The Kellers, smug, prosperous philistines, return home after an evening at the opera and a nightclub. The maid tells them that their son-in-law, Chorb, supposedly on his honeymoon in the south of France, has paid a call, saying that his wife is ill. He is staying in the same disreputable hotel where he and his bride spent their wedding night, after fleeing the elaborate reception arranged by her dismayed parents. Although Chorb has promised to call in the morning, the alarmed couple immediately sets out for the hotel.
The wife is in fact not ill, but dead. Nearly a month earlier, the laughing girl had accidentally touched a fallen roadside power line. Chorb’s world has ceased to exist:Her death appeared to him as a most rare, almost unheard-of occurrence; nothing . . . could be purer than such a death, caused by the impact of an electric stream, the same stream which, when poured into glass receptacles, yields the purest and brightest light.
The young husband wishes to possess his grief alone, “without tainting it by any foreign substance and without sharing it with any other soul.” For this reason, Chorb has not informed the parents but rather has undertaken a ritualistic return journey.
The bereaved bridegroom decides to re-create, to immortalize, the image of his dead wife by retracing step-by-step their long, autumn-to-spring honeymoon journey. The re-created image will, he hopes, replace his bride. Starting from the place of her death, Chorb attempts to relive each of their memories, the small shared perceptions with which they delighted each other: the oddly marked pebble found on a Riviera beach, the winter in Switzerland, the autumn walks in the Black Forest where they saw an iridescent, dewdrop-covered...
(The entire section is 717 words.)