For readers who have met Steven first in “Let it Pass” and then, much younger, in “In a War”, it would have been doubly significant to come across this passage, in a story about the Steven-between-youth-and-age:
“In plain terms, this is not a recollection but the memory of one, riddled with mistakes of false time and with hindsight.”
But even without having met Steven in “Let It Pass”, without having discovered his younger self in “In a War”, this story is a delight, for its acuity and wit.
Readers do enjoy another experience of Lily: “For the sake of the concert the church had been turned into a public hall; in any case, what Lily chose to do was her business. Either God existed and was not offended by women and their hair or He did not; it came to the same thing.”
And it’s reinforced that this is a younger Lily, a woman Steven couldn’t even properly or accurately describe back then: “I could say she was like a Modigliani, but it’s too easy, and I am not sure I had heard of Modigliani then.”
It’s more important to observe Lily on her own, here, than it is to observe Lily with Steven (and maybe that’s also because his priorities have changed this memory over time):
“Lily turned to David, smiling. She loved being carried along by this crowd of players from old black-and-white movies, hearing the different languages mingling and overlapping.”
Because Lily isn’t smiling at Steven, she’s smiling at another man. But never mind, because even if you don’t know Lily or Steven or David, the other attendees are curious indeed.
“The Biesels attracted gossip and rumors, simply by being American: if twenty British residents made up a colony, two Americans were a mysterious invasion.” (Once again, this tension, which Gallant readers will recognize, between the continentals and the Americans.)