La Chamade

La Chamade by Françoise Sagan

Book: La Chamade by Françoise Sagan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Françoise Sagan
youth, of bewilderment and error. And indeed, in her own eyes, she had made an error in pursuing her lover at dawn, as she had made an error two years ago in falling in love with him. Only this error, which until now had been like the background music to the film of her life, obstinate but discreet, now resounded like the relentless, cruel beating of a tom-tom. She saw herself leave the car, accept Antoine's helping hand, she saw herself make a final effort to maintain gracefully, for a few minutes more, the rôle of a beloved woman, before assuming the rôle, unknown and terrifying for her, of a woman scorned. And as she sent her chauffeur away, she smiled at him with a sort of strange intimacy, as though she knew that he was the last precious witness to her happiness.
    'Am I disturbing you?' she asked.
    Antoine shook his head. He opened the door of his room and stood aside to let her pass. This was the second time that she had come there. The first time, they had just met and it had amused Diane to spend their first night together in the room of this awkward and rather badly dressed young man. Afterward, she had offered him the large bed in the Rue Cambon flat, with all its pomp and luxury, because his room, after all, was really quite shabby and without comfort. And now she would have given all the world to sleep in that rickety bed and hang her clothes on the hideous chair next to it. Antoine drew the blinds, lit the red lamp and ran his hand over his face. He needed a shave and seemed to have grown thinner during the last few hours; in fact, he had the appearance of a tramp, the look that grief so often gives to a man. She no longer knew what she wanted to say to him. Ever since he had rushed away, she repeated the same sentence in her mind, over and over: 'He owes me an explanation.' But, actually, what did he owe her, what can one owe to another? Sitting up very straight on the bed, she was tempted to lie down, to say: 'Antoine, I simply wanted to see you, I was worried, now I'm drowsy, let's go to sleep,' But Antoine was standing in the middle of the room, he waited, and everything in his attitude indicated that he wished to make clear, which meant to shatter, their situation, and in doing so, make her wretchedly unhappy.
    'You left in quite a hurry,' she said.
    'I'm sorry.'
    They spoke like two actors, he felt it, he waited to have enough force and breath to say to her—like the trite but indispensable line in a play—'It's all over between us.' He vaguely hoped for reproaches, that she would mention Lucile and that anger would give him the strength to be brutal. But she seemed gentle, resigned, almost frightened and for a moment he thought with horror that he did not know her and that he had never tried to know her. Perhaps she cared for him in other ways, not just as a lover and a baffling human being. He had always imagined that the principal reasons for her attachment to him were her gratified sensuality and wounded pride (she had never been able to force him to unconditional surrender, as had been the case with her other males). And if there were something else? If Diane suddenly began to cry? But that was inconceivable. Diane's legend, that of being invulnerable and unrestrained, was too well known in Paris and he had heard it told repeatedly. For a second, they just missed knowing each other. Then she opened her handbag, took out a gold vanity case and touched up her face. It was the gesture of a panic-stricken woman, but he mistook it for a gesture of indifference. 'Anyway, Lucile doesn't love me, so no one can,' he thought in conclusion, with a masochistic pessimism that came from his unhappiness, and he lit a cigarette.
    He threw the match in the hearth with an irritated and impatient movement that she attributed to boredom and it rekindled her anger. She forgot Antoine, her passion for him, she thought only of herself, Diane Merbel, and the manner in which a man, her lover, had deserted her for no

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