Charles (Henri) de Réveillon

   For the first time since he was a small child when she would wipe away his tears and receive his confidences as she took him on her knee, she understood the sensitive heart of her son, all the pain and suffering a disappointment in love or a deception in friendship could cause him already, however young he was. As she above all others knew that he slept badly, she knew almost as soon as he did that he was smitten with affection over some boy or girl among his playmates. She had noticed the way he spoke about Charles, and she had thought fit to take a little trouble over him right now, so as to avoid a more enduring and more serious pain for him. At this moment, just as when he had had a tooth extracted or a cut cauterized, she felt emotional and faint at the thought that he was suffering. But he himself felt ashamed that his mother thought he was unhappy, he turned away and scarcely inside his bedroom he threw himself onto his bed and burst into tears. Since he was avoiding Charles, and not being able to see him, he clung especially to the idea that he was attracted to him because of motives that he could only suppose were those of ambition. But the noble ease of Charles' manners, the vivacity that the suppleness of his elegant body and the friendly and joyful grace of his expression diffused through the whole of his person, the slightly mocking delicacy of his glance, held for Jean the charm that he had been dreaming of until then without encountering it and of which his brutish and needy friends, vulgar one and all, were entirely destitute.
   But if these feelings that he could never have suspected on account of Jean's extreme coldness might have astonished Charles, had Jean been able to see into Charles' heart for a moment, he would have been more stupefied than delighted. Jean's French homework had in the class that was generally hostile and mocking, a silent but fervent admirer. Charles. At the glimmer of the brilliant improvisations that Jean often read out at the request of the master amid the laughter of the class, he thought he could perceive in him one he would have been proud to have as a friend, an ardent and singular genius who enraptured him. Frequently without Jean noticing he tried for hours to divine the sublime thoughts that were still causing Jean's profound and capacious eyes to widen, and certainly never suspected that a fraternal angel was lamenting so close to him that he believed so distant and apart, and that the one he loved to such a degree perhaps loved him even more.
   To begin with upon returning home Charles would describe for hours to his mother Jean's school work, his readings, his appearance, what he would one day become. And the duchesse replied to him: "My poor boy, I am so sorry to see you smitten over a friend who may be quite charming but has no doubt been brought up to detest the likes of us. It is said that his father has very progressive opinions. But if his parents allow it bring him here."
   Then Charles did not mention him again, having noticed Jean's coldness that he attributed less to political distaste than to the contempt that such an extraordinary intelligence must feel for a dunce like him. One or twice the duchesse grumbled at his lack of effort to get friendly with such a remarkable boy, but Charles was too proud to confess his failure to her. They had been very surprised at Charlemagne where they were familiar with the ways of the Réveillons to discover one day that Charles had left Fénelon to become a boarder at Charlemagne. Certainly Jean would have been driven just as mad with bewilderment as with joy had he been told that Charles, so as not to spend almost the entire day without seeing him, had, on the strength of his supplications without of course giving the true reason, obtained this alteration from his parents. So then Charles, feeling that he could see Jean as much as he wanted, also wanted to try giving the cold shoulder. Jean's fears were confirmed and in this dark despair the sole pleasure that remained to him was to show Charles that he was not mean spirited and that he had not sought out his friendship like all the others. When the school master showed him to a seat next to Réveillon he refused. As he had spoken back to him the master said: "Very well, I have offered you a way to stop talking, you will be in detention tomorrow."
   The following day at the time all the others were playing in the courtyard, all alone in the classroom Jean was working a word at a time. Even the monitor was not staying behind, saying: "I will come back at ten o'clock to collect your two hundred lines."
   Because it being a Thursday everybody left the school at ten o'clock, and the ones who had just been playing, along with the ones who had just finished their punishment, went to have lunch with their family. Jean was allowed to choose for himself whichever two hundred lines he was to translate, and he was not even forced to choose them all from the same author. Usually, in order to alleviate the boredom of their task, pupils would translate twenty lines from a Latin poet, ten lines from a Greek prose writer (lines of Greek counted double). But Jean, bringing a melancholy courage to a task that at least Charles was no stranger to, undertook a long and difficult passage, the two hundred lines that begin the 6th Book of The Odyssey. There we see Minerva at the moment Ulysses is lamenting being far away from her, the goddess appears before the hero in the guise of an old man. Jean well knew that such apparitions are impossible and that only small children believe that their wish is the law of things. He knew too alas that that was not the law of the human heart. Yet he liked, in bed at the time of falling asleep or during the day at certain times that were similar, to imagine Réveillon, the distance alone between their homes not keeping him apart, coming to knock on the door of his bedroom, holding out his hand, explaining why up until now he had withheld his sympathy. The experience of his reason protested at the absurdity of such a romantic notion. But imagination has no experience, since hope erases the slightest trace of it daily so as to render it in all its purity. And his imagination delighted in rediscovering his dreams in which the future frees itself from the law, as in real life, of being alike to an unhappy past, in those kindly fictions in which desire laughingly makes play of the harshest forms of necessity. Just as a fool likes to meet the docile friend who listens to him without contradiction, so Jean sought the innocent complicity of the poet.
   As the classroom was situated on the ground floor on a level with the courtyard, and the window being wide open, Jean was listening to the cries and the games of his classmates. He did not even have the consolation of knowing that Honoré1 was amongst them, because, living as he did further away than the others near the Invalides, he had permission to leave at eight o'clock in the morning, and it was unlikely that he would have stayed. Soon absorbed in his work Jean ceased to notice any sounds. He had reached the point where Minerva makes her appearance when suddenly a slight noise that he heard close by him for a few moments caused him to lift his head. He heard a movement by the window and the noise stopped. But for a brief moment, scaling a bench and looking at him with a smile, he had seen, just as in his dream, Charles. Now his paper on which barely two lines had been written was no longer alone on the desk. Beside it was a sheet of work complete with five hundred lines of French copied out, all ready to be given to the school master, with the name Jean Santeuil at the top, in capital letters. The transcribed fragment was the chapter from Montaigne's Essais on Friendship.
   Jean left the classroom at ten o'clock after delivering his translation of The Odyssey that he had now finished to the monitor, carrying off inside his jacket the tables of the law that had come down to him from heaven. In passing he jostled against two pupils who were only waiting for the opportunity to thrash him. They threw themselves upon him and showered him with blows of their fists outside the school gates, to great cheers from all the classes that were leaving, all of whom hated Jean. He bumped into a carriage with two horses that was waiting for Réveillon in front of the gate and the footman, happy to add to his insult of the jeers of two hundred schoolboys, shouted at him: "Wait a minute, pig, is that how you treat a carriage", and he got down from his box, when Charles de Réveillon, elbowing his way through the blows of the boys' fists, said to Jean: "Allow me to take you home."
   The footman had not heard, but on the point of despatching a kick at Jean, he came forward to hold the door for his master, and seeing Jean climb in, tried to stop him. Charles told him: "Jacques, take Monsieur's briefcase and go and leave it with the school concierge where he will pick it up tomorrow", and without waiting for the footman's return he gave the order to the coachman to set off amidst the silence of all the stupefied Charlemagne pupils.

   "It's M. Santeuil isn't it, at long last", said the duchesse on seeing her son followed by Jean. Not for a moment did Jean ask himself how she could know his name; he had dreamed for so long that things would be like this that he had simply ceased to be as he was all the days before, surprised and chagrined that they were not. Everything followed on naturally and without awkwardness, just as he had dreamed.
   "Would you like to stay for lunch?" asked Réveillon. They both remembered that they had overlooked the hour of Jean's lunch; it was too late to go back.
   "I'll get someone to let Madame your mother know", said the duchesse.
   Charles went out for a moment and ran after his mother.
   "Mamma, you are going to get somebody to tell Mme Santeuil, that is to say you are going to write to her directly, aren't you?"
   "Yes, my dear."
   "Nicely, I hope?"
   "Well how do you think I'm going to write to her, do you think I'm going to say: 'Madame, it's such a nuisance for me to have your son here'?"
   "Of course not, Mamma, I know how kind you are", he said kissing her.
   "But I just want to ask you one thing. Who will you send to deliver the letter?"
   "I don't know, Luc or Théodore."
   "No, Jules, I beg you."
   "No, Jules can't do it, he has to bring me some cards from another part of town."
   "Oh, Jules, I beg you, I'll tell you what it is, the others wear livery. And I've seen the Santeuil's valet at school, he was dressed like Jules, less smartly, but not in livery. I wouldn't want yours to look like he is being different."
   "Good heavens! what a fool I have for a son", the duchesse told him laughingly. "But you would do better not to leave the boy alone rather than worrying about Luc's livery."
   Charles went back to Jean. "What's that big thing you've got there," he said pulling a package from inside his jacket. But Jean pushed his hands away. He wanted to keep for the rest of his life the table of the laws that had come down to him from heaven that consecrated morning.
   "What, was it no use to you?" said Charles disconsolately. "And all I wanted to do was to spare you the work. I will always spare you from it, if you really want to keep me as a friend, even though being so intelligent it must be quite an annoyance to you having a friend like me. But I will do the boring work. I will copy out your homework, and even your lines if you let me! Oh," he said holding up the chapter of Montaigne, "do you think we will be as good friends as they are?" But he suddenly went over to the window seeing somebody pass by in the courtyard, then came back into the room looking very displeased.
   Luc had gone out in livery.

This episode was intended to follow on immediately from the chapter entitled La Classe de philosophie in which M. Beulier gives Jean detention after talking in class.

1. At this point Proust has substituted the name Honoré for Charles, Jean's great friend, the Duc de Réveillon's son. In the published version he is initially called Henri, then later Bertrand.


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