Maurice imagined himself merging into a huge armchair, just able to see a square glass vase of Juliette roses—gilt petals lined with deep pink velvet. Why on earth were there never any flowers in the country? And no one would disturb him—no one. Privacy is only possible in a big town. Every detail of life in the Hotel Bungalow was revealed to him in a series of sights, sounds and smells. And should a fellow lunatic arrive, how was he to avoid him? At every meal there would be little exchanges of the banal, after dinner a game of billiards—even possibly, horror of horrors, potential excursions planned with zest and good fellowship. And all the time he would be saying “No,” more and more ungraciously, or, worse still—and far more likely—saying “yes.”
And then where would his novel be? Not that it was possible any way to write in a place where the sun was always in your eyes, the wind blew your paper away and creaking boards made sitting in your bedroom out of the question.
Marthe was a fool, given up entirely to hygiene and plans for other people. “You will come back bubbling over with physical fitness, your dear face all tanned,” she had said. “Dear” indeed! It was simply a bribe. He was being bribed for his own good. And to think that like a great gaby he had been shoved off to the sea by one term of endearment, and to a place, too, where there was neither shade nor shadows, simply miles and miles of bright monotonous sea, three dusty cornflowers, two bedraggled poppies and the sun all around you.
Tanned, indeed! Why his face would be all blisters and his eyes bloodshot.
The insensitiveness of women!
If Marthe were here she would bathe before breakfast, feed the hens, find the eggs, encourage the cook, pat the dog, listen to the story of Marie Aimee’s life, pick the cornflowers, praise the cook, churn the butter, play with the children, climb on to the hay cart, collect shells on the beach, lie in the sun, let the sand trickle through her fingers and explain with perfect sincerity that it was the most delightful place in the world.
But he didn’t like paddling or shrimping or sailing or farmyard life. He wanted a velvet lawn, a cedar, a rose garden, lavender, a sun dial, iced lemonade and solitude. Or he wanted his own cool apartment, with drawn sunblinds, vases full of flowers, his immense writing table, and a deserted Paris around him.
Women always did to you as they wanted to be done by. That sort of literal interpretation of Christianity showed such a lack of imagination. It was no good telling Marthe that you didn’t like the sea, she simply wouldn’t believe it.
“Think of the sunset reflected in the wet sand,” she would say, and if you told her that you didn’t want to think about it, that it was no fit subject for an active mind, she would be hurt.
In any case no one had a right to make you do things for your own good. It was a horrible form of self-sacrifice. If Marthe had said, “Please go to St. Jean-les-Flots and pick me a poppy,” he would have been delighted, but to stay at the Hotel Bungalow in the interests of his own health was a very different matter.