Day Forty-Three: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, pp. 171-183

From "'Really,' Mme Bontemps would say..." to "...I sensed, however, that it was going to be."
The narrator acts as eavesdropper in most of this section, listening in on the chat and cattiness of Mme. Swann's "at home" while still playing his little games of strategy to win back Gilberte. When Odette says that Gilberte has written to invite him to come see her tomorrow, he replies, "Gilberte and I can't see each other anymore."
"You know she's very fond of you," Mme Swann said. "Are you sure tomorrow's not possible?" A sudden surge of joy went through me, and I thought: "Well, why not? I mean, it's her mother who's asking me!" But my dejection returned at once. I was afraid Gilberte might deduce from my presence that my recent indifference toward her had been only for show, and I decided that the separation should continue.

Meanwhile, he overhears Mme. Bontemps talking about her niece Albertine, whom she describes as "as artful as a bunch of monkeys." And he witnesses the sparring between the rival leaders of salons, Odette and Mme. Verdurin. "On marrying Odette, Swann had asked her to resign from 'the little set'" and "had permitted Odette to exchange only two visits a year with Mme Verdurin," who has become known as "the Patronne." Odette tells her own set that "M. Swann is not overfond of old Mother Verdurin.... And I'm a very dutiful wife, you know."

And so when Mme. Verdurin shows up for Odette's "at home," there's some jockeying for position, especially where Mme. Cottard, who belongs to both groups, is concerned. Mme. Verdurin also has her eye on Odette's friend Mme. Bontemps. So Mme. Verdurin goes out of her way to "accidentally" refer to Odette as "Mme de Crécy," following it up with "oh, goodness me, what have I said? I'll never get into the habit of saying 'Mme Swann'!" This, it seems, is an in-joke among the "little set." Mme. Verdurin even goes so far as to criticize Odette's neighborhood ("such a godforsaken part of town"), to worry that the damp is bad for Swann's eczema, and to ask if the house had rats. "'You're not very good at arranging chrysanthemums, are you?' she added on the way out, as Mme Swann was moving toward the door with her."

When she's gone, Mme. Bontemps suggests that before attending Mme. Verdurin's salon, she and Odette and Mme. Cottard have dinner together. "Then, after dinner, all three of us could go and Verdurinate together, I mean Verdurinize." Mme. Cottard, still trying to play both sides, passes along the news that "the house that Mme Verdurin has just bought is going to have the electric light in it" and reports that "The sister-in-law of a friend of mine has actually got a telephone installed in her house!"

Meanwhile, the narrator is brooding on the game he is playing with Gilberte. "I had achieved the aim of my visit: Gilberte would know I had been to her house during her absence" and "would be told I had spoken about her affectionately, as I could not help doing; and she would know I did not suffer from the inability to live without her, which I felt was the source of her recent discontents with me."

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