He finally could not help asking himself why he had so long tolerated the fuzzy filth which obscured and incrusted his household. While he dusted, his indignation against Rateau increased mightily. “Look at that,” he said, perceiving his wax candles grown as yellow as tallow ones. He changed them. “That’s better.” He arranged his desk into studied disarray. Notebooks, and books with paper-cutters in them for book-marks, he laid in careful disorder. “Symbol of work,” he said, smiling, as he placed an old folio, open, on a chair. Then he passed into his bedroom. With a wet sponge he freshened up the marble of the dresser, then he smoothed the bed cover, straightened his photographs and engravings, and went into the bathroom. Here he paused, disheartened. In a bamboo rack over the wash-bowl there was a chaos of phials. Resolutely he grabbed the perfume bottles, scoured the bottoms and necks with emery, rubbed the labels with gum elastic and bread crumbs, then he soaped the tub, dipped the combs and brushes in an ammoniac solution, got his vapourizer to working and sprayed the room with Persian lilac, washed the linoleum, and scoured the seat and the pipes. Seized with a mania for cleanliness, he polished, scrubbed, scraped, moistened, and dried, with great sweeping strokes of the arm. He was no longer vexed at the concierge; he was even sorry the old villain had not left him more to do.
Then he shaved, touched up his moustache, and proceeded to make an elaborate toilet, asking himself, as he dressed, whether he had better wear button shoes or slippers. He decided that shoes were less familiar and more dignified but resolved to wear a flowing tie and a blouse, thinking that this artistic negligee would please a woman.
“All ready,” he said, after a last stroke of the brush. He made the turn of the other rooms, poked the fires, and fed the cat, which was running about in alarm, sniffing all the cleaned objects and doubtless thinking that those he rubbed against every day without paying any attention to them had been replaced by new ones.
“Oh, the ‘little essentials’ I am forgetting!” Durtal put the teakettle on the hob and placed cups, teapot, sugar bowl, cakes, bonbons, and tiny liqueur glasses on an old lacquered “waiter” so as to have everything on hand when it was time to serve.
“Now I’m through. I’ve given the place a thorough cleaning. Let her come,” he said to himself, realigning some books whose backs stuck out further than the others on the shelves. “Everything in good shape. Except the chimney of the lamp. Where it bulges, there are caramel specks and blobs of soot, but I can’t get the thing out; I don’t want to burn my fingers; and anyway, with the shade lowered a bit she won’t notice.
“Well, how shall I proceed when she does come?” he asked himself, sinking into an armchair. “She enters. Good. I take her hands. I kiss them. Then I bring her into this room. I have her sit down beside the fire, in this chair. I station myself, facing her, on this stool. Advancing a little, touching her knees, I can seize her. I make her bend over. I am supporting her whole weight. I bring her lips to mine and I am saved!