As the story opens, Sandor Speck is locking up his art gallery in the Faubourg Saint-Germain neighborhood of Paris. He contemplates his respectable and conservative neighborhood and reflects on the melancholy rainy evening. Speck sits down to his solitary, simple dinner in a neighborhood restaurant and takes out his yellow pad and pencils. He begins to plan his May-June show. Paris art critics are hinting that the time has come, but for what? Speck believes he has the answer, a French painter, who lived from about 1864 to 1949, mostly forgotten, someone whom Speck can reintroduce to the art world. Speck is at work writing the artist’s biography and a commentary on his work, envisioning the show. He is stuck, however, on the identity of the artist for his show.
Speck moves on to his meeting of the Masons. At the lodge, he rubs shoulders with the bankers, ambassadors, and politicians who are wealthy potential art buyers. On the sidewalk outside, he overhears Senator Antoine Bellefeuille speaking about the beautiful wife of the artist Hubert Cruche. Speck remembers that the wealthy senator has a house full of the paintings of Cruche. There is the answer to Speck’s quest. Cruche overlaps to an astonishing degree with the painter in the yellow notebook and is just the sort of respectable, minor Parisian artist for whom Speck is looking.
Speck has a knack with artists’ widows; he is tactful, courtly, and a good listener. A week later, Speck is sitting in the home of Lydia Cruche. He proposes a major Cruche retrospective, “just an idea of mine.” He needs the widow’s...
(The entire section is 655 words.)