The Marquis de Réveillon's Monets

   Upon their arrival at the doorstep of the Marquis de Réveillon's mansion Jean turned to say goodbye to him. He felt unnerved, imagining that he was going to return home, that he would not have to make too much noise in case he woke everybody up who was asleep, when the Marquis said to him: "Don't you want to come in? If you are in no hurry to go to bed I could show you my Monets because you have always been keen to see them. You would have all the books you could want, several rooms at your disposal, a pleasant supper and a comfortable bed when you want to retire, where you could sleep till ten o'clock without anybody waking you up." And already they had gone inside chatting. The Marquis had a loud voice and they chatted together quite loudly. And already this sensation of talking loudly at this late hour of the night triumphed over that reluctance that people of a nervous disposition have of going home at night. The spectre of sleep that troubles us by its absence only when its pursuit is imposed on us, was not brought about by the necessity of going about quietly so as not to wake the sleepers, the prelude that all too quickly leads us to absolute immobility in bed, to the silence that is in collusion with our debilitation. And still chatting, they went into the principal drawing-room, where the Marquis turned on all the electric light switches to show off his Monets.
   The various places on the earth are also like living creatures, whose personality is so strong that some of them die when they are separated from them, so particular in any case that many spend all their years searching for the approbation of their society and in its absence cling on to the memory of its charm. And each has by turns its various expressions, so that whoever loves a place loves it in different weathers and at all times of the day. Because he feels that the life of a place, however little animated it might appear, is much more varied than we think.
   When, the sunlight already breaking through, the river still sleeps in its foggy dreams, we no more see it than it sees itself. Here already is the river, but there the view is arrested, we no longer see anything but the emptiness, a mist that prevents us from seeing any further. In this place on the canvas, to paint neither what we can see since we can see nothing, nor what we do not see since one should only paint what we can see, but to paint what we do not see, where the shortcomings of the eye that cannot navigate through the fog as it can on the river, what is imposed upon the canvas is very beautiful. And when it is a cathedral it too is beautiful, because the portal that we cannot see is a very beautiful thing but it is a thing that lives in nature. And certain parts of its life are not to be seen, being visited by the mist and then nobody can get near to them, and that hour of its life is beautiful too. We do not know everything there is that is real and diverse in the life of the place we love, even the hour when it is not to be seen at all, and which is not merely negative because its charm can be restored. We know very well that this place is beautiful in autumn, in a kind of transfiguration, but we would have loved it better if we had not seen it at one moment of the year as a spectacle, if we have loved all the hours of its life because they make its life manifest, its life where summer warms the slate tiles of the church and borders the familiar road with so many corn-poppies in flower and tied up bundles of hay, if on a day when it thaws, instead of us going there as if it were a foreign enemy of the place that passes over it without touching it, we have seen the sun, blue sky, the ice shattered, [illegible] the flowing water making a dazzling mirror of the river that the eye cannot fix and where it cannot see itself, not regaining any of its form, while the trees are there, denuded and glimmering with frost, surrounding a glade along which the banks run, who knows.


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