A delightful summer at Balbec is drawing to an end. The place names now have etymologies and are no longer mysterious. The towns linked by the little train are now all associated with his acquaintances .
And so Hermenonville, Harambouville, Incarville no longer suggested to me even the rugged grandeurs of the Norman Conquest, not content with having entirely rid themselves of the unaccountable melancholy in which I had seen them steeped long ago in the moist evening air. Doncières! To me, even after I had come to know it and had awakened from my dream, how long there had survived in that name those pleasantly glacial streets, lighted windows, succulent fowls! Doncières! Now it was merely the station at which Morel joined the train, Egleville (Aquilae Villa) the one at which Princess Sherbatoff generally awaited us, Maineville the station at which Albertine left the train on fine evenings, when, if she was not too tired, she felt inclined to enjoy a moment more of my company, having, if she took a footpath, little if any further to walk than if she had alighted at Parville (Paterni Villa). (IV,696)
Acquaintances? No, friends!
Not only did I no longer feel the anxious dread of loneliness which had gripped my heart the first evening; I had no longer any need to fear its reawakening, nor to feel myself a homesick stranger in this land so productive not only of chestnut-trees and tamarisks, but of friendships which from beginning to end of the route formed a long chain, interrupted like that of the blue hills, hidden here and there in the anfractuosity [thank you, Scott Moncrieff, for this new word] of the rock or behind the line-trees of the avenue, but delegating at each stopping-place an amiable gentleman who came to punctuate my journey with a cordial handclasp, to prevent me from feeling its length, to offer if need be to continue it with me. Another would be at the next station, so that the whistle of the little train parted us from one friend only to enable us to meet others. (IV,696)
The only task remaining for Marcel is to do what common sense dictates: break up with Albertine. But, as his grandfather would say, “On guard!”