by Jeanne Badman
Marcel and his mother take Mme. Sazerat to dinner at a nearby hotel. Marcel inspects the great hall of the restaurant and observes the Marquise de Villeparisis at dinner with her lover the Marquis de Norpois, both greatly aged. They are a comfortable old couple. Marcel overhears as they talk over the papers, politics, and M. de Norpois’ ambitions. They greet Prince Foggi, and M. de Norpois introduces Mme. de Villeparisis to this in-law of her cousin Doudeauville. Marcel informs his mother and Mme. Sazerat that he is amused to see Mme. de Villeparisis. Mme. Sazerat begs to see her just once since her father was ruined by the Marquise years before when she was the Duchess d’Havre, the greatest beauty of her generation. Marcel tries to point her out but Mme. Sazerat cannot see the Marquise, ravaged as she is by time. M. de Norpois works his way with the Prince to influence the selection for a diplomatic position in Constantinople. In the coming months the newspapers will report their own version of this conversation and its influence. M. de Norpois exercises considerable influence over newspapers, now and in 1870.
This sections features some detailed descriptions of the physical condition of the Marquise and the behaviors of the Marquis. I prefer the less gory ones:
“Mme. de Villeparisis preserved, for some minutes, the silence of an old woman who in the exhaustion of age finds it difficult to rise from recollection of the past to consideration of the present.”
“M. de Norpois never ceased for an instant to keep his azure pupils trained on Mme. de Villeparisis, with the mixture of indulgence and severity of an old lover, but principally from fear of her committing one of those verbal solecisms which he had relished but which he dreaded.”
Moncrieff: “Sometimes at dusk as I returned to the hotel…” through “…a vague and soon dissipated feeling of desire and melancholy.” Pages 866-878.
Enjoy your time with this good book.