À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs proofs

   In this way Madame de Villeparisis - who, when I was small and I heard my grandmother talking about her, seemed to me an old lady of the same type as her other friends and who has always stayed that way for me, was the same person who had once given me a box of chocolates held by a duck, who now wanted nothing more than to bring us pleasure - turned out to be one of the most influential ladies of the Guermantes. This alteration in value of the things we have, these old bundles that turn out to be inestimable treasures, is one of the things that invest the most wonders, the most vitality, the most variety, and by consequence, the most poetry into adolescence - (that adolescence that as it recedes, becoming no more than a thin dried up thread, is prolonged all the same sometimes throughout the whole course of out lives.) [...]

   At the front of the hotel the three Guermantes took their leave of us, they were going to dine at the Princess de Luxembourg's. At that moment as my grandmother was saying goodbye to Madame de Villeparisis and Saint-Loup to my grandmother, M. de Charlus, who up till then had not addressed a single word to me, took a few steps back, and, coming up beside me said: "I am taking tea after dinner this evening in my aunt Villeparisis's suite. I hope you will do me the honour of coming with your grandmother" and rejoined the Marquise. I thought that by inviting us like this to his aunt's, which I had no doubt he had anticipated, M. de Charlus had wanted to make amends for the incivility he had shown me on our morning walk. But on arrival in Madame de Villeparisis's room I wanted to greet M. de Charlus. [...] With a scrupulous preciseness that I maintained up to the age when I understood that it is not through asking for it from others that one learns the truth of their intentions and that the risk of a misunderstanding that in all likelihood will go unnoticed is less important than that of a naive insistence: "But Monsieur", I said to him, "you do recall that it was you yourself that asked me if we would come this evening?" Not a sound, not a movement betrayed the fact that M. de Charlus had heard my question. Seeing this I repeated my question, like those diplomats or people in disagreement who by stubbornly attempting to shed light on a situation ensure that any goodwill is unobtainable and make it impossible to obtain the explanations that his adversary has decided not to give. M. de Charlus offered me no reply. It seemed to me that I saw the sort of smile hovering about his lips that one sees on those who from on high are judging our characters and education. [...] Chatting with the utmost animation to my grandmother and Madame Villeparisis, and as if I were hidden behind them in some way, as if he were at the back of a theatre box, he was content merely to attach momentarily to my face the interrogatory gaze of his penetrating eyes with the same seriousness, with the same air of preoccupation as if my face were a difficult to decipher manuscript. If he had not had those eyes of someone searching for incriminating evidence.

Corrected Grasset proofs from June 1914.


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