Léon Delmont (lay-AHN dehl-MOHN), the director of the Paris office of the Scabelli typewriter company. He is successful and well off, but at forty-five years of age, his hair is getting thin and gray. He is a smoker and wears tan shoes and a luminous watch with a purple leather watchband. He is intellectual and anticlerical (he readsLetters of Julian the Apostate on the train) and has strong views about what is good and bad art. He is concerned about his family’s material welfare, but his relationship with his wife has gone sour, and he yearns for a new life on a new footing—in Paris, but with his Italian mistress, Cécile. He is on a train to Rome to tell Cécile that he has found her a job in Paris and is leaving his wife for her. During the train journey, however, he has dreams, nightmares, and reminiscences. Shortly after noticing a sign saying “It is dangerous to lean out,” he has a dream in which, for the first time, he has a negative image of Cécile, who wears a look of mistrust similar to that so often worn by his wife, Henriette. This thought creates his first doubts and sets in motion his eventual change of heart. He realizes that Cécile, once in Paris, would be different, more like Henriette. the similarity had become apparent during a brief trip to Paris, when she had seemed to share Henriette’s contempt for him. If she comes to Paris, he realizes, he will lose her. He decides against following through on his plan.
Henriette Delmont, his wife and the mother of their four children. Her hair, like his, is no longer black. She despises him for letting his professional contacts degrade him, and he perceives her as contemptuous, critical, and petty. Almost three years earlier, she insisted on going with him to Rome, but it was winter and the trip was a failure, possibly making him more open to the affair with Cécile that developed subsequently. She has become suspicious and resentful.
Madeleine Delmont, their eldest child, age seventeen....
(The entire section is 882 words.)