forego the endless,
killing effort to make himself attractive. And this delight in being a
lover, in living by love alone, of the reality of which he was inclined to
be doubtful, the price which, in the long run, he must pay for it, as a
dilettante in immaterial sensations, enhanced its value in his eyes--as
one sees people who are doubtful whether the sight of the sea and the
sound of its waves are really enjoyable, become convinced that they
are, as also of the rare quality and absolute detachment of their own
taste, when they have agreed to pay several pounds a day for a room in an
hotel, from which that sight and that sound may be enjoyed.

One day, when reflections of this order had brought him once again to the
memory of the time when some one had spoken to him of Odette as of a
'kept' woman, and when, once again, he had amused himself with contrasting
that strange personification, the 'kept' woman--an iridescent mixture of
unknown and demoniacal qualities, embroidered, as in some fantasy of
Gustave Moreau, with poison-dripping flowers, interwoven with precious
jewels--with that Odette upon whose face he had watched the passage of the
same expressions of pity for a sufferer, resentment of an act of
injustice, gratitude for an act of kindness, which he had seen, in earlier
days, on his own mother's face, and on the faces of friends; that Odette,
whose conversation had so frequently turned on the things that he himself
knew better than anyone, his collections, his room, his old servant, his
banker, who kept all his title-deeds and bonds;--the thought of the banker
reminded him that he must call on him shortly, to draw some money. And
indeed, if, during the current month, he were to come less liberally to
the aid of Odette in her financial difficulties than in the month before,
when he had given her five thousand francs, if he refrained from offering
her a diamond necklace for which she longed, he would be allowing her
admiration for his generosity to decline, that gratitude which had made
him so happy, and would even be running the risk of her imagining that his
love for her (as she saw its visible manifestations grow fewer) had itself
diminished. And then, suddenly, he asked himself whether that was not
precisely what was implied by 'keeping' a woman (as if, in fact, that idea
of 'keeping' could be derived from elements not at all mysterious nor
perverse, but belonging to the intimate routine of his daily life, such as
that thousand-franc note, a familiar and domestic object, torn in places
and mended with gummed paper, which his valet, after paying the household
accounts and the rent, had locked up hi a drawer in the old writing-desk
whence he had extracted it to send it, with four others, to Odette) and
whether it was not possible to apply to Odette, since he had known her
(for he never imagined for a moment that she could ever have taken a penny
from anyone else, before), that title, which he had believed so wholly
inapplicable to her, of 'kept' woman. He could not explore the idea
further, for a sudden access of that mental lethargy which was, with him,
congenital, intermittent and providential, happened, at that moment, to
extinguish every particle of light in his brain, as instantaneously as, at
a later period, when electric lighting had been everywhere installed, it
became possible, merely by fingering a switch, to cut off all the supply
of light from a house. His mind fumbled, for a moment, in the darkness,
he took off his spectacles, wiped the glasses, passed his hands over his
eyes, but saw no light until he found himself face to face with a wholly
different idea, the realisation that he must endeavour, in the coming
month, to send Odette six or seven thousand-franc notes instead of five,
simply as a surprise for her and to give her pleasure.

In the evening, when he did not stay at home until it was time to meet
Odette at the Verdurins', or rather at one of the open-air restaurants
which they liked to frequent in the Bois and especially at Saint-Cloud, he
would go to dine in one of those fashionable houses in which, at one time,
he had been a constant guest. He did not wish to lose touch with people
who, for all that he knew, might be of use, some day, to Odette, and
thanks to whom he was often, in the meantime, able to procure for her some
privilege or pleasure. Besides, he had been used for so long to the
refinement and comfort of good society that, side by side with his
contempt, there had grown up also a desperate need for it, with the result
that, when he had reached the point after which the humblest lodgings
appeared to him as precisely on a par with the most princely mansions, his
senses were so thoroughly accustomed to the latter that he could not enter
the former without a feeling of acute discomfort. He had the same
regard--to a degree of identity which they would never have suspected--for
the little families with small incomes who asked him to dances in their
flats ("straight upstairs to the fifth floor, and the door on the left")
as for the Princesse de Parme, who gave the most splendid parties in
Paris; but he had not the feeling of being actually 'at the ball' when he
found himself herded with the fathers of families in the bedroom of the
lady of the house, while the spectacle of wash-hand-stands covered over
with towels, and of beds converted into cloak-rooms, with a mass of hats
and great-coats sprawling over their counterpanes, gave him the same
stifling sensation that, nowadays, people who have been used for half a
lifetime to electric light derive from a smoking lamp or a candle that
needs to be snuffed. If he were dining out, he would order his carriage
for half-past seven; while he changed his clothes, he would be wondering,
all the time, about Odette, and in this way was never alone, for the
constant thought of Odette gave to the moments in which he was separated
from her the same peculiar charm as to those in which she was at his side.
He would get into his carriage and drive off, but he knew that this
thought had jumped in after him and had settled down upon his knee, like a
pet animal which he might take everywhere, and would keep with him at the
dinner-table, unobserved by his fellow-guests. He would stroke and fondle
it, warm himself with it, and, as a feeling of languor swept over him,
would give way to a slight shuddering movement which contracted his throat
and nostrils--a new experience, this,--as he fastened the bunch of
columbines in his buttonhole. He had for some time been feeling neither
well nor happy, especially since Odette had brought Forcheville to the
Verdurins', and he would have liked to go away for a while to rest in the
country. But he could never summon up courage to leave Paris, even for a
day, while Odette was there. The weather was warm; it was the finest part
of the spring. And for all that he was driving through a city of stone to
immure himself in a house without grass or garden, what was incessantly
before his eyes was a park which he owned, near Combray, where, at four in
the afternoon, before coming to the asparagus-bed, thanks to the breeze
that was wafted across the fields from Méséglise, he could enjoy the
fragrant coolness of the air as well beneath an arbour of hornbeams in the
garden as by the bank of the pond, fringed with forget-me-not and iris;
and where, when he sat down to dinner, trained and twined by the
gardener's skilful hand, there ran all about his table currant-bush and

After dinner, if he had an early appointment in the Bois or at
Saint-Cloud, he would rise from table and leave the house so
abruptly--especially if it threatened to rain, and so to scatter the
'faithful' before their normal time--that on one occasion the Princesse
des Laumes (at whose house dinner had been so late that Swann had left
before the coffee came in, to join the Verdurins on the Island in the
Bois) observed:

"Really, if Swann were thirty years older, and had diabetes, there might
be some excuse for his running away like that. He seems to look upon us
all as a joke."

He persuaded himself that the spring-time charm, which he could not go
down to Combray to enjoy, he would find at least on the He des Cygnes or
at Saint-Cloud. But as he could think only of Odette, he would return home
not knowing even if he had tasted the fragrance of the young leaves, or if
the moon had been shining. He would be welcomed by the little phrase from
the sonata, played in the garden on the restaurant piano. If there was
none in the garden, the Verdurins would have taken immense pains to have a
piano brought out either from a private room or from the restaurant
itself; not because Swann was now restored to favour; far from it. But the
idea of arranging an ingenious form of entertainment for some one, even
for some one whom they disliked, would stimulate them, during the time
spent in its preparation, to a momentary sense of cordiality and
affection. Now and then he would remind himself that another fine spring
evening was drawing to a close, and would force himself to notice the
trees and the sky. But the state of excitement into which Odette's
presence never failed to throw him, added to a feverish ailment which, for
some time now, had scarcely left him, robbed him of that sense of quiet
and comfort which is an indispensable background to the impressions that
we derive from nature.

One evening, when Swann had consented to dine with the Verdurins, and had
mentioned during dinner that he had to attend, next day, the annual
banquet of an old comrades' association, Odette had at once exclaimed
across the table, in front of everyone, in front of Forcheville, who was
now one of the 'faithful,' in front of the painter, in front of Cottard:

"Yes, I know, you have your banquet to-morrow; I sha'n't see you, then,
till I get home; don't be too late."

And although Swann had never yet taken offence, at all seriously, at
Odette's demonstrations of friendship for one or other of the 'faithful,'
he felt an exquisite pleasure on hearing her thus avow, before them all,
with that calm immodesty, the fact that they saw each other regularly
every evening, his privileged position in her house, and her own
preference for him which it implied. It was true that Swann had often
reflected that Odette was in no way a remarkable woman; and in the
supremacy which he wielded over a creature so distinctly inferior to
himself there was nothing that especially flattered him when he heard it
proclaimed to all the 'faithful'; but since he had observed that, to
several other men than himself, Odette seemed a fascinating and desirable
woman, the attraction which her body held for him had aroused a painful
longing to secure the absolute mastery of even the tiniest particles of
her heart. And he had begun to attach an incalculable value to those
moments passed in her house in the evenings, when he held her upon his
knee, made her tell him what she thought about this or that, and counted
over that treasure to which, alone of all his earthly possessions, he
still clung. And so, after this dinner, drawing her aside, he took care to
thank her effusively, seeking to indicate to her by the extent of his
gratitude the corresponding intensity of the pleasures which it was in her
power to bestow on him, the supreme pleasure being to guarantee him
immunity, for as long as his love should last and he remain vulnerable,
from the assaults of jealousy.

When he came away from his banquet, the next evening, it was pouring rain,
and he had nothing but his victoria. A friend offered to take him home in
a closed carriage, and as Odette, by the fact of her having invited him to
come, had given him an assurance that she was expecting no one else, he
could, with a quiet mind and an untroubled heart, rather than set off thus
in the rain, have gone home and to bed. But perhaps, if she saw that he
seemed not to adhere to his resolution to end every evening, without
exception, in her company, she might grow careless, and fail to keep free
for him just the one evening on which he particularly desired it.

It was after eleven when he reached her door, and as he made his apology
for having been unable to come away earlier, she complained that it was
indeed very late; the storm had made her unwell, her head ached, and she
warned him that she would not let him stay longer than half an hour, that
at midnight she would send him away; a little while later she felt tired
and wished to sleep.

"No cattleya, then, to-night?" he asked, "and I've been looking forward so
to a nice little cattleya."

But she was irresponsive; saying nervously: "No, dear, no cattleya
tonight. Can't you see, I'm not well?"

"It might have done you good, but I won't bother you."

She begged him to put out the light before he went; he drew the curtains
close round her bed and left her. But, when he was in his own house again,
the idea suddenly struck him that, perhaps, Odette was expecting some one
else that evening, that she had merely pretended to be tired, that she had
asked him to put the light out only so that he should suppose that she was
going to sleep, that the moment he had left the house she had lighted it
again, and had reopened her door to the stranger who was to be her guest
for the night. He looked at his watch. It was about an hour and a half
since he had left her; he went out, took a cab, and stopped it close to
her house, in a little street running at right angles to that other
street, which lay at the back of her house, and along which he used to go,
sometimes, to tap upon her bedroom window, for her to let him in. He left
his cab; the streets were all deserted and dark; he walked a few yards and
came out almost opposite her house. Amid the glimmering blackness of all
the row of windows, the lights in which had long since been put out, he
saw one, and only one, from which overflowed, between the slats of its
shutters, dosed like a wine-press over its mysterious golden juice, the
light that filled the room within, a light which on so many evenings, as
soon as he saw it, far off, as he turned into the street, had rejoiced his
heart with its message: "She is there--expecting you," and now tortured
him with: "She is there with the man she was expecting." He must know who;
he tiptoed along by the wall until he reached the window, but between the
slanting bars of the shutters he could see nothing; he could hear, only,
in the silence of the night, the murmur of conversation. What agony he
suffered as he watched that light, in whose golden atmosphere were moving,
behind the closed sash, the unseen and detested pair, as he listened to
that murmur which revealed the presence of the man who had crept in after
his own departure, the perfidy of Odette, and the pleasures which she was
at that moment tasting with the stranger.

And yet he was not sorry that he had come; the torment which had forced
him to leave his own house had lost its sharpness when it lost its
uncertainty, now that Odette's other life, of which he had had, at that
first moment, a sudden helpless suspicion, was definitely there, almost
within his grasp, before his eyes, in the full glare of the lamp-light,
caught and kept there, an unwitting prisoner, in that room into which,
when he would, he might force his way to surprise and seize it; or rather
he would tap upon the shutters, as he had often done when he had come
there very late, and by that signal Odette would at least learn that he
knew, that he had seen the light and had heard the voices; while he
himself, who a moment ago had been picturing her as laughing at him, as
sharing with that other the knowledge of how effectively he had been
tricked, now it was he that saw them, confident and persistent in their
error, tricked and trapped by none other than himself, whom they believed
to be a mile away, but who was there, in person, there with a plan, there
with the knowledge that he was going, in another minute, to tap upon the
shutter. And, perhaps, what he felt (almost an agreeable feeling) at that
moment was something more than relief at the solution of a doubt, at the
soothing of a pain; was an intellectual pleasure. If, since he had fallen
in love, things had recovered a little of the delicate attraction that
they had had for him long ago--though only when a light was shed upon them
by a thought, a memory of Odette--now it was another of the faculties,
prominent in the studious days of his youth, that Odette had quickened
with new life, the passion for truth, but for a truth which, too, was
interposed between himself and his mistress, receiving its light from her
alone, a private and personal truth the sole object of which (an
infinitely precious object, and one almost impersonal in its absolute
beauty) was Odette--Odette in her activities, her environment, her
projects, and her past. At every other period in his life, the little
everyday words and actions of another person had always seemed wholly
valueless to Swann; if gossip about such things were repeated to him, he
would dismiss it as insignificant, and while he listened it was only the
lowest, the most commonplace part of his mind that was interested; at such
moments he felt utterly dull and uninspired. But in this strange phase of
love the personality of another person becomes so enlarged, so deepened,
that the curiosity which he could now feel aroused in himself, to know the
least details of a woman's daily occupation, was the same thirst for
knowledge with which he had once studied history. And all manner of
actions, from which, until now, he would have recoiled in shame, such as
spying, to-night, outside a window, to-morrow, for all he knew, putting
adroitly provocative questions to casual witnesses, bribing servants,
listening at doors, seemed to him, now, to be precisely on a level with
the deciphering of manuscripts, the weighing of evidence, the
interpretation of old monuments, that was to say, so many different
methods of scientific investigation, each one having a definite
intellectual value and being legitimately employable in the search for

As his hand stole out towards the shutters he felt a pang of shame at the
thought that Odette would now know that he had suspected her, that he had
returned, that he had posted himself outside her window. She had often
told him what a horror she had of jealous men, of lovers who spied. What
he was going to do would be extremely awkward, and she would detest him
for ever after, whereas now, for the moment, for so long as he refrained
from knocking, perhaps even in the act of infidelity, she loved him still.
How often is not the prospect of future happiness thus sacrificed to one's
impatient insistence upon an immediate gratification. But his desire to
know the truth was stronger, and seemed to him nobler than his desire for
her. He knew that the true story of certain events, which he would have
given his life to be able to reconstruct accurately and in full, was to be
read within that window, streaked with bars of light, as within the
illuminated, golden boards of one of those precious manuscripts, by whose
wealth of artistic treasures the scholar who consults them cannot remain
unmoved. He yearned for the satisfaction of knowing the truth which so
impassioned him in that brief, fleeting, precious transcript, on that
translucent page, so warm, so beautiful. And besides, the advantage which
he felt--which he so desperately wanted to feel--that he had over them,
lay perhaps not so much in knowing as in being able to shew them that he
knew. He drew himself up on tiptoe. He knocked. They had not heard; he
knocked again; louder; their conversation ceased. A man's voice--he
strained his ears to distinguish whose, among such of Odette's friends as
he knew, the voice could be--asked:

"Who's that?"

He could not be certain of the voice. He knocked once again. The window
first, then the shutters were thrown open. It was too late, now, to
retire, and since she must know all, so as not to seem too contemptible,
too jealous and inquisitive, he called out in a careless, hearty,
welcoming tone:

"Please don't bother; I just happened to be passing, and saw the light. I
wanted to know if you were feeling better."

He looked up. Two old gentlemen stood facing him, in the window, one of
them with a lamp in his hand; and beyond them he could see into the room,
a room that he had never seen before. Having fallen into the habit, When
he came late to Odette, of identifying her window by the fact that it was
the only one still lighted in a row of windows otherwise all alike, he had
been misled, this time, by the light, and had knocked at the window beyond
hers, in the adjoining house. He made what apology he could and hurried
home, overjoyed that the satisfaction of his curiosity had preserved their
love intact, and that, having feigned for so long, when in Odette's
company, a sort of indifference, he had not now, by a demonstration of
jealousy, given her that proof of the excess of his own passion which, in
a pair of lovers, fully and finally dispenses the recipient from the
obligation to love the other enough. He never spoke to her of this
misadventure, he ceased even to think of it himself. But now and then his
thoughts in their wandering course would come upon this memory where it
lay unobserved, would startle it into life, thrust it more deeply down
into his consciousness, and leave him aching with a sharp, far-rooted
pain. As though this had been a bodily pain, Swann's mind was powerless to
alleviate it; in the case of bodily pain, however, since it is independent
of the mind, the mind can dwell upon it, can note that it has diminished,
that it has momentarily ceased. But with this mental pain, the mind,
merely by recalling it, created it afresh. To determine not to think of it
was but to think of it still, to suffer from it still. And when, in
conversation with his friends, he forgot his sufferings, suddenly a word
casually uttered would make him change countenance as a wounded man does
when a clumsy hand has touched his aching limb. When he came away from
Odette, he was happy, he felt calm, he recalled the smile with which, in
gentle mockery, she had spoken to him of this man or of that, a smile
which was all tenderness for himself; he recalled the gravity of her head
which she seemed to have lifted from its axis to let it droop and fall, as
though against her will, upon his lips, as she had done on that first
evening in the carriage; her languishing gaze at him while she lay
nestling in his arms, her bended head seeming to recede between her
shoulders, as though shrinking from the cold.

But then, at once, his jealousy, as it had been the shadow of his love,
presented him with the complement, with the converse of that new smile
with which she had greeted him that very evening,--with which, now,
perversely, she was mocking Swann while she tendered her love to another
--of that lowering of her head, but lowered now to fall on other lips, and
(but bestowed upon a stranger) of all the marks of affection that she had
shewn to him. And all these voluptuous memories which he bore away from
her house were, as one might say, but so many sketches, rough plans, like
the schemes of decoration which a designer submits to one in outline,
enabling Swann to form an idea of the various attitudes, aflame or faint
with passion, which she was capable of adopting for others. With the
result that he came to regret every pleasure that he tasted in her
company, every new caress that he invented (and had been so imprudent as
to point out to her how delightful it was), every fresh charm that he
found in her, for he knew that, a moment later, they would go to enrich
the collection of instruments in his secret torture-chamber.

A fresh turn was given to the screw when Swann recalled a sudden
expression which he had intercepted, a few days earlier, and for the first
time, in Odette's eyes. It was after dinner at the Verdurins'. Whether it
was because Forcheville, aware that Saniette, his brother-in-law, was not
in favour with them, had decided to make a butt of him, and to shine at
his expense, or because he had been annoyed by some awkward remark which
Saniette had made to him, although it had passed unnoticed by the rest of
the party who knew nothing of whatever tactless allusion it might conceal,
or possibly because he had been for some time looking out for an
opportunity of securing the expulsion from the house of a fellow-guest who
knew rather too much about him, and whom he knew to be so nice-minded that
he himself could not help feeling embarrassed at times merely by his
presence in the room, Forcheville replied to Saniette's tactless utterance
with such a volley of abuse, going out of his way to insult him,
emboldened, the louder he shouted, by the fear, the pain, the entreaties
of his victim, that the poor creature, after asking Mme. Verdurin whether
he should stay and receiving no answer, had left the house in stammering
confusion and with tears in his eyes. Odette had looked on, impassive, at
this scene; but when the door had closed behind Saniette, she had forced
the normal expression of her face down, as the saying is, by several pegs,
so as to bring herself on to the same level of vulgarity as Forcheville;
her eyes had sparkled with a malicious smile of congratulation upon his
audacity, of ironical pity for the poor wretch who had been its victim;
she had darted at him a look of complicity in the crime, which so clearly
implied: "That's finished him off, or I'm very much mistaken. Did you see
what a fool he looked? He was actually crying," that Forcheville, when his
eyes met hers, sobered in a moment from the anger, or pretended anger with
which he was still flushed, smiled as he explained: "He need only have
made himself pleasant and he'd have been here still; a good scolding does
a man no harm, at any time."

One day when Swann had gone out early in the afternoon to pay a call, and
had failed to find the person at home whom he wished to see, it occurred
to him to go, instead, to Odette, at an hour when, although he never went
to her house then as a rule, he knew that she was always at home, resting
or writing letters until tea-time, and would enjoy seeing her for a
moment, if it did not disturb her. The porter told him that he believed
Odette to be in; Swann rang the bell, thought that he heard a sound, that
he heard footsteps, but no one came to the door. Anxious and annoyed, he
went round to the other little street, at the back of her house, and stood
beneath her bedroom window; the curtains were drawn and he could see
nothing; he knocked loudly upon the pane, he shouted; still no one came.
He could see that the neighbours were staring at him. He turned away,
thinking that, after all, he had perhaps been mistaken in believing that
he heard footsteps; but he remained so preoccupied with the suspicion that
he could turn his mind to nothing else. After waiting for an hour, he
returned. He found her at home; she told him that she had been in the
house when he rang, but had been asleep; the bell had awakened her; she
had guessed that it must be Swann, and had run out to meet him, but he had
already gone. She had, of course, heard him knocking at the window. Swann
could at once detect in this story one of those fragments of literal truth
which liars, when taken by surprise, console themselves by introducing
into the composition of the falsehood which they have to invent, thinking
that it can be safely incorporated, and will lend the whole story an air
of verisimilitude. It was true that, when Odette had just done something
which she did not wish to disclose, she would take pains to conceal it in
a secret place in her heart. But as soon as she found herself face to face
with the man to whom she was obliged to lie, she became uneasy, all her
ideas melted like wax before a flame, her inventive and her reasoning
faculties were paralysed, she might ransack her brain but would find only
a void; still, she must say something, and there lay within her reach
precisely the fact which she had wished to conceal, which, being the
truth, was the one thing that had remained. She broke off from it a tiny
fragment, of no importance in itself, assuring herself that, after all, it
was the best thing to do, since it was a detail of the truth, and less
dangerous, therefore, than a falsehood. "At any rate, this is true," she
said to herself; "that's always something to the good; he may make
inquiries; he will see that this is true; it won't be this, anyhow, that
will give me away." But she was wrong; it was what gave her away; she had
not taken into account that this fragmentary detail of the truth had sharp
edges which could not: be made to fit in, except to those contiguous
fragments of the truth from which she had arbitrarily detached it, edges
which, whatever the fictitious details in which she might embed it, would
continue to shew, by their overlapping angles and by the gaps which she
had forgotten to fill, that its proper place was elsewhere.

"She admits that she heard me ring, and then knock, that she knew it was
myself, that she wanted to see me," Swann thought to himself. "But that
doesn't correspond with the fact that she did not let me in."

He did not, however, draw her attention to this inconsistency, for he
thought that, if left to herself, Odette might perhaps produce some
falsehood which would give him a faint indication of the truth; she spoke;
he did not interrupt her, he gathered up, with an eager and sorrowful
piety, the words that fell from her lips, feeling (and rightly feeling,
since she was hiding the truth behind them as she spoke) that, like the
veil of a sanctuary, they kept a vague imprint, traced a faint outline of
that infinitely precious and, alas, undiscoverable truth;--what she had
been doing, that afternoon, at three o'clock, when he had called,--a truth
of which he would never possess any more than these falsifications,
illegible and divine traces, a truth which would exist henceforward only
in the secretive memory of this creature, who would contemplate it in
utter ignorance of its value, but would never yield it up to him. It was
true that he had, now and then, a strong suspicion that Odette's daily
activities were not hi themselves passionately interesting, and that such
relations as she might have with other men did not exhale, naturally, in a
universal sense, or for every rational being, a spirit of morbid gloom
capable of infecting with fever or of inciting to suicide. He realised, at
such moments, that that interest, that gloom, existed in him only as a
malady might exist, and that, once he was cured of the malady, the actions
of Odette, the kisses that she might have bestowed, would become once
again as innocuous as those of countless other women. But the
consciousness that the painful curiosity with which Swann now studied them
had its origin only in himself was not enough to make him decide that it
was unreasonable to regard that curiosity as important, and to take every
possible step to satisfy it. Swann had, in fact, reached an age the
philosophy of which--supported, in his case, by the current philosophy of
the day, as well as by that of the circle in which he had spent most of
his life, the group that surrounded the Princesse des Laumes, in which
one's intelligence was understood to increase with the strength of one's
disbelief in everything, and nothing real and incontestable was to be
discovered, except the individual tastes of each of its members--is no
longer that of youth, but a positive, almost a medical philosophy, the
philosophy of men who, instead of fixing their aspirations upon external
objects, endeavour to separate from the accumulation of the years already
spent a definite residue of habits and passions which they can regard as
characteristic and permanent, and with which they will deliberately
arrange, before anything else, that the kind of existence which they
choose to adopt shall not prove inharmonious. Swann deemed it wise to
make allowance in his life for the suffering which he derived from not
knowing what Odette had done, just as he made allowance for the impetus
which a damp climate always gave to his eczema; to anticipate in his
budget the expenditure of a considerable sum on procuring, with regard to
the daily occupations of Odette, information the lack of which would make
him unhappy, just as he reserved a margin for the gratification of other
tastes from which he knew that pleasure was to be expected (at least,
before he had fallen in love) such as his taste for collecting things, or
for good cooking.

When he proposed to take leave of Odette, and to return home, she begged
him to stay a little longer, and even detained him forcibly, seizing him
by the arm as he was opening the door to go. But he gave no thought to
that, for, among the crowd of gestures and speeches and other little
incidents which go to make up a conversation, it is inevitable that we
should pass (without noticing anything that arouses our interest) by those
that hide a truth for which our suspicions are blindly searching, whereas
we stop to examine others beneath which nothing lies concealed. She kept
on saying: "What a dreadful pity; you never by any chance come in the
afternoon, and the one time you do come then I miss you." He knew very
well that she was not sufficiently in love with him to be so keenly
distressed merely at having missed his visit, but as she was a
good-natured woman, anxious to give him pleasure, and often sorry when she
had done anything that annoyed him, he found it quite natural that she
should be sorry, on this occasion, that she had deprived him of that
pleasure of spending an hour in her company, which was so very great a
pleasure, if not to herself, at any rate to him. All the same, it was a
matter of so little importance that her air of unrelieved sorrow began at
length to bewilder him. She reminded him, even more than was usual, of the
faces of some of the women created by the painter of the Primavera.' She
had, at that moment, their downcast, heartbroken expression, which seems
ready to succumb beneath the burden of a grief too heavy to be borne, when
they are merely allowing the Infant Jesus to play with a pomegranate, or
watching Moses pour water into a trough. He had seen the same sorrow once
before on her face, but when, he could no longer say. Then, suddenly, he
remembered it; it was when Odette had lied, in apologising to Mme.
Verdurin on the evening after the dinner from which she had stayed away on
a pretext of illness, but really so that she might be alone with Swann.
Surely, even had she been the most scrupulous of women, she could hardly
have felt remorse for so innocent a lie. But the lies which Odette
ordinarily told were less innocent, and served to prevent discoveries
which might have involved her in the most terrible difficulties with one
or another of her friends. And so, when she lied, smitten with fear,
feeling herself to be but feebly armed for her defence, unconfident of
success, she was inclined to weep from sheer exhaustion, as children weep
sometimes when they have not slept. She knew, also, that her lie, as a
rule, was doing a serious injury to the man to whom she was telling it,
and that she might find herself at his mercy if she told it badly.
Therefore she felt at once humble and culpable in his presence. And when
she had to tell an insignificant, social lie its hazardous associations,
and the memories which it recalled, would leave her weak with a sense of
exhaustion and penitent with a consciousness of wrongdoing.

What depressing lie was she now concocting for Swann's benefit, to give
her that pained expression, that plaintive voice, which seemed to falter
beneath the effort that she was forcing herself to make, and to plead for
pardon? He had an idea that it was not merely the truth about what had
occurred that afternoon that she was endeavouring to hide from him, but
something more immediate, something, possibly, which had not yet happened,
but might happen now at any time, and, when it did, would throw a light
upon that earlier event. At that moment, he heard the front-door bell
ring. Odette never stopped speaking, but her words dwindled into an
inarticulate moan. Her regret at not having seen Swann that afternoon, at
not having opened the door to him, had melted into a universal despair.

He could hear the gate being closed, and the sound of a carriage, as
though some one were going away--probably the person whom Swann must on no
account meet--after being told that Odette was not at home. And then,
when he reflected that, merely by coming at an hour when he was not in the
habit of coming, he had managed to disturb so many arrangements of which
she did not wish him to know, he had a feeling of discouragement that
amounted, almost, to distress. But since he was in love with Odette, since
he was in the habit of turning all his thoughts towards her, the pity with
which he might have been inspired for himself he felt for her only, and
murmured: "Poor darling!" When finally he left her, she took up several
letters which were lying on the table, and asked him if he would be so
good as to post them for her. He walked along to the post-office, took the
letters from his pocket, and, before dropping each of them into the box,
scanned its address. They were all to tradesmen, except the last, which
was to Forcheville. He kept it in his hand. "If I saw what was in this,"
he argued, "I should know what she calls him, what she says to him,
whether there really is anything between them. Perhaps, if I don't look
inside, I shall be lacking in delicacy towards Odette, since in this way
alone I can rid myself of a suspicion which is, perhaps, a calumny on her,
which must, in any case, cause her suffering, and which can never possibly
be set at rest, once the letter is posted."

He left the post-office and went home, but he had kept the last letter in
his pocket. He lighted a candle, and held up close to its flame the
envelope which he had not dared to open. At first he could distinguish
nothing, but the envelope was thin, and by pressing it down on to the
stiff card which it enclosed he was able, through the transparent paper,
to read the concluding words. They were a coldly formal signature. If,
instead of its being himself who was looking at a letter addressed to
Forcheville, it had been Forcheville who had read a letter addressed to
Swann, he might have found words in it of another, a far more tender kind!
He took a firm hold of the card, which was sliding to and fro, the
envelope being too large for it and then, by moving it with his finger and
thumb, brought one line after another beneath the part of the envelope
where the paper was not doubled, through which alone it was possible to

In spite of all these manoeuvres he could not make it out clearly. Not
that it mattered, for he had seen enough to assure himself that the letter
was about some trifling incident of no importance, and had nothing at all
to do with love; it was something to do with Odette's uncle. Swann had
read quite plainly at the beginning of the line "I was right," but did not
understand what Odette had been right in doing, until suddenly a word
which he had not been able, at first, to decipher, came to light and made
the whole sentence intelligible: "I was right to open the door; it was my
uncle." To open the door! Then Forcheville had been there when Swann rang
the bell, and she had sent him away; hence the sound that Swann had heard.

After that he read the whole letter; at the end she apologised for having
treated Forcheville with so little ceremony, and reminded him that he had
left his cigarette-case at her house, precisely what she had written to
Swann after one of his first visits. But to Swann she had added: "Why did
you not forget your heart also? I should never have let you have that
back." To Forcheville nothing of that sort; no allusion that could suggest
any intrigue between them. And, really, he was obliged to admit that in
all this business Forcheville had been worse treated than himself, since
Odette was writing to him to make him believe that her visitor had been an
uncle. From which it followed that he, Swann, was the man to whom she
attached importance, and for whose sake she had sent the other away. And
yet, if there had been nothing between Odette and Forcheville, why not
have opened the door at once, why have said, "I was right to open the
door; it was my uncle." Right? if she was doing nothing wrong at that
moment how could Forcheville possibly have accounted for her not opening
the door? For a time Swann stood still there, heartbroken, bewildered, and
yet happy; gazing at this envelope which Odette had handed to him without
a scruple, so absolute was her trust in his honour; through its
transparent window there had been disclosed to him, with the secret
history of an incident which he had despaired of ever being able to learn,
a fragment of the life of Odette, seen as through a narrow, luminous
incision, cut into its surface without her knowledge. Then his jealousy
rejoiced at the discovery, as though that jealousy had had an independent
existence, fiercely egotistical, gluttonous of every thing that would feed
its vitality, even at the expense of Swann himself. Now it had food in
store, and Swann could begin to grow uneasy afresh every evening, over the
visits that Odette had received about five o'clock, and could seek to
discover where Forcheville had been at that hour. For Swann's affection
for Odette still preserved the form which had been imposed on it, from the
beginning, by his ignorance of the occupations in which she passed her
days, as well as by the mental lethargy which prevented him from
supplementing that ignorance by imagination. He was not jealous, at first,
of the whole of Odette's life, but of those moments only in which an
incident, which he had perhaps misinterpreted, had led him to suppose that
Odette might have played him false. His jealousy, like an octopus which
throws out a first, then a second, and finally a third tentacle, fastened
itself irremovably first to that moment, five o'clock in the afternoon,
then to another, then to another again. But Swann was incapable of
inventing his sufferings. They were only the memory, the perpetuation of a
suffering that had come to him from without.

From without, however, everything brought him fresh suffering. He decided
to separate Odette from Forcheville, by taking her away for a few days to
the south. But he imagined that she was coveted by every male person in
the hotel, and that she coveted them in return. And so he, who, in old
days, when he travelled, used always to seek out new people and crowded
places, might now be seen fleeing savagely from human society as if it had
cruelly injured him. And how could he not have turned misanthrope, when in
every man he saw a potential lover for Odette? Thus his jealousy did even
more than the happy, passionate desire which he had originally felt for
Odette had done to alter Swann's character, completely changing, in the
eyes of the world, even the outward signs by which that character had been

A month after the evening on which he had intercepted and read Odette's
letter to Forcheville, Swann went to a dinner which the Verdurins were
giving in the Bois. As the party was breaking up he noticed a series of
whispered discussions between Mme. Verdurin and several of her guests, and
thought that he heard the pianist being reminded to come next day to a
party at Chatou; now he, Swann, had not been invited to any party.

The Verdurins had spoken only in whispers, and in vague terms, but the
painter, perhaps without thinking, shouted out: "There must be no lights
of any sort, and he must play the Moonlight Sonata in the dark, for us to
see by."

Mme. Verdurin, seeing that Swann was within earshot, assumed that
expression in which the two-fold desire to make the speaker be quiet and
to preserve, oneself, an appearance of guilelessness in the eyes of the
listener, is neutralised in an intense vacuity; in which the unflinching
signs of intelligent complicity are overlaid by the smiles of innocence,
an expression invariably adopted by anyone who has noticed a blunder, the
enormity of which is thereby at once revealed if not to those who have
made it, at any rate to him in whose hearing it ought not to have been
made. Odette seemed suddenly to be in despair, as though she had decided
not to struggle any longer against the crushing difficulties of life, and
Swann was anxiously counting the minutes that still separated him from the
point at which, after leaving the restaurant, while he drove her home, he
would be able to ask for an explanation, to make her promise, either that
she would not go to Chatou next day, or that she would procure an
invitation for him also, and to lull to rest in her arms the anguish that
still tormented him. At last the carriages were ordered. Mme. Verdurin
said to Swann:

"Good-bye, then. We shall see you soon, I hope," trying, by the
friendliness of her manner and the constraint of her smile, to prevent him
from noticing that she Was not saying, as she would always have until

"To-morrow, then, at Chatou, and at my house the day after." M. and Mme.
Verdurin made Forcheville get into their carriage; Swann's was drawn up
behind it, and he waited for theirs to start before helping Odette into
his own.

"Odette, we'll take you," said Mme. Verdurin, "we've kept a little corner
specially for you, beside M. de Forcheville."

"Yes, Mme. Verdurin," said Odette meekly.

"What! I thought I was to take you home," cried Swann, flinging discretion
to the winds, for the carriage-door hung open, time was precious, and he
could not, in his present state, go home without her.

"But Mme. Verdurin has asked me..."

"That's all right, you can quite well go home alone; we've left you like
this dozens of times," said Mme. Verdurin.

"But I had something important to tell Mme. de Crécy."

"Very well, you can write it to her instead."

"Good-bye," said Odette, holding out her hand.

He tried hard to smile, but could only succeed in looking utterly

"What do you think of the airs that Swann is pleased to put on with us?"
Mme. Verdurin asked her husband when they had reached home. "I was afraid
he was going to eat me, simply because we offered to take Odette back. It
really is too bad, that sort of thing. Why doesn't he say, straight out,
that we keep a disorderly house? I can't conceive how Odette can stand
such manners. He positively seems to be saying, all the time, 'You belong
to me!' I shall tell Odette exactly what I think about it all, and I hope
she will have the sense to understand me." A moment later she added,
inarticulate with rage: "No, but, don't you see, the filthy creature ..."
using unconsciously, and perhaps in satisfaction of the same obscure need
to justify herself--like Françoise at Combray when the chicken refused to
die--the very words which the last convulsions of an inoffensive animal in
its death agony wring from the peasant who is engaged in taking its life.
And when Mme. Verdurin's carriage had moved on, and Swann's took its
place, his coachman, catching sight of his face, asked whether he was
unwell, or had heard bad news.

Swann sent him away; he preferred to walk, and it was on foot, through the
Bois, that he came home. He talked to himself, aloud, and in the same
slightly affected tone which he had been used to adopt when describing the
charms of the 'little nucleus' and extolling the magnanimity of the
Verdurins. But just as the conversation, the smiles, the kisses of Odette
became as odious to him as he had once found them charming, if they were
diverted to others than himself, so the Verdurins' drawing-room, which,
not an hour before, had still seemed to him amusing, inspired with a
genuine feeling for art and even with a sort of moral aristocracy, now
that it was another than himself whom Odette was going to meet there, to
love there without restraint, laid bare to him all its absurdities, its
stupidity, its shame.

He drew a fanciful picture, at which he shuddered in disgust, of the party
next evening at Chatou. "Imagine going to Chatou, of all places! Like a
lot of drapers after closing time! Upon my word, these people are sublime
in their smugness; they can't really exist; they must all have come out of
one of Labiche's plays!"

The Cottards would be there; possibly Brichot. "Could anything be more
grotesque than the lives of these little creatures, hanging on to one
another like that. They'd imagine they were utterly lost, upon my soul
they would, if they didn't all meet again to-morrow at _Chatou_!" Alas!
there would be the painter there also, the painter who enjoyed
match-making, who would invite Forcheville to come with Odette to his
studio. He could see Odette, in a dress far too smart for the country,
"for she is so vulgar in that way, and, poor little thing, she is such a

He could hear the jokes that Mme. Verdurin would make after dinner, jokes
which, whoever the 'bore' might be at whom they were aimed, had always
amused him because he could watch Odette laughing at them, laughing with
him, her laughter almost a part of his. Now he felt that it was possibly
at him that they would make Odette laugh. "What a fetid form of humour!"
he exclaimed, twisting his mouth into an expression of disgust so violent
that he could feel the muscles of his throat stiffen against his collar.
"How, in God's name, can a creature made in His image find anything to
laugh at in those nauseating witticisms? The least sensitive nose must be
driven away in horror from such stale exhalations. It is really impossible
to believe that any human being is incapable of understanding that, in
allowing herself merely to smile at the expense of a fellow-creature who
has loyally held out his hand to her, she is casting herself into a mire
from which it will be impossible, with the best will in the world, ever to
rescue her. I dwell so many miles above the puddles in which these filthy
little vermin sprawl and crawl and bawl their cheap obscenities, that I
cannot possibly be spattered by the witticisms of a Verdurin!" he cried,
tossing up his head and arrogantly straightening his body. "God knows that
I have honestly attempted to pull Odette out of that sewer, and to teach
her to breathe a nobler and a purer air. But human patience has its
limits, and mine is at an end," he concluded, as though this sacred
mission to tear Odette away from an atmosphere of sarcasms dated from
longer than a few minutes ago, as though he had not undertaken it only
since it had occurred to him that those sarcasms might, perchance, be
directed at himself, and might have the effect of detaching Odette from

He could see the pianist sitting down to play the Moonlight Sonata, and
the grimaces of Mme. Verdurin, in terrified anticipation of the wrecking
of her nerves by Beethoven's music. "Idiot, liar!" he shouted, "and a
creature like that imagines that she's fond of _Art_!" She would say to
Odette, after deftly insinuating a few words of praise for Forcheville, as
she had so often done for himself: "You can make room for M. de
Forcheville there, can't you, Odette?"... '"In the dark!' Codfish!
Pander!" ... 'Pander' was the name he applied also to the music which
would invite them to sit in silence, to dream together, to gaze in each
other's eyes, to feel for each other's hands. He felt that there was much
to be said, after all, for a sternly censorous attitude towards the arts,
such as Plato adopted, and Bossuet, and the old school of education in

In a word, the life which they led at the Verdurins', which he had so
often described as 'genuine,' seemed to him now the worst possible form of
life, and their 'little nucleus' the most degraded class of society. "It
really is," he repeated, "beneath the lowest rung of the social ladder,
the nethermost circle of Dante. Beyond a doubt, the august words of the
Florentine refer to the Verdurins! When one comes to think of it, surely
people 'in society' (and, though one may find fault with them now and
then, still, after all they are a very different matter from that gang of
blackmailers) shew a profound sagacity in refusing to know them, or even
to dirty the tips of their fingers with them. What a sound intuition there
is in that '_Noli me tangere_' motto of the Faubourg Saint-Germain."

He had long since emerged from the paths and avenues of the Bois, he had
almost reached his own house, and still, for he had not yet thrown off the
intoxication of grief, or his whim of insincerity, but was ever more and
more exhilarated by the false intonation, the artificial sonority of his
own voice, he continued to perorate aloud in the silence of the night:
"People 'in society' have their failings, as no one knows better than I;
but, after all, they are people to whom some things, at least, are
impossible. So-and-so" (a fashionable woman whom he had known) "was far
from being perfect, but, after all, one did find in her a fundamental
delicacy, a loyalty in her conduct which made her, whatever happened,
incapable of a felony, which fixes a vast gulf between her and an old hag
like Verdurin. Verdurin! What a name! Oh, there's something complete about
them, something almost fine in their trueness to type; they're the most
perfect specimens of their disgusting class! Thank God, it was high time
that I stopped condescending to promiscuous intercourse with such infamy,
such dung."

But, just as the virtues which he had still attributed, an hour or so
earlier, to the Verdurins, would not have sufficed, even although the
Verdurins had actually possessed them, if they had not also favoured and
protected his love, to excite Swann to that state of intoxication in which
he waxed tender over their magnanimity, an intoxication which, even when
disseminated through the medium of other persons, could have come to him
from Odette alone;--so the immorality (had it really existed) which he now
found in the Verdurins would have been powerless, if they had not invited
Odette with Forcheville and without him, to unstop the vials of his wrath
and to make him scarify their 'infamy.' Doubtless Swann's voice shewed a
finer perspicacity than his own when it refused to utter those words full
of disgust at the Verdurins and their circle, and of joy at his having
shaken himself free of it, save in an artificial and rhetorical tone, and
as though his words had been chosen rather to appease his anger than to
express his thoughts. The latter, in fact, while he abandoned himself to
invective, were probably, though he did not know it, occupied with a
wholly different matter, for once he had reached his house, no sooner had
he closed the front-door behind him than he suddenly struck his forehead,
and, making his servant open the door again, dashed out into the street
shouting, in a voice which, this time, was quite natural; "I believe I
have found a way of getting invited to the dinner at Chatou to-morrow!"
But it must have been a bad way, for M. Swann was not invited; Dr.
Cottard, who, having been summoned to attend a serious case in the
country, had not seen the Verdurins for some days, and had been prevented
from appearing at Chatou, said, on the evening after this dinner, as he
sat down to table at their house:

"Why, aren't we going to see M. Swann this evening? He is quite what you
might call a personal friend..." "I sincerely trust that we sha'n't!"
cried Mme. Verdurin. "Heaven preserve us from him; he's too deadly for
words, a stupid, ill-bred boor."

On hearing these words Cottard exhibited an intense astonishment blended
with entire submission, as though in the face of a scientific truth which
contradicted everything that he had previously believed, but was supported
by an irresistible weight of evidence; with timorous emotion he bowed his
head over his plate, and merely replied: "Oh--oh--oh--oh--oh!" traversing,
in an orderly retirement of his forces, into the depths of his being,
along a descending scale, the whole compass of his voice. After which
there was no more talk of Swann at the Verdurins'.

- - -

And so that drawing-room which had brought Swann and Odette together
became an obstacle in the way of their meeting. She no longer said to him,
as she had said in the early days of their love: "We shall meet, anyhow,
to-morrow evening; there's a supper-party at the Verdurins'," but "We
sha'n't be able to meet to-morrow evening; there's a supper-party at the
Verdurins'." Or else the Verdurins were taking her to the Opéra-Comique,
to see _Une Nuit de Cléopâtre_, and Swann could read in her eyes that
terror lest he should ask her not to go, which, but a little time before,
he could not have refrained from greeting with a kiss as it flitted across
the face of his mistress, but which now exasperated him. "Yet I'm not
really angry," he assured himself, "when I see how she longs to run away
and scratch from maggots in that dunghill of cacophony. I'm disappointed;
not for myself, but for her; disappointed to find that, after living for
more than six months in daily contact with myself, she has not been
capable of improving her mind even to the point of spontaneously
eradicating from it a taste for Victor Massé! More than that, to find that
she has not arrived at the stage of understanding that there are evenings
on which anyone with the least shade of refinement of feeling should be
willing to forego an amusement when she is asked to do so. She ought to
have the sense to say: 'I shall not go,' if it were only from policy,
since it is by what she answers now that the quality of her soul will be
determined once and for all." And having persuaded himself that it was
solely, after all, in order that he might arrive at a favourable estimate
of Odette's spiritual worth that he wished her to stay at home with him
that evening instead of going to the Opéra-Comique, he adopted the same
line of reasoning with her, with the same degree of insincerity as he had
used with himself, or even with a degree more, for in her case he was
yielding also to the desire to capture her by her own self-esteem.

"I swear to you," he told her, shortly before she was to leave for the
theatre, "that, in asking you not to go, I should hope, were I a selfish
man, for nothing so much as that you should refuse, for I have a thousand
other things to do this evening, and I shall feel that I have been tricked
and trapped myself, and shall be thoroughly annoyed, if, after all, you
tell me that you are not going. But my occupations, my pleasures are not
everything; I must think of you also. A day may come when, seeing me
irrevocably sundered from you, you will be entitled to reproach me with
not having warned you at the decisive hour in which I felt that I was
going to pass judgment on you, one of those stern judgments which love
cannot long resist. You see, your _Nuit de Cléopâtre_ (what a title!) has
no bearing on the point. What I must know is whether you are indeed one of
those creatures in the lowest grade of mentality and even of charm, one of
those contemptible creatures who are incapable of foregoing a pleasure.
For if you are such, how could anyone love you, for you are not even a
person, a definite, imperfect, but at least perceptible entity. You are a
formless water that will trickle down any slope that it may come upon, a
fish devoid of memory, incapable of thought, which all its life long in
its aquarium will continue to dash itself, a hundred times a day, against
a wall of glass, always mistaking it for water. Do you realise that your
answer will have the effect--I do not say of making me cease from that
moment to love you, that goes without saying, but of making you less
attractive to my eyes when I realise that you are not a person, that you
are beneath everything in the world and have not the intelligence to raise
yourself one inch higher? Obviously, I should have preferred to ask you,
as though it had been a matter of little or no importance, to give up your
_Nuit de Cléopâtre_ (since you compel me to sully my lips with so abject a
name), in the hope that you would go to it none the less. But, since I had
resolved to weigh you in the balance, to make so grave an issue depend
upon your answer, I considered it more honourable to give you due

Meanwhile, Odette had shewn signs of increasing emotion and uncertainty.
Although the meaning of his tirade was beyond her, she grasped that it was
to be included among the scenes of reproach or supplication, scenes which
her familiarity with the ways of men enabled her, without paying any heed
to the words that were uttered, to conclude that men would not make unless
they were in love; that, from the moment when they were in love, it was
superfluous to obey them, since they would only be more in love later on.
And so, she would have heard Swann out with the utmost tranquillity had
she not noticed that it was growing late, and that if he went on speaking
for any length of time she would "never" as she told him with a fond
smile, obstinate but slightly abashed, "get there in time for the

On other occasions he had assured himself that the one thing which, more
than anything else, would make him cease to love her, would be her refusal
to abandon the habit of lying. "Even from the point of view of coquetry,
pure and simple," he had told her, "can't you see how much of your
attraction you throw away when you stoop to lying? By a frank
admission--how many faults you might redeem! Really, you are far less
intelligent than I supposed!" In vain, however, did Swann expound to her
thus all the reasons that she had for not lying; they might have succeeded
in overthrowing any universal system of mendacity, but Odette had no such
system; she contented herself, merely, whenever she wished Swann to remain
in ignorance of anything that she had done, with not telling him of it. So
that a lie was, to her, something to be used only as a special expedient;
and the one thing that could make her decide whether she should avail
herself of a lie or not was a reason which, too, was of a special and
contingent order, namely the risk of Swann's discovering that she had not
told him the truth.

Physically, she was passing through an unfortunate phase; she was growing
stouter, and the expressive, sorrowful charm, the surprised, wistful
expressions which she had formerly had, seemed to have vanished with her
first youth, with the result that she became most precious to Swann at the
very moment when he found her distinctly less good-looking. He would gaze
at her for hours on end, trying to recapture the charm which he had once
seen in her and could not find again. And yet the knowledge that, within
this new and strange chrysalis, it was still Odette that lurked, still the
same volatile temperament, artful and evasive, was enough to keep Swann
seeking, with as much passion as ever, to captivate her. Then he would
look at photographs of her, taken two years before, and would remember how
exquisite she had been. And that would console him, a little, for all the
sufferings that he voluntarily endured on her account.

When the Verdurins took her off to Saint-Germain, or to Chatou, or to
Meulan, as often as not, if the weather was fine, they would propose to
remain there for the night, and not go home until next day. Mme. Verdurin
would endeavour to set at rest the scruples of the pianist, whose aunt had
remained in Paris: "She will be only too glad to be rid of you for a day.
How on earth could she be anxious, when she knows you're with us? Anyhow,
I'll take you all under my wing; she can put the blame on me."

If this attempt failed, M. Verdurin would set off across country until he
came to a telegraph office or some other kind of messenger, after first
finding out which of the 'faithful' had anyone whom they must warn. But
Odette would thank him, and assure him that she had no message for anyone,
for she had told Swann, once and for all, that she could not possibly send
messages to him, before all those people, without compromising herself.
Sometimes she would be absent for several days on end, when the Verdurins
took her to see the tombs at Dreux, or to Compiègne, on the painter's
advice, to watch the sun setting through the forest--after which they went
on to the Château of Pierrefonds.

"To think that she could visit really historic buildings with me, who have
spent ten years in the study of architecture, who am constantly bombarded,
by people who really count, to take them over Beauvais or
Saint-Loup-de-Naud, and refuse to take anyone but her; and instead of that
she trundles off with the lowest, the most brutally degraded of creatures,
to go into ecstasies over the petrified excretions of Louis-Philippe and
Viollet-le-Duc! One hardly needs much knowledge of art, I should say, to
do that; though, surely, even without any particularly refined sense of
smell, one would not deliberately choose to spend a holiday in the
latrines, so as to be within range of their fragrant exhalations."

But when she had set off for Dreux or Pierrefonds--alas, without allowing
him to appear there, as though by accident, at her side, for, as she said,
that would "create a dreadful impression,"--he would plunge into the most
intoxicating romance in the lover's library, the railway timetable, from
which he learned the ways of joining her there in the afternoon, in the
evening, even in the morning. The ways? More than that, the authority, the
right to join her. For, after all, the time-table, and the trains
themselves, were not meant for dogs. If the public were carefully
informed, by means of printed advertisements, that at eight o'clock in the
morning a train started for Pierrefonds which arrived there at ten, that
could only be because going to Pierrefonds was a lawful act, for which
permission from Odette would be superfluous; an act, moreover, which might
be performed from a motive altogether different from the desire to see
Odette, since persons who had never even heard of her performed it daily,
and in such numbers as justified the labour and expense of stoking the

So it came to this; that she could not prevent him from going to
Pierrefonds if he chose to do so. Now that was precisely what he found
that he did choose to do, and would at that moment be doing were he, like
the travelling public, not acquainted with Odette. For a long time past he
had wanted to form a more definite impression of Viollet-le-Duc's work as
a restorer. And the weather being what it was, he felt an overwhelming
desire to spend the day roaming in the forest of Compiègne.

It was, indeed, a piece of bad luck that she had forbidden him access to
the one spot that tempted him to-day. To-day! Why, if he went down there,
in defiance of her prohibition, he would be able to see her that very day!
But then, whereas, if she had met, at Pierrefonds, some one who did not
matter, she would have hailed him with obvious pleasure: "What, you here?"
and would have invited him to come and see her at the hotel where she was
staying with the Verdurins, if, on the other hand, it was himself, Swann,
that she encountered there, she would be annoyed, would complain that she
was being followed, would love him less in consequence, might even turn
away in anger when she caught sight of him. "So, then, I am not to be
allowed to go away for a day anywhere!" she would reproach him on her
return, whereas in fact it was he himself who was not allowed to go.

He had had the sudden idea, so as to contrive to visit Compiègne and
Pierrefonds without letting it be supposed that his object was to meet
Odette, of securing an invitation from one of his friends, the Marquis de
Forestelle, who had a country house in that neighbourhood. This friend, to
whom Swann suggested the plan without disclosing its ulterior purpose, was
beside himself with joy; he did not conceal his astonishment at Swann's
consenting at last, after fifteen years, to come down and visit his
property, and since he did not (he told him) wish to stay there, promised
to spend some days, at least, in taking him for walks and excursions in
the district. Swann imagined himself down there already with M. de
Forestelle. Even before he saw Odette, even if he did not succeed in
seeing her there, what a joy it would be to set foot on that soil where,
not knowing the exact spot in which, at any moment, she was to be found,
he would feel all around him the thrilling possibility of her suddenly
appearing: in the courtyard of the Château, now beautiful in his eyes
since it was on her account that he had gone to visit it; in all the
streets of the town, which struck him as romantic; down every ride of the
forest, roseate with the deep and tender glow of sunset;--innumerable and
alternative hiding-places, to which would fly simultaneously for refuge,
in the uncertain ubiquity of his hopes, his happy, vagabond and divided
heart. "We mustn't, on any account," he would warn M. de Forestelle, "run
across Odette and the Verdurins. I have just heard that they are at
Pierrefonds, of all places, to-day. One has plenty of time to see them in
Paris; it would hardly be worth while coming down here if one couldn't go
a yard without meeting them." And his host would fail to understand why,
once they had reached the place, Swann would change his plans twenty times
in an hour, inspect the dining-rooms of all the hotels in Compiègne
without being able to make up his mind to settle down in any of them,
although he had found no trace anywhere of the Verdurins, seeming to be in
search of what he had claimed to be most anxious to avoid, and would in
fact avoid, the moment he found it, for if he had come upon the little
'group,' he would have hastened away at once with studied indifference,
satisfied that he had seen Odette and she him, especially that she had
seen him when he was not, apparently, thinking about her. But no; she
would guess at once that it was for her sake that he had come there. And
when M. de Forestelle came to fetch him, and it was time to start, he
excused himself: "No, I'm afraid not; I can't go to Pierrefonds to-day.
You see, Odette is there." And Swann was happy in spite of everything in
feeling that if he, alone among mortals, had not the right to go to
Pierrefonds that day, it was because he was in fact, for Odette, some one
who differed from all other mortals, her lover; and because that
restriction which for him alone was set upon the universal right to travel
freely where one would, was but one of the many forms of that slavery,
that love which was so dear to him. Decidedly, it was better not to risk a
quarrel with her, to be patient, to wait for her return. He spent his days
in poring over a map of the forest of Compiègne, as though it had been
that of the 'Pays du Tendre'; he surrounded himself with photographs of
the Château of Pierrefonds. When the day dawned on which it was possible
that she might return, he opened the time-table again, calculated what
train she must have taken, and, should she have postponed her departure,
what trains were still left for her to take. He did not leave the house,
for fear of missing a telegram, he did not go to bed, in case, having
come by the last train, she decided to surprise him with a midnight visit.
Yes! The front-door bell rang. There seemed some delay in opening the
door, he wanted to awaken the porter, he leaned out of the window to shout
to Odette, if it was Odette, for in spite of the orders which he had gone
downstairs a dozen times to deliver in person, they were quite capable of
telling her that he was not at home. It was only a servant coming in. He
noticed the incessant rumble of passing carriages, to which he had never
before paid any attention. He could hear them, one after another, a long
way off, coming nearer, passing his door without stopping, and bearing
away into the distance a message which was not for him. He waited all
night, to no purpose, for the Verdurins had returned unexpectedly, and
Odette had been in Paris since midday; it had not occurred to her to tell
him; not knowing what to do with herself she had spent the evening alone
at a theatre, had long since gone home to bed, and was peacefully asleep.

As a matter of fact, she had never given him a thought. And such moments
as these, in which she forgot Swann's very existence, were of more value
to Odette, did more to attach him to her, than all her infidelities. For
in this way Swann was kept in that state of painful agitation which had
once before been effective in making his interest blossom into love, on
the night when he had failed to find Odette at the Verdurins' and had
hunted for her all evening. And he did not have (as I had, afterwards, at
Combray in my childhood) happy days in which to forget the sufferings that
would return with the night. For his days, Swann must pass them without
Odette; and as he told himself, now and then, to allow so pretty a woman
to go out by herself in Paris was just as rash as to leave a case filled
with jewels in the middle of the street. In this mood he would scowl
furiously at the passers-by, as though they were so many pickpockets. But
their faces--a collective and formless mass--escaped the grasp of his
imagination, and so failed to feed the flame of his jealousy. The effort
exhausted Swann's brain, until, passing his hand over his eyes, he cried
out: "Heaven help me!" as people, after lashing themselves into an
intellectual frenzy in their endeavours to master the problem of the
reality of the external world, or that of the immortality of the soul,
afford relief to their weary brains by an unreasoning act of faith. But
the thought of his absent mistress was incessantly, indissolubly blended
with all the simplest actions of Swann's daily life--when he took his
meals, opened his letters, went for a walk or to bed--by the fact of his
regret at having to perform those actions without her; like those initials
of Philibert the Fair which, in the church of Brou, because of her grief,
her longing for him, Margaret of Austria intertwined everywhere with her
own. On some days, instead of staying at home, he would go for luncheon to
a restaurant not far off, to which he had been attracted, some time
before, by the excellence of its cookery, but to which he now went only
for one of those reasons, at once mystical and absurd, which people call
'romantic'; because this restaurant (which, by the way, still exists) bore
the same name as the street in which Odette lived: the Lapérouse.
Sometimes, when she had been away on a short visit somewhere, several days
would elapse before she thought of letting him know that she had returned
to Paris. And then she would say quite simply, without taking (as she
would once have taken) the precaution of covering herself, at all costs,
with a little fragment borrowed from the truth, that she had just, at that
very moment, arrived by the morning train. What she said was a falsehood;
at least for Odette it was a falsehood, inconsistent, lacking (what it
would have had, if true) the support of her memory of her actual arrival
at the station; she was even prevented from forming a mental picture of
what she was saying, while she said it, by the contradictory picture, in
her mind, of whatever quite different thing she had indeed been doing at
the moment when she pretended to have been alighting from the train. In
Swann's mind, however, these words, meeting no opposition, settled and
hardened until they assumed the indestructibility of a truth so
indubitable that, if some friend happened to tell him that he had come by
the same train and had not seen Odette, Swann would have been convinced
that it was his friend who had made a mistake as to the day or hour, since
his version did not agree with the words uttered by Odette. These words
had never appeared to him false except when, before hearing them, he had
suspected that they were going to be. For him to believe that she was
lying, an anticipatory suspicion was indispensable. It was also, however,
sufficient. Given that, everything that Odette might say appeared to him
suspect. Did she mention a name: it was obviously that of one of her
lovers; once this supposition had taken shape, he would spend weeks in
tormenting himself; on one occasion he even approached a firm of 'inquiry
agents' to find out the address and the occupation of the unknown rival
who would give him no peace until he could be proved to have gone abroad,
and who (he ultimately learned) was an uncle of Odette, and had been dead
for twenty years.

Although she would not allow him, as a rule, to meet her at public
gatherings, saying that people would talk, it happened occasionally that,
at an evening party to which he and she had each been invited--at
Forcheville's, at the painter's, or at a charity ball given in one of the
Ministries--he found himself in the same room with her. He could see her,
but dared not remain for fear of annoying her by seeming to be spying upon
the pleasures which she tasted in other company, pleasures which--while he
drove home in utter loneliness, and went to bed, as anxiously as I myself
was to go to bed, some years later, on the evenings when he came to dine
with us at Combray--seemed illimitable to him since he had not been able
to see their end. And, once or twice, he derived from such evenings that
kind of happiness which one would be inclined (did it not originate in so
violent a reaction from an anxiety abruptly terminated) to call peaceful,
since it consists in a pacifying of the mind: he had looked in for a
moment at a revel in the painter's studio, and was getting ready to go
home; he was leaving behind him Odette, transformed into a brilliant
stranger, surrounded by men to whom her glances and her gaiety, which were
not for him, seemed to hint at some voluptuous pleasure to be enjoyed
there or elsewhere (possibly at the Bal des Incohérents, to which he
trembled to think that she might be going on afterwards) which made Swann
more jealous than the thought of their actual physical union, since it was
more difficult to imagine; he was opening the door to go, when he heard
himself called back in these words (which, by cutting off from the party
that possible ending which had so appalled him, made the party itself seem
innocent in retrospect, made Odette's return home a thing no longer
inconceivable and terrible, but tender and familiar, a thing that kept
close to his side, like a part of his own daily life, in his carriage; a
thing that stripped Odette herself of the excess of brilliance and gaiety
in her appearance, shewed that it was only a disguise which she had
assumed for a moment, for his sake and not in view of any mysterious
pleasures, a disguise of which she had already wearied)--in these words,
which Odette flung out after him as he was crossing the threshold: "Can't
you wait a minute for me? I'm just going; we'll drive back together and
you can drop me." It was true that on one occasion Forcheville had asked
to be driven home at the same time, but when, on reaching Odette's gate,
he had begged to be allowed to come in too, she had replied, with a finger
pointed at Swann: "Ah! That depends on this gentleman. You must ask him.
Very well, you may come in, just for a minute, if you insist, but you
mustn't stay long, for, I warn you, he likes to sit and talk quietly with
me, and he's not at all pleased if I have visitors when he's here. Oh, if
you only knew the creature as I know him; isn't that so, my love, there's
no one that really knows you, is there, except me?"

And Swann was, perhaps, even more touched by the spectacle of her
addressing him thus, in front of Forcheville, not only in these tender
words of predilection, but also with certain criticisms, such as: "I feel
sure you haven't written yet to your friends, about dining with them on
Sunday. You needn't go if you don't want to, but you might at least be
polite," or "Now, have you left your essay on Vermeer here, so that you
can do a little more to it to-morrow? What a lazy-bones! I'm going to make
you work, I can tell you," which proved that Odette kept herself in touch
with his social engagements and his literary work, that they had indeed a
life in common. And as she spoke she bestowed on him a smile which he
interpreted as meaning that she was entirely his.

And then, while she was making them some orangeade, suddenly, just as when
the reflector of a lamp that is badly fitted begins by casting all round
an object, on the wall beyond it, huge and fantastic shadows which, in
time, contract and are lost in the shadow of the object itself, all the
terrible and disturbing ideas which he had formed of Odette melted away
and vanished in the charming creature who stood there before his eyes. He
had the sudden suspicion that this hour spent in Odette's house, in the
lamp-light, was, perhaps, after all, not an artificial hour, invented for
his special use (with the object of concealing that frightening and
delicious thing which was incessantly in his thoughts without his ever
being able to form a satisfactory impression of it, an hour of Odette's
real life, of her life when he was not there, looking on) with theatrical
properties and pasteboard fruits, but was perhaps a genuine hour of
Odette's life; that, if he himself had not been there, she would have
pulled forward the same armchair for Forcheville, would have poured out
for him, not any unknown brew, but precisely that orangeade which she was
now offering to them both; that the world inhabited by Odette was not that
other world, fearful and supernatural, in which he spent his time in
placing her--and which existed, perhaps, only in his imagination, but the
real universe, exhaling no special atmosphere of gloom, comprising that
table at which he might sit down, presently, and write, and this drink
which he was being permitted, now, to taste; all the objects which he
contemplated with as much curiosity and admiration as gratitude, for if,
in absorbing his dreams, they had delivered him from an obsession, they
themselves were, in turn, enriched by the absorption; they shewed him the
palpable realisation of his fancies, and they interested his mind; they
took shape and grew solid before-his eyes, and at the same time they
soothed his troubled heart. Ah! had fate but allowed him to share a
single dwelling with Odette, so that in her house he should be in his own;
if, when asking his servant what there would be for luncheon, it had been
Odette's bill of fare that he had learned from the reply; if, when Odette
wished to go for a walk, in the morning, along the Avenue du
Bois-de-Boulogne, his duty as a good husband had obliged him, though he
had no desire to go out, to accompany her, carrying her cloak when she was
too warm; and in the evening, after dinner, if she wished to stay at home,
and not to dress, if he had been forced to stay beside her, to do what she
asked; then how completely would all the trivial details of Swann's life,
which seemed to him now so gloomy, simply because they would, at the same
time, have formed part of the life of Odette, have taken on--like that
lamp, that orangeade, that armchair, which had absorbed so much of his
dreams, which materialised so much of his longing,--a sort of
superabundant sweetness and a mysterious solidity.

And yet he was inclined to suspect that the state for which he so much
longed was a calm, a peace, which would not have created an atmosphere
favourable to his love. When Odette ceased to be for him a creature always
absent, regretted, imagined; when the feeling that he had for her was no
longer the same mysterious disturbance that was wrought in him by the
phrase from the sonata, but constant affection and gratitude, when those
normal relations were established between them which would put an end to
his melancholy madness; then, no doubt, the actions of Odette's daily life
would appear to him as being of but little intrinsic interest--as he had
several times, already, felt that they might be, on the day, for instance,
when he had read, through its envelope, her letter to Forcheville.
Examining his complaint with as much scientific detachment as if he had
inoculated himself with it in order to study its effects, he told himself
that, when he was cured of it, what Odette might or might not do would be
indifferent to him. But in his morbid state, to tell the truth, he feared
death itself no more than such a recovery, which would, in fact, amount to
the death of all that he then was.

After these quiet evenings, Swann's suspicions would be temporarily
lulled; he would bless the name of Odette, and next day, in the morning,
would order the most attractive jewels to be sent to her, because her
kindnesses to him overnight had excited either his gratitude, or the
desire to see them repeated, or a paroxysm of love for her which had need
of some such outlet.

But at other times, grief would again take hold of him; he would imagine
that Odette was Forcheville's mistress, and that, when they had both sat
watching him from the depths of the Verdurins' landau, in the Bois, on the
evening before the party at Chatou to which he had not been invited, while
he implored her in vain, with that look of despair on his face which even
his coachman had noticed, to come home with him, and then turned away,
solitary, crushed,--she must have employed, to draw Forcheville's
attention to him, while she murmured: "Do look at him, storming!" the same
glance, brilliant, malicious, sidelong, cunning, as on the evening when
Forcheville had driven Saniette from the Verdurins'.

At such times Swann detested her. "But I've been a fool, too," he would
argue. "I'm paying for other men's pleasures with my money. All the same,
she'd better take care, and not pull the string too often, for I might
very well stop giving her anything at all. At any rate, we'd better knock
off supplementary favours for the time being. To think that, only
yesterday, when she said she would like to go to Bayreuth for the season,
I was such an ass as to offer to take one of those jolly little places the
King of Bavaria has there, for the two of us. However she didn't seem
particularly keen; she hasn't said yes or no yet. Let's hope that she'll
refuse. Good God! Think of listening to Wagner for a fortnight on end
with her, who takes about as much interest in music as a fish does in
little apples; it will be fun!" And his hatred, like his love, needing to
manifest itself in action, he amused himself with urging his evil
imaginings further and further, because, thanks to the perfidies with
which he charged Odette, he detested her still more, and would be able, if
it turned out--as he tried to convince himself--that she was indeed guilty
of them, to take the opportunity of punishing her, emptying upon her the
overflowing vials of his wrath. In this way, he went so far as to suppose
that he was going to receive a letter from her, in which she would ask him
for money to take the house at Bayreuth, but with the warning that he was
not to come there himself, as she had promised Forcheville and the
Verdurins to invite them. Oh, how he would have loved it, had it been
conceivable that she would have that audacity. What joy he would have in
refusing, in drawing up that vindictive reply, the terms of which he
amused himself by selecting and declaiming aloud, as though he had
actually received her letter.

The very next day, her letter came. She wrote that the Verdurins and their
friends had expressed a desire to be present at these performances of
Wagner, and that, if he would be so good as to send her the money, she
would be able at last, after going so often to their house, to have the
pleasure of entertaining the Verdurins in hers. Of him she said not a
word; it was to be taken for granted that their presence at Bayreuth would
be a bar to his.

Then that annihilating answer, every word of which he had carefully
rehearsed overnight, without venturing to hope that it could ever be used,
he had the satisfaction of having it conveyed to her. Alas! he felt only
too certain that with the money which she had, or could easily procure,
she would be able, all the same, to take a house at Bayreuth, since she
wished to do so, she who was incapable of distinguishing between Bach and
Clapisson. Let her take it, then; she would have to live in it more
frugally, that was all. No means (as there would have been if he had
replied by sending her several thousand-franc notes) of organising, each
evening, in her hired castle, those exquisite little suppers, after which
she might perhaps be seized by the whim (which, it was possible, had
never yet seized her) of falling into the arms of Forcheville. At any
rate, this loathsome expedition, it would not be Swann who had to pay for
it. Ah! if he could only manage to prevent it, if she could sprain her
ankle before starting, if the driver of the carriage which was to take her
to the station would consent (no matter how great the bribe) to smuggle
her to some place where she could be kept for a time in seclusion, that
perfidious woman, her eyes tinselled with a smile of complicity for
Forcheville, which was what Odette had become for Swann in the last
forty-eight hours.

But she was never that for very long; after a few days the shining, crafty
eyes lost their brightness and their duplicity, that picture of an
execrable Odette saying to Forcheville: "Look at him storming!" began to
grow pale and to dissolve. Then gradually reappeared and rose before him,
softly radiant, the face of the other Odette, of that Odette who al^o
turned with a smile to Forcheville, but with a smile in which there was
nothing but affection for Swann, when she said: "You mustn't stay long,
for this gentleman doesn't much like my having visitors when he's here.
Oh! if you only knew the creature as I know him!" that same smile with
which she used to thank Swann for some instance of his courtesy which she
prized so highly, for some advice for which she had asked him in one of
those grave crises in her life, when she could turn to him alone.

Then, to this other Odette, he would ask himself what could have induced
him to write that outrageous letter, of which, probably, until then, she
had never supposed him capable, a letter which must have lowered him from
the high, from the supreme place which, by his generosity, by his loyalty,
he had won for himself in her esteem. He would become less dear to her,
since it was for those qualities, which she found neither in Forcheville
nor in any other, that she loved him. It was for them that Odette so often
shewed him a reciprocal kindness, which counted for less than nothing in
his moments of jealousy, because it was not a sign of reciprocal desire,
was indeed a proof rather of affection than of love, but the importance of
which he began once more to feel in proportion as the spontaneous
relaxation of his suspicions, often accelerated by the distraction brought
to him by reading about art or by the conversation of a friend, rendered
his passion less exacting of reciprocities.

Now that, after this swing of the pendulum, Odette had naturally returned
to the place from which Swann's jealousy had for the moment driven her, in
the angle in which he found her charming, he pictured her to himself as
full of tenderness, with a look of consent in her eyes, and so beautiful
that he could not refrain from moving his lips towards her, as though she
had actually been in the room for him to kiss; and he preserved a sense of
gratitude to her for that bewitching, kindly glance, as strong as though
she had really looked thus at him, and it had not been merely his
imagination that had portrayed it in order to satisfy his desire.

What distress he must have caused her! Certainly he found adequate reasons
for his resentment, but they would not have been sufficient to make him
feel that resentment, if he had not so passionately loved her. Had he not
nourished grievances, just as serious, against other women, to whom he
would, none the less, render willing service to-day, feeling no anger
towards them because he no longer loved them? If the day ever came when he
would find himself in the same state of indifference with regard to
Odette, he would then understand that it was his jealousy alone which had
led him to find something atrocious, unpardonable, in this desire (after
all, so natural a desire, springing from a childlike ingenuousness and
also from a certain delicacy in her nature) to be able, in her turn, when
an occasion offered, to repay the Verdurins for their hospitality, and to
play the hostess in a house of her own.

He returned to the other point of view--opposite to that of his love and
of his jealousy, to which he resorted at times by a sort of mental equity,
and in order to make allowance for different eventualities--from which he
tried to form a fresh judgment of Odette, based on the supposition that he
had never been in love with her, that she was to him just a woman like
other women, that her life had not been (whenever he himself was not
present) different, a texture woven in secret apart from him, and warped
against him.

Wherefore believe that she would enjoy down there with Forcheville or with
other men intoxicating pleasures which she had never known with him, and
which his jealousy alone had fabricated in all their elements? At
Bayreuth, as in Paris, if it should happen that Forcheville thought of him
at all, it would only be as of some one who counted for a great deal in
the life of Odette, some one for whom he was obliged to make way, when
they met in her house. If Forcheville and she scored a triumph by being
down there together in spite of him, it was he who had engineered that
triumph by striving in vain to prevent her from going there, whereas if he
had approved of her plan, which for that matter was quite defensible, she
would have had the appearance of being there by his counsel, she would
have felt herself sent there, housed there by him, and for the pleasure
which she derived from entertaining those people who had so often
entertained her, it was to him that she would have had to acknowledge her

And if--instead of letting her go off thus, at cross-purposes with him,
without having seen him again--he were to send her this money, if he were
to encourage her to take this journey, and to go out of his way to make it
comfortable and pleasant for her, she would come running to him, happy,
grateful, and he would have the joy--the sight of her face--which he had
not known for nearly a week, a joy which none other could replace. For
the moment that Swann was able to form a picture of her without revulsion,
that he could see once again the friendliness in her smile, and that the
desire to tear her away from every rival was no longer imposed by his
jealousy upon his love, that love once again became, more than anything, a
taste for the sensations which Odette's person gave him, for the pleasure
which he found in admiring, as one might a spectacle, or in questioning,
as one might a phenomenon, the birth of one of her glances, the formation
of one of her smiles, the utterance of an intonation of her voice. And
this pleasure, different from every other, had in the end created in him a
need of her, which she alone, by her presence or by her letters, could
assuage, almost as disinterested, almost as artistic, as perverse as
another need which characterised this new period in Swann's life, when the
sereness, the depression of the preceding years had been followed by a
sort of spiritual superabundance, without his knowing to what he owed this
unlooked-for enrichment of his life, any more than a person in delicate
health who from a certain moment grows stronger, puts on flesh, and seems
for a time to be on the road to a complete recovery:--this other need,
which, too, developed in him independently of the visible, material world,
was the need to listen to music and to learn to know it.

And so, by the chemical process of his malady, after he had created
jealousy out of his love, he began again to generate tenderness, pity for
Odette. She had become once more the old Odette, charming and kind. He was
full of remorse for having treated her harshly. He wished her to come to

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