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Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

Part 7 out of 9

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him, and, before she came, he wished to have already procured for her some
pleasure, so as to watch her gratitude taking shape in her face and
moulding her smile.

So, too, Odette, certain of seeing him come to her in a few days, as
tender and submissive as before, and plead with her for a reconciliation,
became inured, was no longer afraid of displeasing him, or even of making
him angry, and refused him, whenever it suited her, the favours by which
he set most store.

Perhaps she did not realise how sincere he had been with her during their
quarrel, when he had told her that he would not send her any money, but
would do what he could to hurt her. Perhaps she did not realise, either,
how sincere he still was, if not with her, at any rate with himself, on
other occasions when, for the sake of their future relations, to shew
Odette that he was capable of doing without her, that a rupture was still
possible between them, he decided to wait some time before going to see
her again.

Sometimes several days had elapsed, during which she had caused him no
fresh anxiety; and as, from the next few visits which he would pay her, he
knew that he was likely to derive not any great pleasure, but, more
probably, some annoyance which would put an end to the state of calm in
which he found himself, he wrote to her that he was very busy, and would
not be able to see her on any of the days that he had suggested.
Meanwhile, a letter from her, crossing his, asked him to postpone one of
those very meetings. He asked himself, why; his suspicions, his grief,
again took hold of him. He could no longer abide, in the new state of
agitation into which he found himself plunged, by the arrangements which
he had made in his preceding state of comparative calm; he would run to
find her, and would insist upon seeing her on each of the following days.
And even if she had not written first, if she merely acknowledged his
letter, it was enough to make him unable to rest without seeing her. For,
upsetting all Swann's calculations, Odette's acceptance had entirely
changed his attitude. Like everyone who possesses something precious, so
as to know what would happen if he ceased for a moment to possess it, he
had detached the precious object from his mind, leaving, as he thought,
everything else in the same state as when it was there. But the absence of
one part from a whole is not only that, it is not simply a partial
omission, it is a disturbance of all the other parts, a new state which it
was impossible to foresee from the old.

But at other times--when Odette was on the point of going away for a
holiday--it was after some trifling quarrel for which he had chosen the
pretext, that he decided not to write to her and not to see her until her
return, giving the appearance (and expecting the reward) of a serious
rupture, which she would perhaps regard as final, to a separation, the
greater part of which was inevitable, since she was going away, which, in
fact, he was merely allowing to start a little sooner than it must. At
once he could imagine Odette, puzzled, anxious, distressed at having
received neither visit nor letter from him and this picture of her, by
calming his jealousy, made it easy for him to break himself of the habit
of seeing her. At odd moments, no doubt, in the furthest recesses of his
brain, where his determination had thrust it away, and thanks to the
length of the interval, the three weeks' separation to which he had
agreed, it was with pleasure that he would consider the idea that he would
see Odette again on her return; but it was also with so little impatience
that he began to ask himself whether he would not readily consent to the
doubling of the period of so easy an abstinence. It had lasted, so far,
but three days, a much shorter time than he had often, before, passed
without seeing Odette, and without having, as on this occasion he had,
premeditated a separation. And yet, there and then, some tiny trace of
contrariety in his mind, or of weakness in his body,--by inciting him to
regard the present as an exceptional moment, one not to be governed by the
rules, one in which prudence itself would allow him to take advantage of
the soothing effects of a pleasure and to give his will (until the time
should come when its efforts might serve any purpose) a holiday--suspended
the action of his will, which ceased to exert its inhibitive control; or,
without that even, the thought of some information for which he had
forgotten to ask Odette, such as if she had decided in what colour she
would have her carriage repainted, or, with regard to some investment,
whether they were 'ordinary' or 'preference' shares that she wished him to
buy (for it was all very well to shew her that he could live without
seeing her, but if, after that, the carriage had to be painted over again,
if the shares produced no dividend, a fine lot of good he would have
done),--and suddenly, like a stretched piece of elastic which is let go,
or the air in a pneumatic machine which is ripped open, the idea of seeing
her again, from the remote point in time to which it had been attached,
sprang back into the field of the present and of immediate possibilities.

It sprang back thus without meeting any further resistance, so
irresistible, in fact, that Swann had been far less unhappy in watching
the end gradually approaching, day by day, of the fortnight which he must
spend apart from Odette, than he was when kept waiting ten minutes while
his coachman brought round the carriage which was to take him to her,
minutes which he passed in transports of impatience and joy, in which he
recaptured a thousand times over, to lavish on it all the wealth of his
affection, that idea of his meeting with Odette, which, by so abrupt a
repercussion, at a moment when he supposed it so remote, was once more
present and on the very surface of his consciousness. The fact was that
this idea no longer found, as an obstacle in its course, the desire to
contrive without further delay to resist its coming, which had ceased to
have any place in Swann's mind since, having proved to himself--or so, at
least, he believed--that he was so easily capable of resisting it, he no
longer saw any inconvenience in postponing a plan of separation which he
was now certain of being able to put into operation whenever he would.
Furthermore, this idea of seeing her again came back to him adorned with a
novelty, a seductiveness, armed with a virulence, all of which long habit
had enfeebled, but which had acquired new vigour during this privation,
not of three days but of a fortnight (for a period of abstinence may be
calculated, by anticipation, as having lasted already until the final date
assigned to it), and had converted what had been, until then, a pleasure
in store, which could easily be sacrificed, into an unlooked-for happiness
which he was powerless to resist. Finally, the idea returned to him with
its beauty enhanced by his own ignorance of what Odette might have
thought, might, perhaps, have done on finding that he shewed no sign of
life, with the result that he was going now to meet with the entrancing
revelation of an Odette almost unknown.

But she, just as she had supposed that his refusal to send her money was
only a feint, saw nothing but a pretext in the question which he came,
now, to ask her, about the repainting of her carriage, or the purchase of
stock. For she could not reconstruct the several phases of these crises
through which he passed, and in the general idea which she formed of them
she made no attempt to understand their mechanism, looking only to what
she knew beforehand, their necessary, never-failing and always identical
termination. An imperfect idea (though possibly all the more profound in
consequence), if one were to judge it from the point of view of Swann, who
would doubtless have considered that Odette failed to understand him, just
as a morphinomaniac or a consumptive, each persuaded that he has been
thrown back, one by some outside event, at the moment when he was just
going to shake himself free from his inveterate habit, the other by an
accidental indisposition at the moment when he was just going to be
finally cured, feels himself to be misunderstood by the doctor who does
not attach the same importance to these pretended contingencies, mere
disguises, according to him, assumed, so as to be perceptible by his
patients, by the vice of one and the morbid state of the other, which in
reality have never ceased to weigh heavily and incurably upon them while
they were nursing their dreams of normality and health. And, as a matter
of fact, Swann's love had reached that stage at which the physician and
(in the case of certain affections) the boldest of surgeons ask themselves
whether to deprive a patient of his vice or to rid him of his malady is
still reasonable, or indeed possible.

Certainly, of the extent of this love Swann had no direct knowledge. When
he sought to measure it, it happened sometimes that he found it
diminished, shrunken almost to nothing; for instance, the very moderate
liking, amounting almost to dislike, which, in the days before he was in
love with Odette, he had felt for her expressive features, her faded
complexion, returned on certain days. "Really, I am making distinct
headway," he would tell himself on the morrow, "when I come to think it
over carefully, I find out that I got hardly any pleasure, last night, out
of being in bed with her; it's an odd thing, but I actually thought her
ugly." And certainly he was sincere, but his love extended a long way
beyond the province of physical desire. Odette's person, indeed, no longer
held any great place in it. When his eyes fell upon the photograph of
Odette on his table, or when she came to see him, he had difficulty in
identifying her face, either in the flesh or on the pasteboard, with the
painful and continuous anxiety which dwelt in his mind. He would say to
himself, almost with astonishment, "It is she!" as when suddenly some one
shews us in a detached, externalised form one of our own maladies, and we
find in it no resemblance to what we are suffering. "She?"--he tried to
ask himself what that meant; for it is something like love, like death
(rather than like those vague conceptions of maladies), a thing which one
repeatedly calls in question, in order to make oneself probe further into
it, in the fear that the question will find no answer, that the substance
will escape our grasp--the mystery of personality. And this malady, which
was Swann's love, had so far multiplied, was so closely interwoven with
all his habits, with all his actions, with his thoughts, his health, his
sleep, his life, even with what he hoped for after his death, was so
entirely one with him that it would have been impossible to wrest it away
without almost entirely destroying him; as surgeons say, his case was past

By this love Swann had been so far detached from all other interests that
when by chance he reappeared in the world of fashion, reminding himself
that his social relations, like a beautifully wrought setting (although
she would not have been able to form any very exact estimate of its
worth), might, still, add a little to his own value in Odette's eyes (as
indeed they might have done had they not been cheapened by his love
itself, which for Odette depreciated everything that it touched by seeming
to denounce such things as less precious than itself), he would feel
there, simultaneously with his distress at being in places and among
people that she did not know, the same detached sense of pleasure as he
would have derived from a novel or a painting in which were depicted the
amusements of a leisured class; just as, at home, he used to enjoy the
thought of the smooth efficiency of his household, the smartness of his
own wardrobe and of his servants' liveries, the soundness of his
investments, with the same relish as when he read in Saint-Simon, who was
one of his favourite authors, of the machinery of daily life at
Versailles, what Mme. de Maintenon ate and drank, or the shrewd avarice
and great pomp of Lulli. And in the small extent to which this detachment
was not absolute, the reason for this new pleasure which Swann was tasting
was that he could emigrate for a moment into those few and distant parts
of himself which had remained almost foreign to his love and to his pain.
In this respect the personality, with which my great-aunt endowed him, of
'young Swann,' as distinct from the more individual personality of Charles
Swann, was that in which he now most delighted. Once when, because it was
the birthday of the Princesse de Parme (and because she could often be of
use, indirectly, to Odette, by letting her have seats for galas and
jubilees and all that sort of thing), he had decided to send her a basket
of fruit, and was not quite sure where or how to order it, he had
entrusted the task to a cousin of his mother who, delighted to be doing a
commission for him, had written to him, laying stress on the fact that she
had not chosen all the fruit at the same place, but the grapes from
Crapote, whose speciality they were, the straw berries from Jauret, the
pears from Chevet, who always had the best, am soon, "every fruit visited
and examined, one by one, by myself." And ii the sequel, by the cordiality
with which the Princess thanked him, hi had been able to judge of the
flavour of the strawberries and of the ripe ness of the pears. But, most
of all, that "every fruit visited and examinee one by one, by myself" had
brought balm to his sufferings by carrying hi mind off to a region which
he rarely visited, although it was his by right, as the heir of a rich and
respectable middle-class family in which had been handed down from
generation to generation the knowledge of the 'right places' and the art
of ordering things from shops.

Of a truth, he had too long forgotten that he was 'young Swann' not to
feel, when he assumed that part again for a moment, a keener pleasure than
he was capable of feeling at other times--when, indeed, he was grown sick
of pleasure; and if the friendliness of the middle-class people, for whom
he had never been anything else than 'young Swann,' was less animated than
that of the aristocrats (though more flattering, for all that, since in
the middle-class mind friendship is inseparable from respect), no letter
from a Royal Personage, offering him some princely entertainment, could
ever be so attractive to Swann as the letter which asked him to be a
witness, or merely to be present at a wedding in the family of some old
friends of his parents; some of whom had 'kept up' with him, like my
grandfather, who, the year before these events, had invited him to my
mother's wedding, while others barely knew him by sight, but were, they
thought, in duty bound to shew civility to the son, to the worthy
successor of the late M. Swann.

But, by virtue of his intimacy, already time-honoured, with so many of
them, the people of fashion, in a certain sense, were also a part of his
house, his service, and his family. He felt, when his mind dwelt upon his
brilliant connections, the same external support, the same solid comfort
as when he looked at the fine estate, the fine silver, the fine
table-linen which had come down to him from his forebears. And the thought
that, if he were seized by a sudden illness and confined to the house, the
people whom his valet would instinctively run to find would be the Duc de
Chartres, the Prince de Reuss, the Duc de Luxembourg and the Baron de
Charlus, brought him the same consolation as our old Françoise derived
from the knowledge that she would, one day, be buried in her own fine
clothes, marked with her name, not darned at all (or so exquisitely darned
that it merely enhanced one's idea of the skill and patience of the
seamstress), a shroud from the constant image of which in her mind's eye
she drew a certain satisfactory sense, if not actually of wealth and
prosperity, at any rate of self-esteem. But most of all,--since in every
one of his actions and thoughts which had reference to Odette, Swann was
constantly subdued and swayed by the unconfessed feeling that he was,
perhaps not less dear, but at least less welcome to her than anyone, even
the most wearisome of the Verdurins' 'faithful,'--when he betook himself
to a world in which he was the paramount example of taste, a man whom no
pains were spared to attract, whom people were genuinely sorry not to see,
he began once again to believe in the existence of a happier life,
almost to feel an appetite for it, as an invalid may feel who has been in
bed for months and on a strict diet, when he picks up a newspaper and
reads the account of an official banquet or the advertisement of a cruise
round Sicily.

If he was obliged to make excuses to his fashionable friends for not
paying them visits, it was precisely for the visits that he did pay her
that he sought to excuse himself to Odette. He still paid them (asking
himself at the end of each month whether, seeing that he had perhaps
exhausted her patience, and had certainly gone rather often to see her, it
would be enough if he sent her four thousand francs), and for each visit
he found a pretext, a present that he had to bring her, some information
which she required, M. de Charlus, whom he had met actually going to her
house, and who had insisted upon Swann's accompanying him. And, failing
any excuse, he would beg M. de Charlus to go to her at once, and to tell
her, as though spontaneously, in the course of conversation, that he had
just remembered something that he had to say to Swann, and would she
please send a message to Swann's house asking him to come to her then and
there; but as a rule Swann waited at home in vain, and M. de Charlus
informed him, later in the evening, that his device had not proved
successful. With the result that, if she was now frequently away from
Paris, even when she was there he scarcely saw her; that she who, when she
was in love with him, used to say, "I am always free" and "What can it
matter to me, what other people think?" now, whenever he wanted to see
her, appealed to the proprieties or pleaded some engagement. When he spoke
of going to a charity entertainment, or a private view, or a first-night
at which she was to be present, she would expostulate that he wished to
advertise their relations in public, that he was treating her like a woman
off the streets. Things came to such a pitch that, in an effort to save
himself from being altogether forbidden to meet her anywhere, Swann,
remembering that she knew and was deeply attached to my great-uncle
Adolphe, whose friend he himself also had been, went one day to see him in
his little flat in the Rue de Bellechasse, to ask him to use his influence
with Odette. As it happened, she invariably adopted, when she spoke to
Swann about my uncle, a poetical tone, saying: "Ah, he! He is not in the
least like you; it is an exquisite thing, a great, a beautiful thing, his
friendship for me. He's not the sort of man who would have so little
consideration for me as to let himself be seen with me everywhere in
public." This was embarrassing for Swann, who did not know quite to what
rhetorical pitch he should screw himself up in speaking of Odette to my
uncle. He began by alluding to her excellence, _a priori_, the axiom of
her seraphic super-humanity, the revelation of her inexpressible virtues,
no conception of which could possibly be formed. "I should like to speak
to you about her," he went on, "you, who know what a woman supreme above
all women, what an adorable being, what an angel Odette is. But you know,
also, what life is in Paris. Everyone doesn't see Odette in the light in
which you and I have been Privileged to see her. And so there are people
who think that I am behaving rather foolishly; she won't even allow me to
meet her out of doors, at the theatre. Now you, in whom she has such
enormous confidence, couldn't you say a few words for me to her, just to
assure her that she exaggerate the harm which my bowing to her in the
street might do her?"

My uncle advised Swann not to see Odette for some days, after which she
would love him all the more; he advised Odette to let Swann meet he;
everywhere, and as often as he pleased. A few days later Odette told Swann
that she had just had a rude awakening; she had discovered that my uncle
was the same as other men; he had tried to take her by assault. She calmed
Swann, who, at first, was for rushing out to challenge my uncle to a duel,
but he refused to shake hands with him when they met again. He regretted
this rupture all the more because he had hoped, if he had met my uncle
Adolphe again sometimes and had contrived to talk things over with him in
strict confidence, to be able to get him to throw a light on certain
rumours with regard to the life that Odette had led, in the old days, at
Nice. For my uncle Adolphe used to spend the winter there, and Swann
thought that it might indeed have been there, perhaps, that he had first
known Odette. The few words which some one had let fall, in his hearing,
about a man who, it appeared, had been Odette's lover, had left Swann dumb
foundered. But the very things which he would, before knowing them, have
regarded as the most terrible to learn and the most impossible to believe,
were, once he knew them, incorporated for all time in the general mass of
his sorrow; he admitted them, he could no longer have understood their not
existing. Only, each one of them in its passage traced an indelible line,
altering the picture that he had formed of his mistress. At one time
indeed he felt that he could understand that this moral 'lightness,' of
which he would never have suspected Odette, was perfectly well known, and
that at Baden or Nice, when she had gone, in the past, to spend several
months in one or the other place, she had enjoyed a sort of amorous
notoriety. He attempted, in order to question them, to get into touch
again with certain men of that stamp; but these were aware that he knew
Odette, and, besides, he was afraid of putting the thought of her into
their heads, of setting them once more upon her track. But he, to whom, up
till then, nothing could have seemed so tedious as was all that pertained
to the cosmopolitan life of Baden or of Nice, now that he learned that
Odette had, perhaps, led a 'gay' life once in those pleasure-cities,
although he could never find out whether it had been solely to satisfy a
want of money which, thanks to himself, she no longer felt, or from some
capricious instinct which might, at any moment, revive in her, he would
lean, in impotent anguish, blinded and dizzy, over the bottomless abyss
into which had passed, in which had been engulfed those years of his own,
early in MacMahon's _Septennat_, in which one spent the winter on the
Promenade des Anglais, the summer beneath the limes of Baden, and would
find in those years a sad but splendid profundity, such as a poet might
have lent to them; and he would have devoted to the reconstruction of all
the insignificant details that made up the daily round on the Côte d'Azur
in those days, if it could have helped him to understand something that
still baffled him in the smile or in the eyes of Odette, more enthusiasm
than does the aesthete who ransacks the extant documents of
fifteenth-century Florence, so as to try to penetrate further into the
soul of the Primavera, the fair Vanna or the Venus of Botticelli. He would
sit, often, without saying a word to her, only gazing at her and dreaming;
and she would comment: "You do look sad!" It was not very long since, from
the idea that she was an excellent creature, comparable to the best women
that he had known, he had passed to that of her being 'kept'; and yet
already, by an inverse process, he had returned from the Odette de Crécy,
perhaps too well known to the holiday-makers, to the 'ladies' men' of Nice
and Baden, to this face, the expression on which was so often gentle, to
this nature so eminently human. He would ask himself: "What does it mean,
after all, to say that everyone at Nice knows who Odette de Crécy is?
Reputations of that sort, even when they're true, are always based upon
other people's ideas"; he would reflect that this legend--even if it were
authentic--was something external to Odette, was not inherent in her like
a mischievous and ineradicable personality; that the creature who might
have been led astray was a woman with frank eyes, a heart full of pity for
the sufferings of others, a docile body which he had pressed tightly in
his arms and explored with his fingers, a woman of whom he might one day
come into absolute possession if he succeeded in making himself
indispensable to her. There she was, often tired, her face left blank for
the nonce by that eager, feverish preoccupation with the unknown things
which made Swann suffer; she would push back her hair with both hands; her
forehead, her whole face would seem to grow larger; then, suddenly, some
ordinary human thought, some worthy sentiment such as is to be found in
all creatures when, in a moment of rest or meditation, they are free to
express themselves, would flash out from her eyes like a ray of gold. And
immediately the whole of her face would light up like a grey landscape,
swathed in clouds which, suddenly, are swept away and the dull scene
transfigured, at the moment of the sun's setting. The life which occupied
Odette at such times, even the future which she seemed to be dreamily
regarding, Swann could have shared with her. No evil disturbance seemed to
have left any effect on them. Rare as they became, those moments did not
occur in vain. By the process of memory, Swann joined the fragments
together, abolished the intervals between them, cast, as in molten gold,
the image of an Odette compact of kindness and tranquillity, for whom he
was to make, later on (as we shall see in the second part of this story)
sacrifices which the other Odette would never have won from him. But how
rare those moments were, and how seldom he now saw her! Even in regard to
their evening meetings, she would never tell him until the last minute
whether she would be able to see him, for, reckoning on his being always
free, she wished first to be certain that no one else would offer to come
to her. She would plead that she was obliged to wait for an answer which
was of the very greatest importance, and if, even after she had made Swann
come to her house, any of her friends asked her, half-way through the
evening, to join them at some theatre, or at supper afterwards, she would
jump for joy and dress herself with all speed. As her toilet progressed,
every movement that she made brought Swann nearer to the moment when he
would have to part from her, when she would fly off with irresistible
force; and when at length she was ready, and, Plunging into her mirror a
last glance strained and brightened by her anxiety to look well, smeared a
little salve on her lips, fixed a stray loci of hair over her brow, and
called for her cloak of sky-blue silk with golden tassels, Swann would be
looking so wretched that she would be unable to restrain a gesture of
impatience as she flung at him: "So that is how you thank me for keeping
you here till the last minute! And I thought I was being so nice to you.
Well, I shall know better another time!" Sometime ... at the risk of
annoying her, he made up his mind that he would find out where she had
gone, and even dreamed of a defensive alliance with Forcheville, who might
perhaps have been able to tell him. But anyhow, when he knew with whom she
was spending the evening, it was very seldom that he could not discover,
among all his innumerable acquaintance, some one who knew--if only
indirectly--the man with whom she had gone out, and could easily obtain
this or that piece of information about him. And while he was writing to
one of his friends, asking him to try to get a little light thrown upon
some point or other, he would feel a sense of relief on ceasing to vex
himself with questions to which there was no answer and transferring to
some one else the strain of interrogation. It is true that Swann was
little the wiser for such information as he did receive. To know a thing
does not enable us, always, to prevent its happening, but after all the
things that we know we do hold, if not in our hands, at any rate in our
minds, where we can dispose of them as we choose, which gives us the
illusion of a sort of power to control them. He was quite happy whenever
M. de Charlus was with Odette. He knew that between M. de Charlus and her
nothing untoward could ever happen, that when M. de Charlus went anywhere
with her, it was out of friendship for himself, and that he would make no
difficulty about telling him everything that she had done. Sometimes she
had declared so emphatically to Swann that it was impossible for him to
see her on a particular evening, she seemed to be looking forward so
keenly to some outing, that Swann attached a very real importance to the
fact that M. de Charlus was free to accompany her. Next day, without
daring to put many questions to M. de Charlus, he would force him, by
appearing not quite to understand his first answers, to give him more,
after each of which he would feel himself increasingly relieved, for he
very soon learned that Odette had spent her evening in the most innocent
of dissipations.

"But what do you mean, my dear Mémé, I don't quite understand.... You
didn't go straight from her house to the Musée Grévin? Surely you went
somewhere else first? No? That is very odd! You don't know how amusing you
are, my dear Mémé. But what an odd idea of hers to go on to the Chat Noir
afterwards; it was her idea, I suppose? No? Yours? That's strange. After
all, it wasn't a bad idea; she must have known dozens of people there? No?
She never spoke to a soul? How extraordinary! Then you sat there like
that, just you and she, all by yourselves? I can picture you, sitting
there! You are a worthy fellow, my dear Mémé; I'm exceedingly fond of

Swann was now quite at ease. To him, who had so often happened, when
talking to friends who knew nothing of his love, friends to whom he hardly
listened, to hear certain detached sentences (as, for instance, "I saw
Mme. de Crécy yesterday; she was with a man I didn't know."), sentences
which dropped into his heart and passed at once into a solid state, grew
hard as stalagmites, and seared and tore him as they lay there
irremovable,--how charming, by way of contrast, were the words: "She didn't
know a soul; she never spoke to a soul." How freely they coursed through
him, how fluid they were, how vaporous, how easy to breathe! And yet, a
moment later, he was telling himself that Odette must find him very dull
if those were the pleasures that she preferred to his company. And their
very insignificance, though it reassured him, pained him as if her
enjoyment of them had been an act of treachery.

Even when he could not discover where she had gone, it would have sufficed
to alleviate the anguish that he then felt, for which Odette's presence,
the charm of her company, was the sole specific (a specific which in the
long run served, like many other remedies, to aggravate the disease, but
at least brought temporary relief to his sufferings), it would have
sufficed, had Odette only permitted him to remain in her house while she
was out, to wait there until that hour of her return, into whose stillness
and peace would flow, to be mingled and lost there, all memory of those
intervening hours which some sorcery, some cursed spell had made him
imagine as, somehow, different from the rest. But she would not; he must
return home; he forced himself, on the way, to form various plans, ceased
to think of Odette; he even reached the stage, while he undressed, of
turning over all sorts of happy ideas in his mind: it was with a light
heart, buoyed with the anticipation of going to see some favourite work of
art on the morrow, that he jumped into bed and turned out the light; but
no sooner had he made himself ready to sleep, relaxing a self-control of
which he was not even conscious, so habitual had it become, than an icy
shudder convulsed his body and he burst into sobs. He did not wish to know
why, but dried his eyes, saying with a smile: "This is delightful; I'm
becoming neurasthenic." After which he could not save himself from utter
exhaustion at the thought that, next day, he must begin afresh his attempt
to find out what Odette had been doing, must use all his influence to
contrive to see her. This compulsion to an activity without respite,
without variety, without result, was so cruel a scourge that one day,
noticing a swelling over his stomach, he felt an actual joy in the idea
that he had, perhaps, a tumour which would prove fatal, that he need not
concern himself with anything further, that it was his malady which was
going to govern his life, to make a plaything of him, until the
not-distant end. If indeed, at this period, it often happened that, though
without admitting it even to himself, he longed for death, it was in order
to escape not so much from the keenness of his sufferings as from the
monotony of his struggle.

And yet he would have wished to live until the time came when he no longer
loved her, when she would have no reason for lying to him, when at length
he might learn from her whether, on the day when he had gone to see her in
the afternoon, she had or had not been in the arms of Forcheville. Often
for several days on end the suspicion that she was in love with some one
else would distract his mind from the question of Forcheville, making it
almost immaterial to him, like those new developments of a continuous
state of ill-health which seem for a little time to have delivered us from
their predecessors. There were even days when he was not tormented by any
suspicion. He fancied that he was cured. But next morning, when he awoke,
he felt in the same place the same pain, a sensation which, the day
before, he had, as it were, diluted in the torrent of different
impressions. But it had not stirred from its place. Indeed, it was the
sharpness of this pain that had awakened him.

Since Odette never gave him any information as to those vastly important
matters which took up so much of her time every day (albeit he had lived
long enough in the world to know that such matters are never anything else
than pleasures) he could not sustain for any length of time the effort to
imagine them; his brain would become a void; then he would pass a finger
over his tired eyelids, in the same way as he might have wiped his
eyeglass, and would cease altogether to think. There emerged, however,
from this unexplored tract, certain occupations which reappeared from time
to time, vaguely connected by Odette with some obligation towards distant
relatives or old friends who, inasmuch as they were the only people whom
she was in the habit of mentioning as preventing her from seeing him,
seemed to Swann to compose the necessary, unalterable setting of her life.
Because of the tone in which she referred, from time to time, to "the day
when I go with my friend to the Hippodrome," if, when he felt unwell and
had thought, "Perhaps Odette would be kind and come to see me," he
remembered, suddenly, that it was one of those very days, he would correct
himself with an "Oh, no! It's not worth while asking her to come; I should
have thought of it before, this is the day when she goes with her friend
to the Hippodrome. We must confine ourselves to what is possible; no use
wasting our time in proposing things that can't be accepted and are
declined in advance." And this duty that was incumbent upon Odette, of
going to the Hippodrome, to which Swann thus gave way, seemed to him to be
not merely ineluctable in itself; but the mark of necessity which stamped
it seemed to make plausible and legitimate everything that was even
remotely connected with it. If, when Odette, in the street, had
acknowledged the salute of a passer-by, which had aroused Swann's
jealousy, she replied to his questions by associating the stranger with
any of the two or three paramount duties of which she had often spoken to
him; if, for instance, she said: "That's a gentleman who was in my
friend's box the other day; the one I go to the Hippodrome with," that
explanation would set Swann's suspicions at rest; it was, after all,
inevitable that this friend should have other guests than Odette in her
box at the Hippodrome, but he had never sought to form or succeeded in
forming any coherent impression of them. Oh! how he would have loved to
know her, that friend who went to the Hippodrome, how he would have loved
her to invite him there with Odette. How readily he would have sacrificed
all his acquaintance for no matter what person who was in the habit of
seeing Odette, were she but a manicurist or a girl out of a shop. He would
have taken more trouble, incurred more expense for them than for queens.
Would they not have supplied him, out of what was contained in their
knowledge of the life of Odette, with the one potent anodyne for his pain?
With what joy would he have hastened to spend his days with one or other
of those humble folk with whom Odette kept up friendly relations, either
with some ulterior motive or from genuine simplicity of nature. How
willingly would he have fixed his abode for ever in the attics of some
sordid but enviable house, where Odette went but never took him, and
where, if he had lived with the little retired dressmaker, whose lover he
would readily have pretended to be, he would have been visited by. Odette
almost daily. In those regions, that were almost slums, what a modest
existence, abject, if you please, but delightful, nourished by
tranquillity and happiness, he would have consented to lead indefinitely.

It sometimes happened, again, that, when, after meeting Swann, she saw
some man approaching whom he did not know, he could distinguish upon
Odette's face that look of sorrow which she had worn on the day when he
had come to her while Forcheville was there. But this was rare; for, on
the days when, in spite of all that she had to do, and of her dread of
what people would think, she did actually manage to see Swann, the
predominant quality in her attitude, now, was self-assurance; a striking
contrast, perhaps an unconscious revenge for, perhaps a natural reaction
from the timorous emotion which, in the early days of their friendship,
she had felt in his presence, and even in his absence, when she began a
letter to him with the words: "My dear, my hand trembles so that I can
scarcely write." (So, at least, she pretended, and a little of that
emotion must have been sincere, or she would not have been anxious to
enlarge and emphasise it.) So Swann had been pleasing to her then. Our
hands do not tremble except for ourselves, or for those whom we love. When
they have ceased to control our happiness how peaceful, how easy, how bold
do we become in their presence! In speaking to him, in writing to him now,
she no longer employed those words by which she had sought to give herself
the illusion that he belonged to her, creating opportunities for saying
"my" and "mine" when she referred to him: "You are all that I have in the
world; it is the perfume of our friendship, I shall keep it," nor spoke to
him of the future, of death itself, as of a single adventure which they
would have to share. In those early days, whatever he might say to her,
she would answer admiringly: "You know, you will never be like other
people!"--she would gaze at his long, slightly bald head, of which people
who know only of his successes used to think: "He's not regularly
good-looking, if you like, but he is smart; that tuft, that eyeglass, that
smile!" and, with more curiosity perhaps to know him as he really was than
desire to become his mistress, she would sigh:

"I do wish I could find out what there is in that head of yours!"

But, now, whatever he might say, she would answer, in a tone sometimes of
irritation, sometimes indulgent: "Ah! so you never will be like other

She would gaze at his head, which was hardly aged at all by his recent
anxieties (though people now thought of it, by the same mental process
which enables one to discover the meaning of a piece of symphonic music of
which one has read the programme, or the 'likenesses' in a child whose
family one has known: "He's not positively ugly, if you like, but he is
really rather absurd; that eyeglass, that tuft, that smile!" realising in
their imagination, fed by suggestion, the invisible boundary which
divides, at a few months' interval, the head of an ardent lover from a
cuckold's), and would say:

"Oh, I do wish I could change you; put some sense into that head of

Always ready to believe in the truth of what he hoped, if it was only
Odette's way of behaving to him that left room for doubt, he would fling
himself greedily upon her words: "You can if you like," he would tell her.

And he tried to explain to her that to comfort him, to control him, to
make him work would be a noble task, to which numbers of other women asked
for nothing better than to be allowed to devote themselves, though it is
only fair to add that in those other women's hands the noble task would
have seemed to Swann nothing more than an indiscreet and intolerable
usurpation of his freedom of action. "If she didn't love me, just a
little," he told himself, "she would not wish to have me altered. To alter
me, she will have to see me more often." And so he was able to trace, in
these faults which she found in him, a proof at least of her interest,
perhaps even of her love; and, in fact, she gave him so little, now, of
the last, that he was obliged to regard as proofs of her interest in him
the various things which, every now and then, she forbade him to do. One
day she announced that she did not care for his coachman, who, she
thought, was perhaps setting Swann against her, and, anyhow, did not shew
that promptness and deference to Swann's orders which she would have liked
to see. She felt that he wanted to hear her say: "Don't have him again
when you come to me," just as he might have wanted her to kiss him. So,
being in a good temper, she said it; and he was deeply moved. That
evening, when talking to M. de Charlus, with whom he had the satisfaction
of being able to speak of her openly (for the most trivial remarks that he
uttered now, even to people who had never heard of her, had always some
sort of reference to Odette), he said to him:

"I believe, all the same, that she loves me; she is so nice to me now, and
she certainly takes an interest in what I do."

And if, when he was starting off for her house, getting into his carriage
with a friend whom he was to drop somewhere on the way, his friend said:
"Hullo! that isn't Loredan on the box?" with what melancholy joy would
Swann answer him:

"Oh! Good heavens, no! I can tell you, I daren't take Loredan when I go to
the Rue La Pérouse; Odette doesn't like me to have Loredan, she thinks he
doesn't suit me. What on earth is one to do? Women, you know, women. My
dear fellow, she would be furious. Oh, lord, yes; I've only to take Rémi
there; I should never hear the last of it!"

These new manners, indifferent, listless, irritable, which Odette now
adopted with Swann, undoubtedly made him suffer; but he did not realise
how much he suffered; since it had been with a regular progression, day
after day, that Odette had chilled towards him, it was only by directly
contrasting what she was to-day with what she had been at first that he
could have measured the extent of the change that had taken place. Now
this change was his deep, his secret wound, which pained him day and
night, and whenever he felt that his thoughts were straying too near it,
he would quickly turn them into another channel for fear of being made to
suffer too keenly. He might say to himself in a vague way: "There was a
time when Odette loved me more," but he never formed any definite picture
of that time. Just as he had in his study a cupboard at which he contrived
never to look, which he turned aside to avoid passing whenever he entered
or left the room, because in one of its drawers he had locked away the
chrysanthemum which she had given him on one of those first evenings when
he had taken her home in his carriage, and the letters in which she said:
"Why did you not forget your heart also? I should never have let you have
that back," and "At whatever hour of the day or night you may need me,
just send me a word, and dispose of me as you please," so there was a
place in his heart to which he would never allow his thoughts to trespass
too near, forcing them, if need be, to evade it by a long course of
reasoning so that they should not have to pass within reach of it; the
place in which lingered his memories of happy days.

But his so meticulous prudence was defeated one evening when he had gone
out to a party.

It was at the Marquise de Saint-Euverte's, on the last, for that season,
of the evenings on which she invited people to listen to the musicians who
would serve, later on, for her charity concerts. Swann, who had intended
to go to each of the previous evenings in turn, but had never been able to
make up his mind, received, while he was dressing for this party, a visit
from the Baron de Charlus, who came with an offer to go with him to the
Marquise's, if his company could be of any use in helping Swann not to
feel quite so bored when he got there, to be a little less unhappy. But
Swann had thanked him with:

"You can't conceive how glad I should be of your company. But the greatest
pleasure that you can give me will be if you will go instead to see
Odette. You know what a splendid influence you have over her. I don't
suppose she'll be going anywhere this evening, unless she goes to see her
old dressmaker, and I'm sure she would be delighted if you went with her
there. In any case, you'll find her at home before then. Try to keep her
amused, and also to give her a little sound advice. If you could arrange
something for to-morrow which would please her, something that we could
all three do together. Try to put out a feeler, too, for the summer; see
if there's anything she wants to do, a cruise that we might all three
take; anything you can think of. I don't count upon seeing her to-night,
myself; still if she would like me to come, or if you find a loophole,
you've only to send me a line at Mme. de Saint-Euverte's up till midnight;
after that I shall be here. Ever so many thanks for all you are doing for
me--you know what I feel about you!"

His friend promised to go and do as Swann wished as soon as he had
deposited him at the door of the Saint-Euverte house, where he arrived
soothed by the thought that M. de Charlus would be spending the evening in
the Rue La Pérouse, but in a state of melancholy indifference to
everything that did not involve Odette, and in particular to the details
of fashionable life, a state which invested them with the charm that is to
be found in anything which, being no longer an object of our desire,
appears to us in its own guise. On alighting from his carriage, in the
foreground of that fictitious summary of their domestic existence which
hostesses are pleased to offer to their guests on ceremonial occasions,
and in which they shew a great regard for accuracy of costume and setting,
Swann was amused to discover the heirs and successors of Balzac's
'tigers'--now 'grooms'--. who normally followed their mistress when she
walked abroad, but now, hatted and booted, were posted out of doors, in
front of the house on the gravelled drive, or outside the stables, as
gardeners might be drawn up for inspection at the ends of their several
flower-beds. The peculiar tendency which he had always had to look for
analogies between living people and the portraits in galleries reasserted
itself here, but in a more positive and more general form; it was society
as a whole, now that he was detached from it, which presented itself to
him in a series of pictures. In the cloak-room, into which, in the old
days, when he was still a man of fashion, he would have gone in his
overcoat, to emerge from it in evening dress, but without any impression
of what had occurred there, his mind having been, during the minute or two
that he had spent in it, either still at the party which he had just left,
or already at the party into which he was just about to be ushered, he now
noticed, for the first time, roused by the unexpected arrival of so
belated a guest, the scattered pack of splendid effortless animals, the
enormous footmen who were drowsing here and there upon benches and chests,
until, pointing their noble greyhound profiles, they towered upon their
feet and gathered in a circle round about him.

One of them, of a particularly ferocious aspect, and not unlike the
headsman in certain Renaissance pictures which represent executions,
tortures, and the like, advanced upon him with an implacable air to take
his 'things.' But the harshness of his steely glare was compensated by the
softness of his cotton gloves, so effectively that, as he approached
Swann, he seemed to be exhibiting at once an utter contempt for his person
and the most tender regard for his hat. He took it with a care to which
the precision of his movements imparted something that was almost
over-fastidious, and with a delicacy that was rendered almost touching by
the evidence of his splendid strength. Then he passed it to one of his
satellites, a novice and timid, who was expressing the panic that
overpowered him by casting furious glances in every direction, and
displayed all the dumb agitation of a wild animal in the first hours of
its captivity.

A few feet away, a strapping great lad in livery stood musing, motionless,
statuesque, useless, like that purely decorative warrior whom one sees in
the most tumultuous of Mantegna's paintings, lost in dreams, leaning upon
his shield, while all around him are fighting and bloodshed and death;
detached from the group of his companions who were thronging about Swann,
he seemed as determined to remain unconcerned in the scene, which he
followed vaguely with his cruel, greenish eyes, as if it had been the
Massacre of the Innocents or the Martyrdom of Saint James. He seemed
precisely to have sprung from that vanished race--if, indeed, it ever
existed, save in the reredos of San Zeno and the frescoes of the
Eremitani, where Swann had come in contact with it, and where it still
dreams--fruit of the impregnation of a classical statue by some one of the
Master's Paduan models, or of Albert Duerer's Saxons. And the locks of his
reddish hair, crinkled by nature, but glued to his head by brilliantine,
were treated broadly as they are in that Greek sculpture which the
Mantuan painter never ceased to study, and which, if in its creator's
purpose it represents but man, manages at least to extract from man's
simple outlines such a variety of richness, borrowed, as it were, from the
whole of animated nature, that a head of hair, by the glossy undulation
and beak-like points of its curls, or in the overlaying of the florid
triple diadem of its brushed tresses, can suggest at once a bunch of
seaweed, a brood of fledgling doves, a bed of hyacinths and a serpent's
writhing back. Others again, no less colossal, were disposed upon the
steps of a monumental staircase which, by their decorative presence and
marmorean immobility, was made worthy to be named, like that god-crowned
ascent in the Palace of the Doges, the 'Staircase of the Giants,' and on
which Swann now set foot, saddened by the thought that Odette had never
climbed it. Ah, with what joy would he, on the other hand, have raced up
the dark, evil-smelling, breakneck flights to the little dressmaker's, in
whose attic he would so gladly have paid the price of a weekly stage-box
at the Opera for the right to spend the evening there when Odette came,
and other days too, for the privilege of talking about her, of living
among people whom she was in the habit of seeing when he was not there,
and who, on that account, seemed to keep secret among themselves some part
of the life of his mistress more real, more inaccessible and more
mysterious than anything that he knew. Whereas upon that pestilential,
enviable staircase to the old dressmaker's, since there was no other, no
service stair in the building, one saw in the evening outside every door
an empty, unwashed milk-can set out, in readiness for the morning round,
upon the door-mat; on the despicable, enormous staircase which Swann was
at that moment climbing, on either side of him, at different levels,
before each anfractuosity made in its walls by the window of the porter's
lodge or the entrance to a set of rooms, representing the departments of
indoor service which they controlled, and doing homage for them to the
guests, a gate-keeper, a major-domo, a steward (worthy men who spent the
rest of the week in semi-independence in their own domains, dined there by
themselves like small shopkeepers, and might to-morrow lapse to the
plebeian service of some successful doctor or industrial magnate),
scrupulous in carrying out to the letter all the instructions that had
been heaped upon them before they were allowed to don the brilliant livery
which they wore only at long intervals, and in which they did not feel
altogether at their ease, stood each in the arcade of his doorway, their
splendid pomp tempered by a democratic good-fellowship, like saints in
their niches, and a gigantic usher, dressed Swiss Guard fashion, like the
beadle in a church, struck the pavement with his staff as each fresh
arrival passed him. Coming to the top of the staircase, up which he had
been followed by a servant with a pallid countenance and a small pigtail
clubbed at the back of his head, like one of Goya's sacristans or a
tabellion in an old play, Swann passed by an office in which the lackeys,
seated like notaries before their massive registers, rose solemnly to
their feet and inscribed his name. He next crossed a little hall
which--just as certain rooms are arranged by their owners to serve as the
setting for a single work of art (from which they take their name), and,
in their studied bareness, contain nothing else besides--displayed to him
as he entered it, like some priceless effigy by Benvenuto Cellini of an
armed watchman, a young footman, his body slightly bent forward, rearing
above his crimson gorget an even more crimson face, from which seemed to
burst forth torrents of fire, timidity and zeal, who, as he pierced the
Aubusson tapestries that screened the door of the room in which the music
was being given with his impetuous, vigilant, desperate gaze, appeared,
with a soldierly impassibility or a supernatural faith--an allegory of
alarums, incarnation of alertness, commemoration of a riot--to be looking
out, angel or sentinel, from the tower of dungeon or cathedral, for the
approach of the enemy or for the hour of Judgment. Swann had now only to
enter the concert-room, the doors of which were thrown open to him by an
usher loaded with chains, who bowed low before him as though tendering to
him the keys of a conquered city. But he thought of the house in which at
that very moment he might have been, if Odette had but permitted, and the
remembered glimpse of an empty milk-can upon a door-mat wrung his heart.

He speedily recovered his sense of the general ugliness of the human male
when, on the other side of the tapestry curtain, the spectacle of the
servants gave place to that of the guests. But even this ugliness of
faces, which of course were mostly familiar to him, seemed something new
and uncanny, now that their features,--instead of being to him symbols of
practical utility in the identification of this or that man, who until
then had represented merely so many pleasures to be sought after, boredoms
to be avoided, or courtesies to be acknowledged--were at rest, measurable
by aesthetic co-ordinates alone, in the autonomy of their curves and
angles. And in these men, in the thick of whom Swann now found himself
packed, there was nothing (even to the monocle which many of them wore,
and which, previously, would, at the most, have enabled Swann to say that
so-and-so wore a monocle) which, no longer restricted to the general
connotation of a habit, the same in all of them, did not now strike him
with a sense of individuality in each. Perhaps because he did not regard
General de Froberville and the Marquis de Bréaute, who were talking
together just inside the door, as anything more than two figures in a
picture, whereas they were the old and useful friends who had put him up
for the Jockey Club and had supported him in duels, the General's monocle,
stuck like a shell-splinter in his common, scarred, victorious,
overbearing face, in the middle of a forehead which it left half-blinded,
like the single-eyed flashing front of the Cyclops, appeared to Swann as a
monstrous wound which it might have been glorious to receive but which it
was certainly not decent to expose, while that which M. de Bréaute wore,
as a festive badge, with his pearl-grey gloves, his crush hat and white
tie, substituting it for the familiar pair of glasses (as Swann himself
did) when he went out to places, bore, glued to its other side, like a
specimen prepared on a slide for the microscope, an infinitesimal gaze
that swarmed with friendly feeling and never ceased to twinkle at the
loftiness of ceilings, the delightfulness of parties, the interestingness
of programmes and the excellence of refreshments.

"Hallo! you here! why, it's ages since I've seen you," the General greeted
Swann and, noticing the look of strain on his face and concluding that it
was perhaps a serious illness that had kept him away, went on, "You're
looking well, old man!" while M. de Bréauté turned with, "My dear fellow,
what on earth are you doing here?" to a 'society novelist' who had just
fitted into the angle of eyebrow and cheek his own monocle, the sole
instrument that he used in his psychological investigations and
remorseless analyses of character, and who now replied, with an air of
mystery and importance, rolling the 'r':--"I am observing!"

The Marquis de Forestelle's monocle was minute and rimless, and, by
enforcing an incessant and painful contraction of the eye over which it
was incrusted like a superfluous cartilage, the presence of which there
was inexplicable and its substance unimaginable, it gave to his face a
melancholy refinement, and led women to suppose him capable of suffering
terribly when in love. But that of M. de Saint-Candé, girdled, like
Saturn, with an enormous ring, was the centre of gravity of a face which
composed itself afresh every moment in relation to the glass, while his
thrusting red nose and swollen sarcastic lips endeavoured by their
grimaces to rise to the level of the steady flame of wit that sparkled in
the polished disk, and saw itself preferred to the most ravishing eyes in
the world by the smart, depraved young women whom it set dreaming of
artificial charms and a refinement of sensual bliss; and then, behind him,
M. de Palancy, who with his huge carp's head and goggling eyes moved
slowly up and down the stream of festive gatherings, unlocking his great
mandibles at every moment as though in search of his orientation, had the
air of carrying about upon his person only an accidental and perhaps
purely symbolical fragment of the glass wall of his aquarium, a part
intended to suggest the whole which recalled to Swann, a fervent admirer
of Giotto's Vices and Virtues at Padua, that Injustice by whose side a
leafy bough evokes the idea of the forests that enshroud his secret lair.

Swann had gone forward into the room, under pressure from Mme. de
Saint-Euverte and in order to listen to an aria from _Orfeo_ which was
being rendered on the flute, and had taken up a position in a corner from
which, unfortunately, his horizon was bounded by two ladies of 'uncertain'
age, seated side by side, the Marquise de Cambremer and the Vicomtesse de
Franquetot, who, because they were cousins, used to spend their time at
parties in wandering through the rooms, each clutching her bag and
followed by her daughter, hunting for one another like people at a railway
station, and could never be at rest until they had reserved, by marking
them with their fans or handkerchiefs, two adjacent chairs; Mme. de
Cambremer, since she knew scarcely anyone, being all the more glad of a
companion, while Mme. de Franquetot, who, on the contrary, was extremely
popular, thought it effective and original to shew all her fine friends
that she preferred to their company that of an obscure country cousin with
whom she had childish memories in common. Filled with ironical melancholy,
Swann watched them as they listened to the pianoforte inter, mezzo
(Liszt's 'Saint Francis preaching to the birds') which came after the
flute, and followed the virtuoso in his dizzy flight; Mme. de Franquetot
anxiously, her eyes starting from her head, as though the keys over which
his fingers skipped with such agility were a series of trapezes, from any
one of which he might come crashing, a hundred feet, to the ground,
stealing now and then a glance of astonishment and unbelief at her
companion, as who should say: "It isn't possible, I would never have
believed that a human being could do all that!"; Mme. de Cambremer, as a
woman who had received a sound musical education, beating time with her
head--transformed for the nonce into the pendulum of a metronome, the
sweep and rapidity of whose movements from one shoulder to the other
(performed with that look of wild abandonment in her eye which a sufferer
shews who is no longer able to analyse his pain, nor anxious to master it,
and says merely "I can't help it") so increased that at every moment her
diamond earrings caught in the trimming of her bodice, and she was obliged
to put straight the bunch of black grapes which she had in her hair,
though without any interruption of her constantly accelerated motion. On
the other side (and a little way in front) of Mme. de Franquetot, was the
Marquise de Gallardon, absorbed in her favourite meditation, namely upon
her own kinship with the Guermantes family, from which she derived both
publicly and in private a good deal of glory no unmingled with shame, the
most brilliant ornaments of that house remaining somewhat aloof from her,
perhaps because she was just a tiresome old woman, or because she was a
scandalous old woman, or because she came of an inferior branch of the
family, or very possibly for no reason at all. When she found herself
seated next to some one whom she did not know, as she was at this moment
next to Mme. de Franquetot, she suffered acutely from the feeling that her
own consciousness of her Guermantes connection could not be made
externally manifest in visible character like those which, in the
mosaics in Byzantine churches, placed one beneath another, inscribe in a
vertical column by the side of some Sacred Personage the words which he is
supposed to be uttering. At this moment she was pondering the fact that
she had never received an invitation, or even call, from her young cousin
the Princesse des Laumes, during the six years that had already elapsed
since the latter's marriage. The thought filled her with anger--and with
pride; for, by virtue of having told everyone who expressed surprise at
never seeing her at Mme. des Laumes's, that it was because of the risk of
meeting the Princesse Mathilde there--a degradation which her own family,
the truest and bluest of Legitimists, would never have forgiven her, she
had come gradually to believe that this actually was the reason for her
not visiting her young cousin. She remembered, it is true, that she had
several times inquired of Mme. des Laumes how they might contrive to meet,
but she remembered it only in a confused way, and besides did more than
neutralise this slightly humiliating reminiscence by murmuring, "After
all, it isn't for me to take the first step; I am at least twenty years
older than she is." And fortified by these unspoken words she flung her
shoulders proudly back until they seemed to part company with her bust,
while her head, which lay almost horizontally upon them, made one think of
the 'stuck-on' head of a pheasant which is brought to the table regally
adorned with its feathers. Not that she in the least degree resembled a
pheasant, having been endowed by nature with a short and squat and
masculine figure; but successive mortifications had given her a backward
tilt, such as one may observe in trees which have taken root on the very
edge of a precipice and are forced to grow backwards to preserve their
balance. Since she was obliged, in order to console herself for not being
quite on a level with the rest of the Guermantes, to repeat to herself
incessantly that it was owing to the uncompromising rigidity of her
principles and pride that she saw so little of them, the constant
iteration had gradually remoulded her body, and had given her a sort of
'bearing' which was accepted by the plebeian as a sign of breeding, and
even kindled, at times, a momentary spark in the jaded eyes of old
gentlemen in clubs. Had anyone subjected Mme. de Gallardon's conversation
to that form of analysis which by noting the relative frequency of its
several terms would furnish him with the key to a ciphered message, he
would at once have remarked that no expression, not even the commonest
forms of speech, occurred in it nearly so often as "at my cousins the
Guermantes's," "at my aunt Guermantes's," "Elzéar de Guermantes's health,"
"my cousin Guermantes's box." If anyone spoke to her of a distinguished
personage, she would reply that, although she was not personally
acquainted with him, she had seen him hundreds of times at her aunt
Guermantes's, but she would utter this reply in so icy a tone, with such a
hollow sound, that it was at once quite clear that if she did not know the
celebrity personally that was because of all the obstinate, ineradicable
principles against which her arching shoulders were stretched back to
rest, as on one of those ladders on which gymnastic instructors make us
'extend' so as to develop the expansion of our chests.

At this moment the Princesse des Laumes, who had not been expected to
appear at Mme. de Saint-Euverte's that evening, did in fact arrive. To
shew that she did not wish any special attention, in a house to which she
had come by an act of condescension, to be paid to her superior rank, she
had entered the room with her arms pressed close to her sides, even when
there was no crowd to be squeezed through, no one attempting to get past
her; staying purposely at the back, with the air of being in her proper
place, like a king who stands in the waiting procession at the doors of a
theatre where the management have not been warned of his coming; and
strictly limiting her field of vision--so as not to seem to be advertising
her presence and claiming the consideration that was her due--to the study
of a pattern in the carpet or of her own skirt, she stood there on the
spot which had struck her as the most modest (and from which, as she very
well knew, a cry of rapture from Mme. de Saint-Euverte would extricate her
as soon as her presence there was noticed), next to Mme. de Cambremer,
whom, however, she did not know. She observed the dumb-show by which her
neighbour was expressing her passion for music, but she refrained from
copying it. This was not to say that, for once that she had consented to
spend a few minutes in Mme. de Saint-Euverte's house, the Princesse des
Laumes would not have wished (so that the act of politeness to her hostess
which she had performed by coming might, so to speak, 'count double') to
shew herself as friendly and obliging as possible. But she had a natural
horror of what she called 'exaggerating,' and always made a point of
letting people see that she 'simply must not' indulge in any display of
emotion that was not in keeping with the tone of the circle in which she
moved, although such displays never failed to make an impression upon her,
by virtue of that spirit of imitation, akin to timidity, which is
developed in the most self-confident persons, by contact with an
unfamiliar environment, even though it be inferior to their own. She began
to ask herself whether these gesticulations might not, perhaps, be a
necessary concomitant of the piece of music that was being played, a piece
which, it might be, was in a different category from all the music that
she had ever heard before; and whether to abstain from them was not a sign
of her own inability to understand the music, and of discourtesy towards
the lady of the house; with the result that, in order to express by a
compromise both of her contradictory inclinations in turn, at one moment
she would merely straighten her shoulder-straps or feel in her golden hair
for the little balls of coral or of pink enamel, frosted with tiny
diamonds, which formed its simple but effective ornament, studying, with a
cold interest, her impassioned neighbour, while at another she would beat
time for a few bars with her fan, but, so as not to forfeit her
independence, she would beat a different time from the pianist's. When he
had finished the Liszt Intermezzo and had begun a Prelude by Chopin, Mme.
de Cambremer turned to Mme. de Franquetot with a tender smile, full of
intimate reminiscence, as well as of satisfaction (that of a competent
judge) with the performance. She had been taught in her girlhood to fondle
and cherish those long-necked, sinuous creatures, the phrases of Chopin,
so free, so flexible, so tactile, which begin by seeking their ultimate
resting-place somewhere beyond and far wide of the direction in which they
started, the point which one might have expected them to reach, phrases
which divert themselves in those fantastic bypaths only to return more
deliberately--with a more premeditated reaction, with more precision, as
on a crystal bowl which, if you strike it, will ring and throb until you
cry aloud in anguish--to clutch at one's heart.

Brought up in a provincial household with few friends or visitors, hardly
ever invited to a ball, she had fuddled her mind, in the solitude of her
old manor-house, over setting the pace, now crawling-slow, now passionate,
whirling, breathless, for all those imaginary waltzing couples, gathering
them like flowers, leaving the ball-room for a moment to listen, where the
wind sighed among the pine-trees, on the shore of the lake, and seeing of
a sudden advancing towards her, more different from anything one had ever
dreamed of than earthly lovers are, a slender young man, whose voice was
resonant and strange and false, in white gloves. But nowadays the
old-fashioned beauty of this music seemed to have become a trifle stale.
Having forfeited, some years back, the esteem of 'really musical' people,
it had lost its distinction and its charm, and even those whose taste was
frankly bad had ceased to find in it more than a moderate pleasure to
which they hardly liked to confess. Mme. de Cambremer cast a furtive
glance behind her. She knew that her young daughter-in-law (full of
respect for her new and noble family, except in such matters as related to
the intellect, upon which, having 'got as far' as Harmony and the Greek
alphabet, she was specially enlightened) despised Chopin, and fell quite
ill when she heard him played. But finding herself free from the scrutiny
of this Wagnerian, who was sitting, at some distance, in a group of her
own contemporaries, Mme. de Cambremer let herself drift upon a stream of
exquisite memories and sensations. The Princesse des Laumes was touched
also. Though without any natural gift for music, she had received, some
fifteen years earlier, the instruction which a music-mistress of the
Faubourg Saint-Germain, a woman of genius who had been, towards the end of
her life, reduced to penury, had started, at seventy, to give to the
daughters and granddaughters of her old pupils. This lady was now dead.
But her method, an echo of her charming touch, came to life now and then
in the fingers of her pupils, even of those who had been in other respects
quite mediocre, had given up music, and hardly ever opened a piano. And so
Mme. des Laumes could let her head sway to and fro, fully aware of the
cause, with a perfect appreciation of the manner in which the pianist was
rendering this Prelude, since she knew it by heart. The closing notes of
the phrase that he had begun sounded already on her lips. And she
murmured "How charming it is!" with a stress on the opening consonants of
the adjective, a token of her refinement by which she felt her lips so
romantically compressed, like the petals of a beautiful, budding flower,
that she instinctively brought her eyes into harmony, illuminating them
for a moment with a vague and sentimental gaze. Meanwhile Mme. de
Gallardon had arrived at the point of saying to herself how annoying it
was that she had so few opportunities of meeting the Princesse des Laumes,
for she meant to teach her a lesson by not acknowledging her bow. She did
not know that her cousin was in the room. A movement of Mme. Franquetot's
head disclosed the Princess. At once Mme. de Gallardon dashed towards her,
upsetting all her neighbours; although determined to preserve a distant
and glacial manner which should remind everyone present that she had no
desire to remain on friendly terms with a person in whose house one might
find oneself, any day, cheek by jowl with the Princesse Mathilde, and to
whom it was not her duty to make advances since she was not 'of her
generation,' she felt bound to modify this air of dignity and reserve by
some non-committal remark which would justify her overture and would force
the Princess to engage in conversation; and so, when she reached her
cousin, Mme. de Gallardon, with a stern countenance and one hand thrust
out as though she were trying to 'force' a card, began with: "How is your
husband?" in the same anxious tone that she would have used if the Prince
had been seriously ill. The Princess, breaking into a laugh which was one
of her characteristics, and was intended at once to shew the rest of an
assembly that she was making fun of some one and also to enhance her own
beauty by concentrating her features around her animated lips and
sparkling eyes, answered: "Why; he's never been better in his life!" And
she went on laughing.

Mme. de Gallardon then drew herself up and, chilling her expression still
further, perhaps because she was still uneasy about the Prince's health,
said to her cousin:

"Oriane," (at once Mme. des Laumes looked with amused astonishment towards
an invisible third, whom she seemed to call to witness that she had never
authorised Mme. de Gallardon to use her Christian name) "I should be so
pleased if you would look in, just for a minute, to-morrow evening, to
hear a quintet, with the clarinet, by Mozart. I should like to have your
opinion of it."

She seemed not so much to be issuing an invitation as to be asking favour,
and to want the Princess's opinion of the Mozart quintet just though it
had been a dish invented by a new cook, whose talent it was most important
that an epicure should come to judge.

"But I know that quintet quite well. I can tell you now--that I adore it."

"You know, my husband isn't at all well; it's his liver. He would like so
much to see you," Mme. de Gallardon resumed, making it now a corporal work
of charity for the Princess to appear at her party.

The Princess never liked to tell people that she would not go to their
houses. Every day she would write to express her regret at having been
kept away--by the sudden arrival of her husband's mother, by an invitation
from his brother, by the Opera, by some excursion to the country--from
some party to which she had never for a moment dreamed of going. In this
way she gave many people the satisfaction of feeling that she was on
intimate terms with them, that she would gladly have come to their houses,
and that she had been prevented from doing so only by some princely
occurrence which they were flattered to find competing with their own
humble entertainment. And then, as she belonged to that witty 'Guermantes
set'--in which there survived something of the alert mentality, stripped
of all commonplace phrases and conventional sentiments, which dated from
Mérimée, and found its final expression in the plays of Meilhac and
Halévy--she adapted its formula so as to suit even her social engagements,
transposed it into the courtesy which was always struggling to be positive
and precise, to approximate itself to the plain truth. She would never
develop at any length to a hostess the expression of her anxiety to be
present at her party; she found it more pleasant to disclose to her all
the various little incidents on which it would depend whether it was or
was not possible for her to come.

"Listen, and I'll explain," she began to Mme. de Gallardon. "To-morrow
evening I must go to a friend of mine, who has been pestering me to fix a
day for ages. If she takes us to the theatre afterwards, then I can't
possibly come to you, much as I should love to; but if we just stay in the
house, I know there won't be anyone else there, so I can slip away."

"Tell me, have you seen your friend M. Swann?"

"No! my precious Charles! I never knew he was here. Where is he? I must
catch his eye."

"It's a funny thing that he should come to old Saint-Euverte's," Mme. de
Gallardon went on. "Oh, I know he's very clever," meaning by that 'very
cunning,' "but that makes no difference; fancy a Jew here, and she the
sister and sister-in-law of two Archbishops."

"I am ashamed to confess that I am not in the least shocked," said the
Princesse des Laumes.

"I know he's a converted Jew, and all that, and his parents and
grandparents before him. But they do say that the converted ones are worse
about their religion than the practising ones, that it's all just a
pretence; is that true, d'you think?"

"I can throw no light at all on the matter."

The pianist, who was 'down' to play two pieces by Chopin, after finishing
the Prelude had at once attacked a Polonaise. But once Mme. de Gallardon
had informed her cousin that Swann was in the room, Chopin himself might
have risen from the grave and played all his works in turn without Mme.
des Laumes's paying him the slightest attention. She belonged to that one
of the two divisions of the human race in which the untiring curiosity
which the other half feels about the people whom it does not know is
replaced by an unfailing interest in the people whom it does. As with many
women of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the presence, in any room in which
she might find herself, of another member of her set, even although she
had nothing in particular to say to him, would occupy her mind to the
exclusion of every other consideration. From that moment, in the hope that
Swann would catch sight of her, the Princess could do nothing but (like a
tame white mouse when a lump of sugar is put down before its nose and then
taken away) turn her face, in which were crowded a thousand signs of
intimate connivance, none of them with the least relevance to the
sentiment underlying Chopin's music, in the direction where Swann was,
and, if he moved, divert accordingly the course of her magnetic smile.

"Oriane, don't be angry with me," resumed Mme. de Gallardon, who could
never restrain herself from sacrificing her highest social ambitions, and
the hope that she might one day emerge into a light that would dazzle the
world, to the immediate and secret satisfaction of saying something
disagreeable, "people do say about your M. Swann that he's the sort of man
one can't have in the house; is that true?"

"Why, you, of all people, ought to know that it's true," replied the
Princesse des Laumes, "for you must have asked him a hundred times, and
he's never been to your house once."

And leaving her cousin mortified afresh, she broke out again into a laugh
which scandalised everyone who was trying to listen to the music, but
attracted the attention of Mme. de Saint-Euverte, who had stayed, out of
politeness, near the piano, and caught sight of the Princess now for the
first time. Mme. de Saint-Euverte was all the more delighted to see Mme.
des Laumes, as she imagined her to be still at Guermantes, looking after
her father-in-law, who was ill.

"My dear Princess, you here?"

"Yes, I tucked myself away in a corner, and I've been hearing such lovely

"What, you've been in the room quite a time?"

"Oh, yes, quite a long time, which seemed very short; it was only long
because I couldn't see you."

Mme. de Saint-Euverte offered her own chair to the Princess, who declined
it with:

"Oh, please, no! Why should you? It doesn't matter in the least where
I sit." And deliberately picking out, so as the better to display the
simplicity of a really great lady, a low seat without a back: "There now,
that hassock, that's all I want. It will make me keep my back straight.
Oh! Good heavens, I'm making a noise again; they'll be telling you to
have me 'chucked out'."

Meanwhile, the pianist having doubled his speed, the emotion of the
music-lovers was reaching its climax, a servant was handing refreshments
about on a salver, and was making the spoons rattle, and, as on every
other 'party-night', Mme. de Saint-Euverte was making signs to him, which
he never saw, to leave the room. A recent bride, who had been told that a
young woman ought never to appear bored, was smiling vigorously, trying to
catch her hostess's eye so as to flash a token of her gratitude for the
other's having 'thought of her' in connection with so delightful an
entertainment. And yet, although she remained more calm than Mme. de
Franquetot, it was not without some uneasiness that she followed the
flying fingers; what alarmed her being not the pianist's fate but the
piano's, on which a lighted candle, jumping at each _fortissimo_,
threatened, if not to set its shade on fire, at least to spill wax upon
the ebony. At last she could contain herself no longer, and, running up
the two steps of the platform on which the piano stood, flung herself on
the candle to adjust its sconce. But scarcely had her hand come within
reach of it when, on a final chord, the piece finished, and the pianist
rose to his feet. Nevertheless the bold initiative shewn by this young
woman and the moment of blushing confusion between her and the pianist
which resulted from it, produced an impression that was favourable on the

"Did you see what that girl did just now, Princess?" asked General de
Froberville, who had come up to Mme. des Laumes as her hostess left her
for a moment. "Odd, wasn't it? Is she one of the performers?"

"No, she's a little Mme. de Cambremer," replied the Princess carelessly,
and then, with more animation: "I am only repeating what I heard just now,
myself; I haven't the faintest notion who said it, it was some one behind
me who said that they were neighbours of Mme. de Saint-Euverte in the
country, but I don't believe anyone knows them, really. They must be
'country cousins'! By the way, I don't know whether you're particularly
'well-up' in the brilliant society which we see before us, because I've no
idea who all these astonishing people can be. What do you suppose they do
with themselves when they're not at Mme. de Saint-Euverte's parties? She
must have ordered them in with the musicians and the chairs and the food.
'Universal providers,' you know. You must admit, they're rather splendid,
General. But can she really have the courage to hire the same 'supers'
every week? It isn't possible!"

"Oh, but Cambremer is quite a good name; old, too," protested the General.

"I see no objection to its being old," the Princess answered dryly, "but
whatever else it is it's not euphonious," she went on, isolating the word
euphonious as though between inverted commas, a little affectation to
which the Guermantes set were addicted.

"You think not, eh! She's a regular little peach, though," said the
General, whose eyes never strayed from Mme. de Cambremer. "Don't you agree
with me, Princess?"

"She thrusts herself forward too much; I think, in so young a woman,
that's not very nice--for I don't suppose she's my generation," replied
Mme. des Laumes (the last word being common, it appeared, to Gallardon and
Guermantes). And then, seeing that M. de Froberville was still gazing at
Mme. de Cambremer, she added, half out of malice towards the lady, half
wishing to oblige the General: "Not very nice... for her husband! I am
sorry that I do not know her, since she seems to attract you so much; I
might have introduced you to her," said the Princess, who, if she had
known the young woman, would most probably have done nothing of the sort.
"And now I must say good night, because one of my friends is having a
birthday party, and I must go and wish her many happy returns," she
explained, modestly and with truth, reducing the fashionable gathering to
which she was going to the simple proportions of a ceremony which would be
boring in the extreme, but at which she was obliged to be present, and
there would be something touching about her appearance. "Besides, I must
pick up Basin. While I've been here, he's gone to see those friends of
his--you know them too, I'm sure,--who are called after a bridge--oh, yes,
the Iénas."

"It was a battle before it was a bridge, Princess; it was a victory!" said
the General. "I mean to say, to an old soldier like me," he went on,
wiping his monocle and replacing it, as though he were laying a fresh
dressing on the raw wound underneath, while the Princess instinctively
looked away, "that Empire nobility, well, of course, it's not the same
thing, but, after all, taking it as it is, it's very fine of its kind;
they were people who really did fight like heroes."

"But I have the deepest respect for heroes," the Princess assented, though
with a faint trace of irony. "If I don't go with Basin to see this
Princesse d'Iéna, it isn't for that, at all; it's simply because I don't
know them. Basin knows them; he worships them. Oh, no, it's not what you
think; he's not in love with her. I've nothing to set my face against!
Besides, what good has it ever done when I have set my face against them?"
she queried sadly, for the whole world knew that, ever since the day upon
which the Prince des Laumes had married his fascinating cousin, he had
been consistently unfaithful to her. "Anyhow, it isn't that at all.
They're people he has known for ever so long, they do him very well, and
that suits me down to the ground. But I must tell you what he's told me
about their house; it's quite enough. Can you imagine it, all their
furniture is 'Empire'!"

"But, my dear Princess, that's only natural; it belonged to their

"I don't quite say it didn't, but that doesn't make it any less ugly. I
quite understand that people can't always have nice things, but at least
they needn't have things that are merely grotesque. What do you say? I can
think of nothing more devastating, more utterly smug than that hideous
style--cabinets covered all over with swans' heads, like bath-taps!"

"But I believe, all the same, that they've got some lovely things; why,
they must have that famous mosaic table on which the Treaty of..."

"Oh, I don't deny, they may have things that are interesting enough from
the historic point of view. But things like that can't, ever, be beautiful
... because they're simply horrible! I've got things like that myself,
that came to Basin from the Montesquious. Only, they're up in the attics
at Guermantes, where nobody ever sees them. But, after all, that's not the
point, I would fly to see them, with Basin; I would even go to see them
among all their sphinxes and brasses, if I knew them, but--I don't know
them! D'you know, I was always taught, when I was a little girl, that it
was not polite to call on people one didn't know." She assumed a tone of
childish gravity. "And so I am just doing what I was taught to do. Can't
you see those good people, with a totally strange woman bursting into
their house? Why, I might get a most hostile reception."

And she coquettishly enhanced the charm of the smile which the idea had
brought to her lips, by giving to her blue eyes, which were fixed on the
General, a gentle, dreamy expression.

"My dear Princess, you know that they'd be simply wild with joy."

"No, why?" she inquired, with the utmost vivacity, either so as to seem
unaware that it would be because she was one of the first ladies in
France, or so as to have the pleasure of hearing the General tell her so.
"Why? How can you tell? Perhaps they would think it the most unpleasant
thing that could possibly happen. I know nothing about them, but if
they're anything like me, I find it quite boring enough to see the people
I do know; I'm sure if I had to see people I didn't know as well, even if
they had 'fought like heroes,' I should go stark mad. Besides, except when
it's an old friend like you, whom one knows quite apart from that, I'm not
sure that 'heroism' takes one very far in society. It's often quite boring
enough to have to give a dinner-party, but if one had to offer one's arm
to Spartacus, to let him take one down...! Really, no; it would never be
Vercingetorix I should send for, to make a fourteenth. I feel sure, I
should keep him for really big 'crushes.' And as I never give any..."

"Ah! Princess, it's easy to see you're not a Guermantes for nothing. You
have your share of it, all right, the 'wit of the Guermantes'!"

"But people always talk about the wit of the Guermantes; I never could
make out why. Do you really know any others who have it?" she rallied him,
with a rippling flow of laughter, her features concentrated, yoked to the
service of her animation, her eyes sparkling, blazing with a radiant
sunshine of gaiety which could be kindled only by such speeches--even if
the Princess had to make them herself--as were in praise of h wit or of
her beauty. "Look, there's Swann talking to your Cambremer woman; over
there, beside old Saint-Euverte, don't you see him? Ask him to introduce
you. But hurry up, he seems to be just going!"

"Did you notice how dreadfully ill he's looking?" asked the General.

"My precious Charles? Ah, he's coming at last; I was beginning to think he
didn't want to see me!"

Swann was extremely fond of the Princesse des Laumes, and the sight of her
recalled to him Guermantes, a property close to Combray, and all that
country which he so dearly loved and had ceased to visit, so as not to be
separated from Odette. Slipping into the manner, half-artistic,
half-amorous--with which he could always manage to amuse the Princess--a
manner which came to him quite naturally whenever he dipped for a moment
into the old social atmosphere, and wishing also to express in words, for
his own satisfaction, the longing that he felt for the country:

"Ah!" he exclaimed, or rather intoned, in such a way as to be audible at
once to Mme. de Saint-Euverte, to whom he spoke, and to Mme. des Laumes,
for whom he was speaking, "Behold our charming Princess! See, she has come
up on purpose from Guermantes to hear Saint Francis preach to the birds,
and has only just had time, like a dear little tit-mouse, to go and pick a
few little hips and haws and put them in her hair; there are even some
drops of dew upon them still, a little of the hoar-frost which must be
making the Duchess, down there, shiver. It is very pretty indeed, my dear

"What! The Princess came up on purpose from Guermantes? But that's too
wonderful! I never knew; I'm quite bewildered," Mme. de Saint-Euverte
protested with quaint simplicity, being but little accustomed to Swann's
way of speaking. And then, examining the Princess's headdress, "Why,
you're quite right; it is copied from... what shall I say, not chestnuts,
no,--oh, it's a delightful idea, but how can the Princess have known what
was going to be on my programme? The musicians didn't tell me, even."

Swann, who was accustomed, when he was with a woman whom he had kept up
the habit of addressing in terms of gallantry, to pay her delicate
compliments which most other people would not and need not understand, did
not condescend to explain to Mme. de Saint-Euverte that he had been
speaking metaphorically. As for the Princess, she was in fits of laughter,
both because Swann's wit was highly appreciated by her set, and because
she could never hear a compliment addressed to herself without finding it
exquisitely subtle and irresistibly amusing.

"Indeed! I'm delighted, Charles, if my little hips and haws meet with your
approval. But tell me, why did you bow to that Cambremer person, are you
also her neighbour in the country?"

Mme. de Saint-Euverte, seeing that the Princess seemed quite happy talking
to Swann, had drifted away.

"But you are, yourself, Princess!"

"I! Why, they must have 'countries' everywhere, those creatures! Don't I
wish I had!"

"No, not the Cambremers; her own people. She was a Legrandin, and used to
come to Combray. I don't know whether you are aware that you are Comtesse
de Combray, and that the Chapter owes you a due."

"I don't know what the Chapter owes me, but I do know that I'm 'touched'
for a hundred francs, every year, by the Curé, which is a due that I could
very well do without. But surely these Cambremers have rather a startling
name. It ends just in time, but it ends badly!" she said with a laugh.

"It begins no better." Swann took the point.

"Yes; that double abbreviation!"

"Some one very angry and very proper who didn't dare to finish the first

"But since he couldn't stop himself beginning the second, he'd have done
better to finish the first and be done with it. We are indulging in the
most refined form of humour, my dear Charles, in the very best of
taste--but how tiresome it is that I never see you now," she went on in a
coaxing tone, "I do so love talking to you. Just imagine, I could not make
that idiot Froberville see that there was anything funny about the name
Cambremer. Do agree that life is a dreadful business. It's only when I
see you that I stop feeling bored."

Which was probably not true. But Swann and the Princess had the same way
of looking at the little things of life--the effect, if not the cause of
which was a close analogy between their modes of expression and even of
pronunciation. This similarity was not striking because no two things
could have been more unlike than their voices. But if one took the trouble
to imagine Swann's utterances divested of the sonority that enwrapped
them, of the moustache from under which they emerged, one found that they
were the same phrases, the same inflexions, that they had the 'tone' of
the Guermantes set. On important matters, Swann and the Princess had not
an idea in common. But since Swann had become so melancholy, and was
always in that trembling condition which precedes a flood of tears, he had
the same need to speak about his grief that a murderer has to tell some
one about his crime. And when he heard the Princess say that life was a
dreadful business, he felt as much comforted as if she had spoken to him
of Odette.

"Yes, life is a dreadful business! We must meet more often, my dear
friend. What is so nice about you is that you are not cheerful. We could
spend a most pleasant evening together."

"I'm sure we could; why not come down to Guermantes? My mother-in-law
would be wild with joy. It's supposed to be very ugly down there, but I
must say, I find the neighborhood not at all unattractive; I have a horror
of 'picturesque spots'."

"I know it well, it's delightful!" replied Swann. "It's almost too
beautiful, too much alive for me just at present; it's a country to be
happy in. It's perhaps because I have lived there, but things there speak
to me so. As soon as a breath of wind gets up, and the cornfields begin to
stir, I feel that some one is going to appear suddenly, that I am going to
hear some news; and those little houses by the water's edge... I should be
quite wretched!"

"Oh! my dearest Charles, do take care; there's that appalling Rampillon
woman; she's seen me; hide me somewhere, do tell me again, quickly, what
it was that happened to her; I get so mixed up; she's just married off her
daughter, or her lover (I never can remember),--perhaps both--to each
other! Oh, no, I remember now, she's been dropped by her Prince... Pretend
to be talking, so that the poor old Berenice sha'n't come and invite me to
dinner. Anyhow, I'm going. Listen, my dearest Charles, now that I have
seen you, once in a blue moon, won't you let me carry you off and take you
to the Princesse de Parme's, who would be so pleased to see you (you
know), and Basin too, for that matter; he's meeting me there. If one
didn't get news of you, sometimes, from Mémé... Remember, I never see you
at all now!"

Swann declined. Having told M. de Charlus that, on leaving Mme. de
Saint-Euverte's, he would go straight home, he did not care to run the
risk, by going on now to the Princesse de Parme's, of missing a message
which he had, all the time, been hoping to see brought in to him by one of
the footmen, during the party, and which he was perhaps going to find left
with his own porter, at home.

"Poor Swann," said Mme. des Laumes that night to her husband; "he is
always charming, but he does look so dreadfully unhappy. You will see for
yourself, for he has promised to dine with us one of these days. I do feel
that it's really absurd that a man of his intelligence should let himself
be made to suffer by a creature of that kind, who isn't even interesting,
for they tell me, she's an absolute idiot!" she concluded with the wisdom
invariably shewn by people who, not being in love themselves, feel that a
clever man ought to be unhappy only about such persons as are worth his
while; which is rather like being astonished that anyone should condescend
to die of cholera at the bidding of so insignificant a creature as the
common bacillus.

Swann now wished to go home, but, just as he was making his escape,
General de Froberville caught him and asked for an introduction to Mme.
de Cambremer, and he was obliged to go back into the room to look for her.

"I say, Swann, I'd rather be married to that little woman than killed by
savages, what do you say?"

The words 'killed by savages' pierced Swann's aching heart; and at once he
felt the need of continuing the conversation. "Ah!" he began, "some fine
lives have been lost in that way... There was, you remember, that explorer
whose remains Dumont d'Urville brought back, La Pérouse..." (and he was at
once happy again, as though he had named Odette). "He was a fine
character, and interests me very much, does La Pérouse," he ended sadly.

"Oh, yes, of course, La Pérouse," said the General. "It's quite a
well-known name. There's a street called that."

"Do you know anyone in the Rue La Pérouse?" asked Swann excitedly.

"Only Mme. de Chanlivault, the sister of that good fellow Chaussepierre.
She gave a most amusing theatre-party the other evening. That's a house
that will be really smart some day, you'll see!"

"Oh, so she lives in the Rue La Pérouse. It's attractive; I like that
street; it's so sombre."

"Indeed it isn't. You can't have been in it for a long time; it's not at
all sombre now; they're beginning to build all round there."

When Swann did finally introduce M. de Froberville to the young Mme. de
Cambremer, since it was the first time that she had heard the General's
name, she hastily outlined upon her lips the smile of joy and surprise
with which she would have greeted him if she had never, in the whole of
her life, heard anything else; for, as she did not yet know all the
friends of her new family, whenever anyone was presented to her, she
assumed that he must be one of them, and thinking that she would shew her
tact by appearing to have heard 'such a lot about him' since her marriage,
she would hold out her hand with an air of hesitation which was meant as a
proof at once of the inculcated reserve which she had to overcome and of
the spontaneous friendliness which successfully overcame it. And so her
parents-in-law, whom she still regarded as the most eminent pair in
France, declared that she was an angel; all the more that they preferred
to appear, in marrying her to their son, to have yielded to the attraction
rather of her natural charm than of her considerable fortune.

"It's easy to see that you're a musician heart and soul, Madame," said the
General, alluding to the incident of the candle.

Meanwhile the concert had begun again, and Swann saw that he could not now
go before the end of the new number. He suffered greatly from being shut
up among all these people whose stupidity and absurdities wounded him all
the more cruelly since, being ignorant of his love, incapable, had they
known of it, of taking any interest, or of doing more than smile at it as
at some childish joke, or deplore it as an act of insanity, they made it
appear to him in the aspect of a subjective state which existed for
himself alone, whose reality there was nothing external to confirm; he
suffered overwhelmingly, to the point at which even the sound of the
instruments made him want to cry, from having to prolong his exile in this
place to which Odette would never come, in which no one, nothing was aware
of her existence, from which she was entirely absent.

But suddenly it was as though she had entered, and this apparition tore
him with such anguish that his hand rose impulsively to his heart. What
had happened was that the violin had risen to a series of high notes, on
which it rested as though expecting something, an expectancy which it
prolonged without ceasing to hold on to the notes, in the exaltation with
which it already saw the expected object approaching, and with a desperate
effort to continue until its arrival, to welcome it before itself expired,
to keep the way open for a moment longer, with all its remaining strength,
that the stranger might enter in, as one holds a door open that would
otherwise automatically close. And before Swann had had time to understand
what was happening, to think: "It is the little phrase from Vinteuil's
sonata. I mustn't listen!", all his memories of the days when Odette had
been in love with him, which he had succeeded, up till that evening, in
keeping invisible in the depths of his being, deceived by this sudden
reflection of a season of love, whose sun, they supposed, had dawned
again, had awakened from their slumber, had taken wing and risen to sing
maddeningly in his ears, without pity for his present desolation, the
forgotten strains of happiness.

In place of the abstract expressions "the time when I was happy," "the
time when I was loved," which he had often used until then, and without
much suffering, for his intelligence had not embodied in them anything of
the past save fictitious extracts which preserved none of the reality, he
now recovered everything that had fixed unalterably the peculiar, volatile
essence of that lost happiness; he could see it all; the snowy, curled
petals of the chrysanthemum which she had tossed after him into his
carriage, which he had kept pressed to his lips, the address 'Maison
Dorée,' embossed on the note-paper on which he had read "My hand trembles
so as I write to you," the frowning contraction of her eyebrows when she
said pleadingly: "You won't let it be very long before you send for me?";
he could smell the heated iron of the barber whom he used to have in to
singe his hair while Loredan went to fetch the little working girl; could
feel the torrents of rain which fell so often that spring, the ice-cold
homeward drive in his victoria, by moonlight; all the network of mental
habits, of seasonable impressions, of sensory reactions, which had
extended over a series of weeks its uniform meshes, by which his body now
found itself inextricably held. At that time he had been satisfying a
sensual curiosity to know what were the pleasures of those people who
lived for love alone. He had supposed that he could stop there, that he
would not be obliged to learn their sorrows also; how small a thing the
actual charm of Odette was now in comparison with that formidable terror
which extended it like a cloudy halo all around her, that enormous anguish
of not knowing at every hour of the day and night what she had been doing,
of not possessing her wholly, at all times and in all places! Alas, he
recalled the accents in which she had exclaimed: "But I can see you at any
time; I am always free!"--she, who was never free now; the interest, the
curiosity that she had shewn in his life, her passionate desire that he
should do her the favour--of which it was he who, then, had felt
suspicious, as of a possibly tedious waste of his time and disturbance of
his arrangements--of granting her access to his study; how she had been
obliged to beg that he would let her take him to the Verdurins'; and, when
he did allow her to come to him once a month, how she had first, before he
would let himself be swayed, had to repeat what a joy it would be to her,
that custom of their seeing each other daily, for which she had longed at
a time when to him it had seemed only a tiresome distraction, for which,
since that time, she had conceived a distaste and had definitely broken
herself of it, while it had become for him so insatiable, so dolorous a
need. Little had he suspected how truly he spoke when, on their third
meeting, as she repeated: "But why don't you let me come to you oftener?"
he had told her, laughing, and in a vein of gallantry, that it was for
fear of forming a hopeless passion. Now, alas, it still happened at times
that she wrote to him from a restaurant or hotel, on paper which bore a
printed address, but printed in letters of fire that seared his heart.
"Written from the Hôtel Vouillemont. What on earth can she have gone
there for? With whom? What happened there?" He remembered the gas-jets
that were being extinguished along the Boulevard des Italiens when he had
met her, when all hope was gone among the errant shades upon that night
which had seemed to him almost supernatural and which now (that night of a
period when he had not even to ask himself whether he would be annoying
her by looking for her and by finding her, so certain was he that she knew
no greater happiness than to see him and to let him take her home)
belonged indeed to a mysterious world to which one never may return again
once its doors are closed. And Swann could distinguish, standing,
motionless, before that scene of happiness in which it lived again, a
wretched figure which filled him with such pity, because he did not at
first recognise who it was, that he must lower his head, lest anyone
should observe that his eyes were filled with tears. It was himself.

When he had realised this, his pity ceased; he was jealous, now, of that
other self whom she had loved, he was jealous of those men of whom he had
so often said, without much suffering: "Perhaps she's in love with them,"
now that he had exchanged the vague idea of loving, in which there is no
love, for the petals of the chrysanthemum and the 'letter-heading' of the
Maison d'Or; for they were full of love. And then, his anguish becoming
too keen, he passed his hand over his forehead, let the monocle drop from
his eye, and wiped its glass. And doubtless, if he had caught sight of
himself at that moment, he would have added to the collection of the
monocles which he had already identified, this one which he removed, like
an importunate, worrying thought, from his head, while from its misty
surface, with his handkerchief, he sought to obliterate his cares.

There are in the music of the violin--if one does not see the instrument
itself, and so cannot relate what one hears to its form, which modifies
the fullness of the sound--accents which are so closely akin to those of
certain contralto voices, that one has the illusion that a singer has
taken her place amid the orchestra. One raises one's eyes; one sees only
the wooden case, magical as a Chinese box; but, at moments, one is still
tricked by the deceiving appeal of the Siren; at times, too, one believes
that one is listening to a captive spirit, struggling in the darkness of
its masterful box, a box quivering with enchantment, like a devil immersed
in a stoup of holy water; sometimes, again, it is in the air, at large,
like a pure and supernatural creature that reveals to the ear, as it
passes, its invisible message.

As though the musicians were not nearly so much playing the little phrase
as performing the rites on which it insisted before it would consent to
appear, as proceeding to utter the incantations necessary to procure, and
to prolong for a few moments, the miracle of its apparition, Swann, who
was no more able now to see it than if it had belonged to a world of
ultra-violet light, who experienced something like the refreshing sense of
a metamorphosis in the momentary blindness with which he had been struck
as he approached it, Swann felt that it was present, like a protective
goddess, a confidant of his love, who, so as to be able to come to him
through the crowd, and to draw him aside to speak to him, had disguised
herself in this sweeping cloak of sound. And as she passed him, light,
soothing, as softly murmured as the perfume of a flower, telling him what
she had to say, every word of which he closely scanned, sorry to see them
fly away so fast, he made involuntarily with his lips the motion of
kissing, as it went by him, the harmonious, fleeting form.

He felt that he was no longer in exile and alone since she, who addressed
herself to him, spoke to him in a whisper of Odette. For he had no longer,
as of old, the impression that Odette and he were not known to the little
phrase. Had it not often been the witness of their joys? True that, as
often, it had warned him of their frailty. And indeed, whereas, in that
distant time, he had divined an element of suffering in its smile, in its
limpid and disillusioned intonation, to-night he found there rather the
charm of a resignation that was almost gay. Of those sorrows, of which the
little phrase had spoken to him then, which he had seen it--without his
being touched by them himself--carry past him, smiling, on its sinuous and
rapid course, of those sorrows which were now become his own, without his
having any hope of being, ever, delivered from them, it seemed to say to
him, as once it had said of his happiness: "What does all that matter; it
is all nothing." And Swann's thoughts were borne for the first time on a
wave of pity and tenderness towards that Vinteuil, towards that unknown,
exalted brother who also must have suffered so greatly; what could his
life have been? From the depths of what well of sorrow could he have drawn
that god-like strength, that unlimited power of creation?

When it was the little phrase that spoke to him of the vanity of his
sufferings, Swann found a sweetness in that very wisdom which, but a
little while back, had seemed to him intolerable when he thought that he
could read it on the faces of indifferent strangers, who would regard his
love as a digression that was without importance. 'Twas because the little
phrase, unlike them, whatever opinion it might hold on the short duration
of these states of the soul, saw in them something not, as everyone else
saw, less serious than the events of everyday life, but, on the contrary,
so far superior to everyday life as to be alone worthy of the trouble of
expressing it. Those graces of an intimate sorrow, 'twas them that the
phrase endeavoured to imitate, to create anew; and even their essence, for
all that it consists in being incommunicable and in appearing trivial to
everyone save him who has experience of them, the little phrase had
captured, had rendered visible. So much so that it made their value be
confessed, their divine sweetness be tasted by all those same
onlookers--provided only that they were in any sense musical--who, the
next moment, would ignore, would disown them in real life, in every
individual love that came into being beneath their eyes. Doubtless the
form in which it had codified those graces could not be analysed into any
logical elements. But ever since, more than a year before, discovering to
him many of the riches of his own soul, the love of music had been born,
and for a time at least had dwelt in him, Swann had regarded musical
_motifs_ as actual ideas, of another world, of another order, ideas veiled
in shadows, unknown, impenetrable by the human mind, which none the less
were perfectly distinct one from another, unequal among themselves in
value and in significance. When, after that first evening at the
Verdurins', he had had the little phrase played over to him again, and had
sought to disentangle from his confused impressions how it was that, like
a perfume or a caress, it swept over and enveloped him, he had observed
that it was to the closeness of the intervals between the five notes which
composed it and to the constant repetition of two of them that was due
that impression of a frigid, a contracted sweetness; but in reality he
knew that he was basing this conclusion not upon the phrase itself, but
merely upon certain equivalents, substituted (for his mind's convenience)
for the mysterious entity of which he had become aware, before ever he
knew the Verdurins, at that earlier party, when for the first time he had
heard the sonata played. He knew that his memory of the piano falsified
still further the perspective in which he saw the music, that the field
open to the musician is not a miserable stave of seven notes, but an
immeasurable keyboard (still, almost all of it, unknown), on which, here
and there only, separated by the gross darkness of its unexplored tracts,
some few among the millions of keys, keys of tenderness, of passion, of
courage, of serenity, which compose it, each one differing from all the
rest as one universe differs from another, have been discovered by certain
great artists who do us the service, when they awaken in us the emotion
corresponding to the theme which they have found, of shewing us what
richness, what variety lies hidden, unknown to us, in that great black
impenetrable night, discouraging exploration, of our soul, which we have
been content to regard as valueless and waste and void. Vinteuil had been
one of those musicians. In his little phrase, albeit it presented to the
mind's eye a clouded surface, there was contained, one felt, a matter so
consistent, so explicit, to which the phrase gave so new, so original a
force, that those who had once heard it preserved the memory of it in the
treasure-chamber of their minds. Swann would repair to it as to a
conception of love and happiness, of which at once he knew as well in what
respects it was peculiar as he would know of the _Princesse de Clèves_, or
of _René_, should either of those titles occur to him. Even when he was
not thinking of the little phrase, it existed, latent, in his mind, in the
same way as certain other conceptions without material equivalent, such as
our notions of light, of sound, of perspective, of bodily desire, the rich
possessions wherewith our inner temple is diversified and adorned. Perhaps
we shall lose them, perhaps they will be obliterated, if we return to
nothing in the dust. But so long as we are alive, we can no more bring
ourselves to a state in which we shall not have known them than we can
with regard to any material object, than we can, for example, doubt the
luminosity of a lamp that has just been lighted, in view of the changed
aspect of everything in the room, from which has vanished even the memory
of the darkness. In that way Vinteuil's phrase, like some theme, say, in
_Tristan_, which represents to us also a certain acquisition of sentiment,
has espoused our mortal state, had endued a vesture of humanity that was
affecting enough. Its destiny was linked, for the future, with that of the
human soul, of which it was one of the special, the most distinctive
ornaments. Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our
dream of life is without existence; but, if so, we feel that it must be
that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to
our dream, are nothing either. We shall perish, but we have for our
hostages these divine captives who shall follow and share our fate. And
death in their company is something less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps
even less certain.

So Swann was not mistaken in believing that the phrase of the sonata did,
really, exist. Human as it was from this point of view, it belonged, none
the less, to an order of supernatural creatures whom we have never seen,
but whom, in spite of that, we recognise and acclaim with rapture when
some explorer of the unseen contrives to coax one forth, to bring it down
from that divine world to which he has access to shine for a brief moment
in the firmament of ours. This was what Vinteuil had done for the little
phrase. Swann felt that the composer had been content (with the musical
instruments at his disposal) to draw aside its veil, to make it visible,
following and respecting its outlines with a hand so loving, so prudent,
so delicate and so sure, that the sound altered at every moment, blunting
itself to indicate a shadow, springing back into life when it must follow
the curve of some more bold projection. And one proof that Swann was not
mistaken when he believed in the real existence of this phrase, was that
anyone with an ear at all delicate for music would at once have detected
the imposture had Vinteuil, endowed with less power to see and to render
its forms, sought to dissemble (by adding a line, here and there, of his
own invention) the dimness of his vision or the feebleness of his hand.

The phrase had disappeared. Swann knew that it would come again at the end
of the last movement, after a long passage which Mme. Verdurin's pianist
always 'skipped.' There were in this passage some admirable ideas which
Swann had not distinguished on first hearing the sonata, and which he now
perceived, as if they had, in the cloakroom of his memory, divested
themselves of their uniform disguise of novelty. Swann listened to all the
scattered themes which entered into the composition of the phrase, as its
premises enter into the inevitable conclusion of a syllogism; he was
assisting at the mystery of its birth. "Audacity," he exclaimed to
himself, "as inspired, perhaps, as a Lavoisier's or an Ampere's, the
audacity of a Vinteuil making experiment, discovering the secret laws that
govern an unknown force, driving across a region unexplored towards the
one possible goal the invisible team in which he has placed his trust and
which he never may discern!" How charming the dialogue which Swann now
heard between piano and violin, at the beginning of the last passage. The
suppression of human speech, so far from letting fancy reign there
uncontrolled (as one might have thought), had eliminated it altogether.
Never was spoken language of such inflexible necessity, never had it known
questions so pertinent, such obvious replies. At first the piano
complained alone, like a bird deserted by its mate; the violin heard and
answered it, as from a neighbouring tree. It was as at the first beginning
of the world, as if there were not yet but these twain upon the earth, or
rather in this world closed against all the rest, so fashioned by the
logic of its creator that in it there should never be any but themselves;
the world of this sonata. Was it a bird, was it the soul, not yet made
perfect, of the little phrase, was it a fairy, invisibly somewhere
lamenting, whose plaint the piano heard and tenderly repeated? Its cries
were so sudden that the violinist must snatch up his bow and race to catch
them as they came. Marvellous bird! The violinist seemed to wish to charm,
to tame, to woo, to win it. Already it had passed into his soul, already
the little phrase which it evoked shook like a medium's the body of the
violinist, 'possessed' indeed. Swann knew that the phrase was going to
speak to him once again. And his personality was now so divided that the
strain of waiting for the imminent moment when he would find himself face
to face, once more, with the phrase, convulsed him in one of those sobs
which a fine line of poetry or a piece of alarming news will wring from
us, not when we are alone, but when we repeat one or the other to a
friend, in whom we see ourselves reflected, like a third person, whose
probable emotion softens him. It reappeared, but this time to remain
poised in the air, and to sport there for a moment only, as though
immobile, and shortly to expire. And so Swann lost nothing of the precious
time for which it lingered. It was still there, like an iridescent bubble
that floats for a while unbroken. As a rainbow, when its brightness fades,
seems to subside, then soars again and, before it is extinguished, is
glorified with greater splendour than it has ever shewn; so to the two
colours which the phrase had hitherto allowed to appear it added others
now, chords shot with every hue in the prism, and made them sing. Swann
dared not move, and would have liked to compel all the other people in the
room to remain still also, as if the slightest movement might embarrass
the magic presence, supernatural, delicious, frail, that would so easily
vanish. But no one, as it happened, dreamed of speaking. The ineffable
utterance of one solitary man, absent, perhaps dead (Swann did not know
whether Vinteuil were still alive), breathed out above the rites of those
two hierophants, sufficed to arrest the attention of three hundred minds,
and made of that stage on which a soul was thus called into being one of
the noblest altars on which a supernatural ceremony could be performed. It
followed that, when the phrase at last was finished, and only its
fragmentary echoes floated among the subsequent themes which had already
taken its place, if Swann at first was annoyed to see the Comtesse de
Monteriender, famed for her imbecilities, lean over towards him to confide
in him her impressions, before even the sonata had come to an end; he
could not refrain from smiling, and perhaps also found an underlying
sense, which she was incapable of perceiving, in the words that she used.
Dazzled by the virtuosity of the performers, the Comtesse exclaimed to
Swann: "It's astonishing! I have never seen anything to beat it..." But a
scrupulous regard for accuracy making her correct her first assertion, she
added the reservation: "anything to beat it... since the table-turning!"

From that evening, Swann understood that the feeling which Odette had once
had for him would never revive, that his hopes of happiness would not be
realised now. And the days on which, by a lucky chance, she had once more
shewn herself kind and loving to him, or if she had paid him any
attention, he recorded those apparent and misleading signs of a slight
movement on her part towards him with the same tender and sceptical
solicitude, the desperate joy that people reveal who, when they are
nursing a friend in the last days of an incurable malady, relate, as
significant facts of infinite value: "Yesterday he went through his
accounts himself, and actually corrected a mistake that we had made in
adding them up; he ate an egg to-day and seemed quite to enjoy it, if he
digests it properly we shall try him with a cutlet to-morrow,"--although
they themselves know that these things are meaningless on the eve of an
inevitable death. No doubt Swann was assured that if he had now been
living at a distance from Odette he would gradually have lost all interest
in her, so that he would have been glad to learn that she was leaving
Paris for ever; he would have had the courage to remain there; but he had
not the courage to go.

He had often thought of going. Now that he was once again at work upon his
essay on Vermeer, he wanted to return, for a few days at least, to The
Hague, to Dresden, to Brunswick. He was certain that a 'Toilet of Diana'
which had been acquired by the Mauritshuis at the Goldschmidt sale as a
Nicholas Maes was in reality a Vermeer. And he would have liked to be able
to examine the picture on the spot, so as to strengthen his conviction.
But to leave Paris while Odette was there, and even when she was not
there--for in strange places where our sensations have not been numbed by
habit, we refresh, we revive an old pain--was for him so cruel a project
that he felt himself to be capable of entertaining it incessantly in his
mind only because he knew himself to be resolute in his determination
never to put it into effect. But it would happen that, while he was
asleep, the intention to travel would reawaken in him (without his
remembering that this particular tour was impossible) and would be
realised. One night he dreamed that he was going away for a year; leaning
from the window of the train towards a young man on the platform who wept
as he bade him farewell, he was seeking to persuade this young man to come
away also. The train began to move; he awoke in alarm, and remembered that
he was not going away, that he would see Odette that evening, and next day
and almost every day. And then, being still deeply moved by his dream, he
would thank heaven for those special circumstances which made him
independent, thanks to which he could remain in Odette's vicinity, and
could even succeed in making her allow him to see her sometimes; and,
counting over the list of his advantages: his social position--his
fortune, from which she stood too often in need of assistance not to
shrink from the prospect of a definite rupture (having even, so people
said, an ulterior plan of getting him to marry her)--his friendship with
M. de Charlus, which, it must be confessed, had never won him any very
great favour from Odette, but which gave him the pleasant feeling that she
was always hearing complimentary things said about him by this common
friend for whom she had so great an esteem--and even his own intelligence,
the whole of which he employed in weaving, every day, a fresh plot which
would make his presence, if not agreeable, at any rate necessary to Odette
--he thought of what might have happened to him if all these advantages
had been lacking, he thought that, if he had been, like so many other men,
poor and humble, without resources, forced to undertake any task that
might be offered to him, or tied down by parents or by a wife, he might
have been obliged to part from Odette, that that dream, the terror of
which was still so recent, might well have been true; and he said to
himself: "People don't know when they are happy. They're never so unhappy
as they think they are." But he reflected that this existence had lasted
already for several years, that all that he could now hope for was that it
should last for ever, that he would sacrifice his work, his pleasures, his
friends, in fact the whole of his life to the daily expectation of a
meeting which, when it occurred, would bring him no happiness; and he
asked himself whether he was not mistaken, whether the circumstances that
had favoured their relations and had prevented a final rupture had not
done a disservice to his career, whether the outcome to be desired was not
that as to which he rejoiced that it happened only in dreams--his own
departure; and he said to himself that people did not know when they were
unhappy, that they were never so happy as they supposed.

Sometimes he hoped that she would die, painlessly, in some accident, she
who was out of doors in the streets, crossing busy thoroughfares, from
morning to night. And as she always returned safe and sound, he marvelled
at the strength, at the suppleness of the human body, which was able
continually to hold in check, to outwit all the perils that environed it
(which to Swann seemed innumerable, since his own secret desire had strewn
them in her path), and so allowed its occupant, the soul, to abandon
itself, day after day, and almost with impunity, to its career of
mendacity, to the pursuit of pleasure. And Swann felt a very cordial
sympathy with that Mahomet II whose portrait by Bellini he admired, who,
on finding that he had fallen madly in love with one of his wives, stabbed
her, in order, as his Venetian biographer artlessly relates, to recover
his spiritual freedom. Then he would be ashamed of thinking thus only of
himself, and his own sufferings would seem to deserve no pity now that he
himself was disposing so cheaply of Odette's very life.

Since he was unable to separate himself from her without a subsequent
return, if at least he had seen her continuously and without separations
his grief would ultimately have been assuaged, and his love would,
perhaps, have died. And from the moment when she did not wish to leave
Paris for ever he had hoped that she would never go. As he knew that her
one prolonged absence, every year, was in August and September, he had
abundant opportunity, several months in advance, to dissociate from it the
grim picture of her absence throughout Eternity which was lodged in him by
anticipation, and which, consisting of days closely akin to the days
through which he was then passing, floated in a cold transparency in his
mind, which it saddened and depressed, though without causing him any
intolerable pain. But that conception of the future, that flowing stream,
colourless and unconfined, a single word from Odette sufficed to penetrate
through all Swann's defences, and like a block of ice immobilised it,
congealed its fluidity, made it freeze altogether; and Swann felt himself
suddenly filled with an enormous and unbreakable mass which pressed on the
inner walls of his consciousness until he was fain to burst asunder; for
Odette had said casually, watching him with a malicious smile:
"Forcheville is going for a fine trip at Whitsuntide. He's going to
Egypt!" and Swann had at once understood that this meant: "I am going to
Egypt at Whitsuntide with Forcheville." And, in fact, if, a few days
later, Swann began: "About that trip that you told me you were going to
take with Forcheville," she would answer carelessly: "Yes, my dear boy,
we're starting on the 19th; we'll send you a 'view' of the Pyramids." Then
he was determined to know whether she was Forcheville's mistress, to ask
her point-blank, to insist upon her telling him. He knew that there were

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