On this July 31, Hippolyte had a rare reason to leave the house, a dinner appointment in Paris that would necessitate a half hour’s walk to the Vincennes Metro stop, then an hour of exceedingly dull and noisy travel on the Metro, shamming sobriety all the while, respectable citizen of the Republic Hippolyte Tonnerre, mock-reading Le Temps and sagely stroking his ample beard, standing with alacrity to offer his seat to any dame d’un certain âge… then to change trains at the Opéra station, or get off at Les Halles and walk through the growling belly of Paris and make it to Le Croissant just in time to get down to some serious boozing again, in the excellent and convivial company of his dinner companion, the famous Socialist politician and one-time schoolmate of his from down South, Jean Jaurès, mon oncle Jean, the man who held the fate of the world in the palm of his hand . . . France’s most revered politician . . . the Pope of the proletariat … The one man in France, they said, who could persuade the militarists to put away their weapons. Respected even by the right and the monarchists. And it was so decent of him, so typical of the old darling, to include his onetime playmate Hippo in his dinner plans, when no doubt there would be far more eminent personages present, all looking down their long Gallo-Celtic noses at the inebriate and Salon-rejected artist…. or, more likely, ignoring him completely.
What was Jean going to do? Maybe he was going to offer him a job? Or buy a painting…? Good hedge against inflation and currency speculation, what with all this talk of war…!