Chanteilles (shahn-TAY) and Lorges (lorzh). Neighboring French provincial towns within relatively easy access to Paris by train. The towns are framed on both sides by rivers, portentously named the Sommeillante (sleepy) and the Preste (quick). Much of the novel’s action takes place on or near bridges that cross the rivers, where Paul Guéret waits for the young laundress Angèle. Guéret has moved to Chanteilles with his wife, Marie, in a futile search for a better life than the one they left behind in Paris. His marriage remains loveless, and the only job that he has found is that of tutor to the slow-witted only son of the wealthy Grosgeorge family.
Restaurant Londe (lohnd). Restaurant that is an important Lorges landmark, owned and managed by the imperious Madame Georges Londe, who maintains and relishes a jealous hold on her exclusively male clientele. Guéret stumbles into the restaurant more or less by accident, instantly arousing the insatiable curiosity of the proprietress, who has never seen him before. Determined to snare Guéret in the same net that holds her other customers, Madame Londe refuses to accept payment for his meal, insisting instead that he open an account by signing his name. Thus armed, Madame Londe also ensures that the newcomer will return because he is now in her debt.
From an elevated perch, Madame Londe presides over her establishment with the...
(The entire section is 587 words.)