A Winter's Evening

   At that hour of darkness when it is almost completely night in the not yet lighted house, where from the kitchen stove, which alone is relit, barely filters a faint red glimmer, where for a moment yet the entire dark house has the air of being ready and waiting for that gay magic lantern of just lit rooms in which we will read, in which we will play, for that festival a little later of the dining room in which the promise of a wonderful meal and impatiently awaited conversation is brought to fruition at the dining table on which the more than usually numerous plates are already hidden under white table napkins, on which tall compote-dishes are laden with grapes, whereas the smaller ones, of a different type no doubt bear immense fruits and dishes, sugared to taste and of the comestible appearance called marzipan and finger biscuits, a scene well known to Jean since it was reproduced every Sunday, more beloved, perhaps just as cheering to his eyes as the richest autumn scenes are for the grape harvester, that promises an infinitely better and more amusing dinner than the every day dinner, but no less calm, exempt from any excess of timidity, of worldly gossip of the sort that we get far more of without asking for it, and the pleasure and merriment of which is something that it would be difficult to explain, of the lively glow of the second lamp lit that day, the frying of the starter, the warmth of being closer to the fire after the places have been changed, chestnut purée, the news that his uncle will relate to him, the pleasure of embracing him and of embracing his little cousin takes on greater importance. And, during the week sometimes, at that hour we were expecting the one we love above all others, who we hardly know and for whom we are waiting, for whom we have made the room so beautiful and wait for in the lamplight, the darkness in the corners, the door opened from time to time to listen, the fire frequently poked, beautiful flattering things got out and placed on the chimney-piece, receiving on the sound of the door-bell a commotion as lively as its ringing, mysterious festivities of winter in which the room, the visitors all left and gone, seems both drained of hope and perfumed with a memory.

From the manuscript of Jean Santeuil, c. 1896 - 1897.


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