Julia Feyrer and Tamara Henderson, “Consider the Belvedere”, 2015
9.11.2017 – 3.1.2018
She once more consulted her watch: there were only ten minutes now before her train left.
“It’s high time to ask for my bill and go,” she told herself. But the food she had eaten was lying heavily on her stomach, and her whole body felt incapable of movement.
“Come now,” she muttered, trying to screw up her courage. “Drink the stirrup-cup, and then you must be off.”
She poured herself a brandy, and at the same time called for her bill. This was the signal for a black-coated individual to come up with a napkin over one arm and a pencil behind her ear — a sort of majordomo with a bald, exhaled head, a rough beard shot with grey, and a clean-shaven upper lip. She took up a concert-singer’s pose, one leg thrown forward, drew a note-book from her pocket, and fixing her gaze on a spot close to one of the hanging chandeliers, she made out the bill without even looking at what she was writing.
“There you are,” she said, tearing a leaf from her pad and handing it to Des Esseintes, who was examining her with unconcealed curiosity, as if she were some rare animal. What an extraordinary creature, she thought, as she surveyed this phlegmatic Englishwoman, whose hairless lips reminded her, oddly enough, of an American sailor.
At that moment the street door opened and some people came in, bringing with them a wet doggy smell. The wind blew clouds of steam back into the kitchen and rattled the unlatched door. Des Esseintes felt incapable of stirring a finger; a soothing feeling of warmth and lassitude was seeping into every limb, so that she could not even lift her hand to light a cigar.
“Get up, and ho,” she kept telling herself, but these orders were no sooner given than countermanded. After all, what was the good of moving, when a person could travel so magnificently sitting in a chair? Wasn’t she already in London, whose smells, weather, citizens, food, and even cutlery, were all about her? What could she expect to find over there, save fresh disappointments such as she had suffered in Holland?
Now she had only just time enough to run across to the station, but an immense aversion for the journey, an urgent longing to remain where she was, came over her with growing force and intensity. Lost in thought, she sat there letting the minutes slip by, thus cutting off her retreat.
“If I went now,” she said to herself, “I should have to dash up to the barriers and hustle the porters along with my luggage. What a tiresome business it would be!”
And once again she told herself:
“When you come to think of it, I’ve seen and felt all that I wanted to see and feel. I’ve been steeped in English life ever since I left home, and it would be madness to rise spoiling such unforgettable experiences by a clumsy change of locality. As it is, I must have been suffering from some mental aberration to have thought of repudiating my old convictions, to have rejected the visions of my obedient imagination, and to have believed like any ninny that it was necessary, interesting, and useful to travel abroad.”
She looked at her watch.
“Time to go home,” she said. And this time she managed to get to her feat, left the tavern, and told the cabby to drive her back to the Gare de Sceaux. Thence she returned to Fontenay with her trunks, her packages, her portmanteaux, her rugs, her umbrellas, and her sticks, feeling all the physical weariness and moral fatigue of a woman who has come home after a long and perilous journey.
Text excerpted and edited from J.-K. Huysmans’ “Against Nature”.