It is later than usual when Mr. Proust finally sets aside his notebooks and lies back on his pillow. He doesn’t even bother to turn off the lights. As he sinks into the mattress, he imagines there are long, spindly branches growing up all around the sides of his bed. Slowly they begin to arch over him until, reaching as high as the ceiling, they have joined together like the fingertips of praying hands. Now the branches begin to bud, and, in a moment, the buds to blossom into countless tiny flowers, white at first, then blushing into subtle pinks, purples, reds, and blues. The branches and flowers are growing still, and the lamp-light filtering through them creates a series of moving images, like those of a magic lantern. There is a lovely piece of music. Mr. Proust, though lying perfectly still, feels as if he has been swept up in the current of some fantastic ball.
Outside the bedroom, Mlle. Albaret, for fear of her employer’s well-known sensitivities, scours the rest of the apartment in search of whatever it is that smells so strongly of hawthorn.