Mon amie Florence m'a dit s'est réconciliée avec une cousine qui ne lui avait plus adressé la parole depuis 10 ans, sans raison; et qui vient de l'inviter chez elle, sans plus de raison.
Mme de Guermantes s’enorgueillissait d’être la seule, avec M. de Bréauté, à ne pas recevoir Odette et Gilberte Swann. Mais avec la mort de Swann, dont elle était très amie, et à qui elle avait montré qu’elle avait su lui résister, ses sentiments changèrent peu à peu, elle eut de la curiosité pour sa fille. Un jour où la duchesse, toujours élégante, s’apprêtait à sortir avec son mari, celui-ci lui transmit une invitation à l’Opéra de Mme de Virelef, tout en s’excusant de la présence dans sa loge de la petite Swann. Le duc, en un simple reflet de la pensée de sa femme, émit l’idée que "Mon Dieu, nous pourrions…", qu’Oriane termina par "Mais comme vous voudrez, que voulez-vous que ça me fasse ? Je ne vois aucun inconvénient à ce que nous connaissions cette petite. Vous savez bien que je n’ai jamais rien eu contre elle. Simplement, je ne voulais pas que nous ayons l’air de recevoir les faux ménages de mes amis. Voilà tout !"
Un mois plus tard, Gilberte Swann était reçue chez la duchesse, qui lui parla de son père, grand ami de sa belle-mère et de son beau-frère : "C’était un grand ami à ma belle-mère et aussi il était très lié à mon beau-frère Palamède – il venait aussi ici, il déjeunait aussi ici", ajouta M. de Guermantes par ostentation de modestie et scrupule d’exactitude, « Vous vous rappelez, Oriane. Quel brave homme que votre père ! Comme on sentait qu’il devait être d’une famille honnête ! Du reste j’ai aperçu autrefois son père et sa mère. Eux et lui, quelles bonnes gens ! » On sentait que s’ils avaient été, les parents et le fils, encore en vie, le duc de Guermantes n’eût pas d’hésitation à les recommander pour une place de jardiniers. Et voilà comment le faubourg Saint-Germain parle à tout bourgeois des autres bourgeois, soit pour le flatter de l’exception faite – le temps qu’on cause – en faveur de l’interlocuteur ou de l’interlocutrice, et plutôt, ou en même temps, pour l’humilier.
Albertine disparue, II
My friend Florence has reconnected with a cousin who had avoided her for more than ten years, for no cause, and who invited her recently without any reason.
“By the way, I have a message for you from Mme. de Virelef. She wanted to ask you to come on Monday to the Opera, but as she’s having the Swann girl, she did not dare and asked me to explore the ground. I don’t express any opinion, I simply convey the message. But really, it seems to me that we might...” he added evasively, for their attitude towards anyone else being a collective attitude and taking an identical form in each of them, he knew from his own feelings that his wife’s hostility to Mlle. Swann had subsided and that she was anxious to meet her. Mme. de Guermantes settled her veil to her liking and chose a sunshade. “But just as you like, what difference do you suppose it can make to me, I see no reason against our meeting the girl. I simply did not wish that we should appear to be countenancing the dubious establishments of our friends. That is all.” “And you were perfectly right,” replied the Duke. “You are wisdom incarnate, Madame, and you are more ravishing than ever in that hat.” “You are very kind,” said Mme. de Guermantes with a smile at her husband as she made her way to the door. But, before entering the carriage, she felt it her duty to give him a further explanation: “There are plenty of people now who call upon the mother, besides she has the sense to be ill for nine months of the year.... It seems that the child is quite charming. Everybody knows that we were greatly attached to Swann. People will think it quite natural,” and they set off together for Saint-Cloud.
A month later, the Swann girl, who had not yet taken the name of Forcheville, came to luncheon with the Guermantes. Every conceivable subject was discussed; at the end of the meal, Gilberte said timidly: “I believe you knew my father quite well.” “Why of course we did,” said Mme. de Guermantes in a melancholy tone which proved that she understood the daughter’s grief and with a deliberate excess of intensity which gave her the air of concealing the fact that she was not sure whether she did remember the father. “We knew him quite well, I remember him quite well .” (As indeed she might, seeing that he had come to see her almost every day for twenty-five years.) “I know quite well who he was, let me tell you,” she went on, as though she were seeking to explain to the daughter whom she had had for a father and to give the girl information about him, “he was a great friend of my mother-in-law and besides he was very intimate with my brother-in-law Palamède.” “He used to come here too, indeed he used to come to luncheon here,” added M. de Guermantes with an ostentatious modesty and a scrupulous exactitude. “You remember, Oriane. What a fine man your father was. One felt that he must come of a respectable family; for that matter I saw once, long ago, his own father and mother. They and he, what worthy people!”
One felt that if they had, parents and son, been still alive, the Duc de Guermantes would not have had a moment’s hesitation in recommending them for a post as gardeners! And this is how the Faubourg Saint-Germain speaks to any bourgeois of the other bourgeois, whether in order to flatter him with the exception made — during the course of the conversation — in favour of the listener, or rather and at the same time in order to humiliate him. Thus it is that an anti-Semite in addressing a Jew, at the very moment when he is smothering him in affability, speaks evil of Jews, in a general fashion which enables him to be wounding without being rude.
But while she could shower compliments upon a person, when she met him, and could then never bring herself to let him take his leave, Mme. de Guermantes was also a slave to this need of personal contact. Swann might have managed, now and then, in the excitement of conversation, to give the Duchess the illusion that she regarded him with a friendly feeling, he could do so no longer. “He was charming,” said the Duchess with a wistful smile and fastening upon Gilberte a kindly gaze which would at least, supposing the girl to have delicate feelings, shew her that she was understood, and that Mme. de Guermantes, had the two been alone together and had circumstances allowed it, would have loved to reveal to her all the depth of her own feelings. But M. de Guermantes, whether because he was indeed of the opinion that the circumstances forbade such effusions, or because he considered that any exaggeration of sentiment was a matter for women and that men had no more part in it than in the other feminine departments, save the kitchen and the wine-cellar which he had reserved to himself, knowing more about them than the Duchess, felt it incumbent upon him not to encourage, by taking part in it, this conversation to which he listened with a visible impatience.
The Fugitive II