M. de Maubrun liked Paris: a royal and majestic city which, nevertheless, the Republic had used wisely. Surely the first city of the world!
The marquis knew that he was chauvinistic. There was nothing he could do about it. The more the twentieth century pushed France into the row of little nations, the prouder he was to be a Frenchman. He went calmly to revisit the Louvre, Versailles, Notre-Dame, Saint-Denis—and then he felt better. Paris in July—bright, spacious, brilliant with leaves and blue days—was reassuring to him. The new merchandise he saw in the large store windows seemed worthy of these old stones. In the streets he contemplated women of a beauty not to be found in any other corner of the world.
On his arrival he telephoned Marie-Antoinette de Laval. (Her friends called her ‘Marinette’ or sometimes only ‘Nenette’). For ten years she had been his mistress and he had a great longing to see her again. She was a widow, rosy, pretty—almost of a violent beauty.
Nénette had answered that she would of course be delighted to spend an evening with him. She even begged him to stay two or three days in Paris. “You were lucky to have found me,” she told him. “I’m just here on a flying trip and absolutely must go back to Deauville. If you promise to stay a few days though, so will I.” She invited him to dinner the next evening, adding: “If you think you can bear a quiet meal alone with me.”
Maubrun, in his little week-end apartment on the rue Talleyrand, slept that night like a child. The pain and anxiety of the train trip had entirely disappeared. He awakened fresh and well-disposed, lunched alone at the Jockey Club, then had himself chauffered out to Père Lachaise. And there, following the paved streets amid the tombstones terraced in the green, he walked among the dead, smoking his pipe and listening to the song of the birds. The earth exhaled a poignant odor, where the former glories of stone and plaster had crumbled away in a most sweet forgetfulness...