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IT was in the month of October, 1915, that I made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Dauche. I cannot recall that period without deep emotion. We had just passed several scorching weeks before Sapigneul: the Champagne offensive had been rumbling for a long time on our right, and its last eddies washed in upon our sector like the strayed waves of some cyclone at sea whose fury scatters itself far and wide. For three days our guns had echoed those of La Pouilleuse and we had been awaiting, our arms at our feet, an order that had not come. We had troubled, vacant minds, still reeling from that sort of intoxication of sound which results from a prolonged bombardment. We were both relieved at not having to make a deadly assault and anxious about the reasons that had spared us the necessity of doing so.
It was then that I was wounded for the first time. Chance, the hazard of the hospital evacuations, took me to the Château de S., which is only a very commonplace adornment to the landscape, but which rises out of the midst of charming verdure and overlooks, from the side of its small hill, the delicate little valley of the Vesle.
My wound, though not serious, was painful. It gave me a slight fever and a strong desire for silence and solitude. It pleased me to live for long hours in the company of a physical suffering that I could endure but that put my patience to the test and made me reflect on the vulnerability of a constitution in which, until then, I had placed an obstinate confidence.
I had a pleasant room, decorated with hangings of Jouy and soft paintings. My bed occupied it together with that of another officer, who walked silently about the room and showed great consideration for my reserve. The day came, however, when I was allowed to take food, and on that day we talked together, doubtless because old human traditions lead men who are dining together into conversation.
In spite of the state of mind in which I had been until then, this conversation was a pleasure to me and a resource against myself.
I was given to somber thoughts and all the sadness of the period. Lieutenant Dauche seemed to me, from the beginning, a soul full of serenity and calm happiness. Later I saw what an admirable thing it was in him to have preserved such virtues, in the midst of an unremitting adversity that had not spared him a single trial.
We were both of us originally from Lille; this was a bond between us. The falling of an inheritance, and certain business interests early in life, had led Dauche to settle in the Department of the Meuse and make his home there. He had married happily and he and his young wife had two beautiful babies. A third was about to be born when the German invasion convulsed the face of France and the whole world, ruined a prosperous business, and violently separated Dauche from his children and his wife, of whom, since then, he had had only the most uncertain and the most disquieting news.
In the same way I, too, had left my affections and my property in the invaded country. I felt in Dauche's company the strength of that solidarity which is engendered by a common misfortune. I realized, however, that my comrade was enduring much greater misfortunes than mine and with a heart which, for all its sensitiveness, was braver than mine, as was proved to me many times.
Dauche was of a pleasing height. He had the high color and the fair hair of our part of the country. A fine beard ornamented and lengthened a face that was full of sweetness and life, such as one sees in the young men whose likenesses, with a ruff at the neck and a heavy chain of glittering gold shining over a doublet of dark velvet, have so often and so happily been represented by the Flemish painters.
A small bandage encircled his forehead. He seemed so little troubled by it that I neglected for some time to ask him about his wound. But, then, he himself thought nothing of it. On one occasion I saw his bandage changed, and he then explained to me, in a few words, how in a surprise attack a fragment of a grenade had struck him. He appeared to treat this incident with the most complete indifference.
"There is nothing to take me to the interior," he added, with a melancholy smile, "and I was planning to return at once to my company; but the doctor has thought best formally to oppose my doing so."
He confessed it was not without pleasure that he looked forward to completing his convalescence in this Château de S., which was taking on the splendid apparel of autumn.
After the second week and in spite of the gravity of my wound, which was in the shoulder, I was able to get up and take a few steps. Dauche helped me with a brotherly kindness, and it was thanks to his encouragement that I soon ventured into the avenues of the park.
"You are going out with Lieutenant Dauche?" the doctor, who took care of us both, said to me with some embarrassment. "Be careful not to go too far."
This doctor was a silent man. I did not ask him for more enlightenment: I had confidence in my newly found strength and by a natural enough turn of the mind I assumed it was I who was the object of his professional solicitude.
Several days passed, days overflowing with all that ardor and eternal youth that attend the birth of a friendship. The war, among a thousand other miseries, has made us experience that of living in the company of men whom in times of peace we should have carefully avoided. So it was with a trembling joy that I recognized in Dauche those qualities which my nature, perhaps unreasonably troubled and hard to please, requires in order to feel affection. I believe there is a deep predestination in this: the men of to-day who can become my friends are, all over the world, stamped, marked with the same mysterious sign; but I shall not know them all and fate will never perhaps take the trouble to let me meet my best friend.
The hours when it did not rain I passed in long conversations with Dauche on the slopes of the hill, down which straggled a luxuriant grove of beeches and oaks. My young friend saw and judged the things of nature with a candor mingled with an originality and an ingenuousness such as one seldom encounters except in children. He spoke of his scattered household with a tenacious faith and he greeted the future with that smiling gravity one usually sees only in men unbalanced by religion or intoxicated by glory and success.
In the evening, when the approach of darkness inclines one to look back with a pitiless glance upon circumstances and upon oneself, he would gaily invite me to try my hand at checkers, and this seductive game would lead us to the threshold of sleep.
The pleasure it gave me to be with Dauche led me one day, in the presence of the doctor, into a discreet little eulogy of his character.
This doctor, a man who had reached the end of his youth, tall, bald and stooping, had in his face, which was overspread by a straggling beard, a somber expression that was full of a timid goodness.
"Fate," I said, "does not choose its victims. It's a great pity that it should attack such generous natures, but marvelous that it shouldn't succeed in altering them more."
We were talking as we walked slowly along a narrow road, deep among hazel thickets.
My companion gave a curious shrug of his shoulders and threw a glance all about him, as if to assure himself that we were alone.
"You seem," he said, "to take a great deal of pleasure in the company of Monsieur Dauche, and that is quite natural. Just the same, I have already begged you not to extend your walks together too far from the neighborhood of the château, and I must repeat this advice to you." The tone in which these words were uttered suddenly filled me with a sort of anguish, and I did not hide my astonishment.
"Dauche," I said, "seems to me to be having a very peaceful convalescence. Do you fear anything from that scratch on his forehead?"
The doctor had stopped. With the point of his shoe he was busily scraping one of the stones in the road, and he did not raise his head.
"That scratch," he said very rapidly, "is a far more serious wound than you would believe."
A painful silence followed and, as I stood there stupidly, the doctor continued, with many hesitations and much reserve:
"We are beginning to know all about these wounds in the head. Your comrade does not know and must not know the gravity of his condition. He does not even know that the projectile which struck him has not been extracted. And even if the thing were possible. . . ."
Then suddenly the doctor rambled off into philosophical considerations that seemed to come at once easily and hesitantly, as if he were in a labyrinth that was familiar to him:
"We have done a great deal, a great deal. We have even brought the dead back to life; but we cannot bring all the dead back to life. There have been some very difficult problems. We think we have solved them; but there are some problems that cannot be solved. I'm not speaking of God. The very idea of God seems to be something apart from the great catastrophe. I'm speaking not of God but of men. They must be told things very simply: there are some wounds that we cannot heal; when people stop making such wounds, the problem will no longer exist. That is one solution; but the men of my profession are too full of pride to suggest it to the world, and the world is too mad to listen to it."
I had enough respect for these digressions not to interrupt their course; however, when silence fell again I murmured in a low voice:
"Really, you say that this projectile--"
"It is inaccessible, you understand, Monsieur? Inaccessible! It is rather shameful for a man who is full of vanity to have to confess such things, but that at least is honest. And besides, it's a fact. Man has placed it where it is; he is powerless to get it out again."
I felt troubled by the personality of my companion, and above all I was very much disturbed by his words. I stammered:
"However, it's possible to live with that--"
"No," he answered in a heavy voice, "there is nothing to do but to die."
We walked as far as the border of the wood. The bright light over the damp meadows seemed to recall the doctor to the formalities of his professional etiquette, for he said in a changed voice:
"Excuse me, Monsieur, for having forced upon you considerations that must naturally remain foreign to your personal way of looking at things. I am not sorry to have had the chance to speak to you about Dauche just now. He has not, I believe, any near relatives in the free part of France. You are interested in him; it is my duty, therefore, to warn you: he is a lost man. I will even add, since you seek his companionship, that at any moment there may appear symptoms that will rapidly prove fatal."
I had know Dauche for only a short time, but I felt overwhelmed. A few meaningless words came to my lips. I said, perhaps, something like, "It's terrible!" But the doctor concluded his meditation with a colorless smile:
"Alas, Monsieur! you will do as I and as many others have done: you will grow accustomed to live in the company of men who still share our universe, but whom we know unquestionably to be already dead."
I could not grow accustomed to anything of the sort. This conversation took place late one morning. I spent the rest of the day avoiding the sight of Dauche, a bit of cowardice the cause of which lay in my clumsiness in concealing my thoughts.
The night found me unable to sleep, but it was doubly welcome, for it provided me with the time to conquer my impressions and also gave me an appearance that made it very proper for me to blame my illness for the change in my behavior.
As I was getting out of bed, Dauche proposed that we should take a walk together through the woods. I was about to refuse; but his smile was so cordial, so brotherly, that I had not the courage to use my fatigue as an excuse. Besides, the weather was radiant.
The splendor of the hot, still sunshine, the delicate colors of a landscape swathed in the mists of early morning, perhaps, also, some personal need for happiness and forgetfulness--all these things abruptly turned my thoughts away from that sort of abyss into which I had seen them plunged.
Dauche began to run through the high golden grass, which was slowly withering. You would have said his laughter was that of a boy. He imitated, with all sorts of anecdotes and phrases, the games of his own children and he stopped suddenly, full of a tender gravity, to speak of the one he had not yet seen and of the wife who was awaiting him in exile.
Nothing in nature seemed to him contemptible or unworthy of interest. He breathed in the fragrance of all the flowers, and had an eye for every object, crushed the aromatic herbs between his hands, tasted the blackberries and the nuts in the thickets. He pointed out to me a thousand things that I blushed never to have noticed before. After that he dragged me through an interminable adventure in speculation, where I was able to follow him only with a grumbling awkwardness, like an old man whirled away in a dance.
We were coming back to the château, very proud of our appetites and of the speed with which the hours had passed, when, at the turn of a path, the words and advice of the doctor rose suddenly from the depths of my soul. It was like the little rap of a finger, brief and imperious, on a door. I realized, then, that in a dull sort of way I had never ceased to think of them. But as I looked once more at Dauche, who seemed like a fair, ripe ear of corn in the beauty of the midday, I shook my head and concluded: "That honorable doctor is mistaken."
And during that day I remained happy.
The next morning, as I was taking my time about getting up, and dreamily counting the dancing flowers on the hangings, I caught the measured breathing of Dauche, wno was still asleep. At once a voice said in my ear: "That man over there is going to die."
Then a desire seized me to get away, to escape from Dauche and from that château, to plunge into the din and confusion that reigned in the interior of the country.
I had lost all thought of sleep and I began to reason with a cold lucidity. To put it briefly: I had known this charming man only for a short time, and there was nothing I could do for him. He was in the hands of skilful doctors who would exhaust for his benefit all the resources of their art. I could forget his unhappy fate, all the more justifiably because at this very moment it was shared by a great many human beings who were young and worthy of interest. My presence could be no help to him, and being with him constantly would, on the contrary, contribute to depress the moral strength of which I still stood in great need.
As a result of all these considerations, that very morning, when I found myself alone with our doctor, I begged him on some pretext to hasten my evacuation to another hospital.
"I see no objection to that," he said, "considering the state of your wound. It shall be as you desire."
This immediate assent was a relief and somewhat of a surprise. But when my eyes met those of the doctor, I found in his a sad and troubled expression that made me ashamed.
In fact, I was so disturbed by my weakness that at the end of a quarter of an hour I went to find the doctor and asked him if it was possible to change my plan and complete my cure at the Château de S.
He smiled with an odd air of satisfaction and assured me that I could remain as long as it suited me.
Coming after so much indecision, my resolution brought me peace. I passed the greater part of the day in my room and found some distraction in reading. Toward evening a comrade who had lost an arm at Berry-au-Bac came very secretly to find us and led us to the orangery, where two musicians from a neighboring regiment were giving a concert.
I had a great love for music, while at the same time failing to perceive in it any exact intellectual significance. The fact is, I had not till then been in a position to discover with what authority a sequence of sounds and harmonies can convert to its own use the state of our souls and precipitate our emotions.
A violin, accompanied by a piano, was playing one of Bach's sonatas. They suddenly swung into an adagio that was full of poignant majesty. Several times I felt as if some person, invisible and unknown, placed a hand on my arm and murmured: "How, how is it possible for you to forget that he is going to die?"
I got up as the concert was drawing to a close and fled, the prey of a genuine torment.
"What on earth's the matter with you?" asked Dauche, who had come out after me. "You seem ill or unhappy."
"Both," I answered, in a voice that I could control no longer. "Didn't you hear what that violin was playing?--"
"Of course," he said, dreamily, "nothing could have been more purely joyous."
I looked at him furtively, but I could make nothing of it. Only that evening, alone in the darkness with my thoughts, did I understand that fate had reserved for me a singular share in the destiny of my friend: Dauche was condemned; he must die; he was going to die; but another than he was in a sense charged to endure his agony.
I deny that I am made differently from most men. The war has tried me severely without upsetting my imagination, and my wound was not one of those that alter the normal functionings of an ordinary, healthy spirit.
Consequently, I feel quite sure that the nervous ordeal I went through from that day forward would have overwhelmed in the same way any man who had been unexpectedly caught by the same mischance.
Despite the sinister experiences of the battlefield, I was to have a new experience of death, one that was terrible by its very length. It is hardly possible to live without being able to conceive every moment what the next moment will be like, and it is a tragic thing to carry within yourself a certainty that freezes every project, every intention at the very outset. Illness creates situations like this in everyday life; but their sadness is tempered by hope, even by one's increasing habit of giving things up. I owe to the war the knowledge of a new anguish--that of living beside a human being whom I knew, in spite of his strength and beauty, to be living under the threat of a terrible doom, and who had no future save that which hope and ignorance gave him.
This ignorance of our own selves is a very precious thing and makes us envy the complete unconsciousness of animals and plants. It enabled Dauche to live joyously on the very edge of the abyss. I was there to take upon myself everything dramatic in the situation, just as if it had been against the order of nature for so great a tragedy to remain unexperienced.
The first days of November had come. Autumn was fading in all its magnificence. We had not given up our walks. I found that I was even driven to them, in spite of myself, as if the whole spectacle of the dying year were particularly suited to express, to the point of satiation, the bitter poignancy of our friendship.
We often climbed the hill that overlooked the plain of Rheims. The fury of the war seemed, like the sap of the vegetation, to be cooling little by little and retreating underground. The guns grumbled lazily and wearily; the leafless woods revealed the military works that they had hidden all summer under their foliage.
The autumn made me feel even more keenly the fate of Dauche, who in turn revealed to me still more cruelly the fate of all things. The idea that this man was going to die so tainted my thoughts that it destroyed all their stability, all their courage, all their efficacy. Indeed, the impotence of man was about the only thing that seemed certain to me, as I contemplated the thin lines of the poplars, lighted up with their fugitive glory.
And then it became almost impossible for me to look at anything without thinking at the same time: "He will never see it again."
There is a terrible page in Saint-Simon about the death of Louis XIV. The historian cannot relate any of the actions of the dying monarch without repeating, with an obstinacy that is tinged with hatred, "And it was for the last time."
In the same way I would think, twenty times a day, as I watched my friend enjoying the beauies of the season, "So it is for the last time!" But there was nothing in my heart save a sorrowful pity.
After long hours on our hilltop we would be making up our minds to return, when in the direction of the battle-field the gleam of the first rockets would light up the twilight with their pale constellations.
Dauche seemed tranquil, light-hearted, and almost happy, like a man to whom hope returns every minute. He would make plans. That seemed unendurable to me, and I came so near to being irritated that I said to him once:
"You are very fortunate to be brave enough to make plans at such a time."
The words were very general, very vague; yet they seemed to me at once barbarous and spiteful. I was wondering how I could take them back, when Dauche answered:
"Isn't it making a plan merely to let your heart beat? Besides, you must defy the future if you do not wish to be driven to fearing it."
These words, which were full of wisdom, troubled me without consoling me. I was assailed by a new anxiety: had Dauche any idea of his real condition?
The burden of my secret made me so acutely sensitive that for several days this question tormented me.
To-day, when I scrutinize my memories amid the broad and yet detailed perspective that time has given me, I am able to say positively that Dauche was indeed ignorant of the blow that menaced him. In truth, I never really surprised anything whatever that allowed me to suppose he felt the least disquietude about himself. I cannot recall any words, any allusion, any faltering on his part, expressions which could not have failed to escape him if he had known the truth, and which would have revealed to me the extent of his knowledge.
On one other occasion, however, I was seized with doubt. A member of my regiment, mortally wounded in one of those many little engagements which have made Hill 108 the ever-bleeding wound of that sector, was brought in dying. We went to see him on his death-bed, and I was eager to get Dauche away at once from this chamber, where he seemed to linger.
"Perhaps that man there is happier, after all," I said, to break a tense silence.
"Do you think so? Do you think so?" the young man answered.
Some obscure force that was not chance made us look deep into each other's eyes, and in that clear gaze of my friend I saw a quiver, something furtive, terrified, like the sinking of wrecked ship on a lonely ocean.
I made an effort to change the conversation, and I succeeded. With several deep breaths Dauche seemed to turn back toward life, and before long he was laughing, a laughter in which I could not detect any false notes.
So, in spite of this alarm, I could not help concluding that Dauche did not suspect anything. What I had seen in his eyes that day I might have surprised in any human glance. Besides, the flesh knows things of which the soul is ignorant, and this fleeting agony in the depths of his eyes was perhaps like one of those dumb cries of the brute in us which the consciousness allows to pass without either inspiring or recognizing them.
Dauche's wound was completely healed. Mine needed very little care. But I was not in the least interested in all this. I was waiting.
I realized this perfectly when Dauche asked me one day why I stayed so long in the army zone. I made up a reply in which I dwelt on our genuine friendship and the slightness of the ties that bound me to the interior. But when I examined my heart, I saw only too clearly the real reason for my long stay at S. I was waiting for something.
The affection I felt for Dauche had not ceased to grow, in spite of all these vicissitudes. My pity for him had added to it, and the certainty that a near death awaited him had helped to exalt it not a little. With a natural leaning toward affection, I yielded myself unreservedly to a passion of devotion. I began to experience all the apprehensions of women who care for a sick child and who interpret with despair all the slightest signs, the least really alarming incidents.
There was a tennis-court in the park where a set of moldy ninepins had been set up. Dauche used often to bombard them with worn old balls which were rotting away with the dampness. One morning, as he threw one of these balls, it crumbled in his fingers, upsetting his balance and making him stumble. He lifted his hand to his forehead and I had the impression that he staggered. At once I was beside him and caught him in my arms.
"What in the world's the matter with you?"he exclaimed, as he saw my distorted face.
"I thought your head was hurting you."
"No, indeed," he replied, smiling. "I was readjusting my bandage."
Another time, when I let slip a book which I was absent-mindedly turning over, he stooped down, with his usual promptness, to pick it up. It struck me that he hesitated a moment before straightening himself, as if he were struggling with a sort[?] of vertigo. I leaned over at once and took the book from his hands. His eyes were veiled in a faint red mist. Perhaps that was merely an effect of my imagination, for it passed almost instantly.
"I forbid you," I said, painfully attempting to joke, "I forbid you to abandon your role of convalescent."
He looked at me with an air of astonishment, and answered:
"You don't want me to think I'm ill, do you?"
This answer made me realize how clumsy I had been, and I saw clearly that I must school myself to hide the anxiety I could not help feeling.
From that time on it never ceased to torment me. I watched everything my friend ate or drank, not daring to give him advice and yet burning to speak my mind.
I hunted up and read secretly articles on medicine that were much more calculated to confuse than to instruct me. I formed and rejected a thousand resolutions, made and unmade a thousand plans that would have been ridiculous or even comic if the fragrance of death had not impregnated and sanctified them all.
At night I would awake with a start and listen to the breathing of my companion, convinced at the least pause, at the least change of rhythm, that he was going to die, that he was dead.
We had not given up our walks, but I had abruptly shortened them, without advancing any reason. I would invent a thousand detours to avoid a slippery or rocky road; I would push the branches away from the path with a solicitude which I was not able to keep quite natural. I would notice that we were far from the village and I would be seized with an overpowering terror that made me silent and stupid.
I had given up the game of chess, offering as an excuse my own fatigue, which before long ceased to be a mere pretense. The time came when all these emotions had a bad effect upon my health. I was in bed for several days without being able to get any rest. I would have preferred absolute solitude, but the thought that Dauche might go off by himself and do something imprudent was intolerable to me. Yet I believed that no fatal accident could take place in my absence, inasmuch as I was waiting.
So he stayed by my side and read aloud to me, to amuse me. I wished continually to stop him, and since I could say nothing of my anxiety on his behalf I complained of my own head. Incredible though it seems, I appeared to be the man who had been prostrated and he the man in full possession of his strength. As I have already said, I was suffering in his stead the bitterness of death.
One night, during his first sleep, he gave a curious animal moan, so strange that I was instantly on my feet and went and looked at him a long time by the glimmer of the night-light.
With the emotion which I experienced that evening there was mingled something like an intense desire for deliverance. And I discovered with horror that my sick soul was not merely awaiting the inevitable but actually desiring it.
I was up again at the beginning of December, and our first walk was through the pine woods that cover the sandy hilltops to the south of the highway from Rheims to Soissons.
It was toward the end of the afternoon. A fierce wind swept wailing down the old, war-ridden valley, which from the days of antiquity the ebb and flow of invasions had never ceased to ravage.
We walked, slightly chilled, close together and silent, given over, no doubt, to those vague thoughts which cannot be put into words and which are of the very color and tissue of the soul.
A ridge of the hill sheltered and warmed us, and when we reached the top I suggested that we rest on the glossy stump of a beech, a bole that secreted a blood-like sap of an ocherous purple color.
I was tired. I was at the end of all desire, of all courage, indifferent to my actions, to my steps, in fact, exactly in the state of a man who has ceased to strive and gives up an agonizing struggle.
Is it really possible that such close unions can exist between two beings? Was it really I who abandoned the struggle that day?
Overcome with sadness, I had risen mechanically and was watching, without seeing them, the hills, thickly covered with trees, that fled away toward the horizon.
Was it actually an unusual sound that made me turn; was it not, rather, a shock, a rending of something within? Whatever it was, suddenly I knew that something was going on behind me. Then my heart began to beat madly, for it could be nothing but that terrifying and expected event.
And that it was.
Dauche had slipped down from the tree-trunk. I hardly recognized him: his whole body shook with a hideous, inhuman trembling, such as one sees in animals that have been struck down with the mallet at the slaughter-house. His hands and feet were twitching as if in a convulsive struggle. His purple face was twisted toward his right shoulder. His mouth dribbled and his eyes showed only their whites.
When I recall that sight I feel a sort of shame. I had often seen death, and the war had made me live in a horrible intimacy with it, but I had never seen anything so ugly or so bestial. I began to tremble in my turn, as if the shudder of the sick man were contagious, and my feeling of despair and disgust grew even greater.
This lasted an interminable time, during which I did not make a gesture. I let death have its way and waited until it had achieved its task. At last I slowly gathered the impression that it was stopping to breathe and loosing its victim.
Dauche's body was stiff but inert. A feeble moaning came from his lips.
At the same moment I escaped from my trance, and in spite of the disorder of my mind I set about carrying what had once been my friend away from that spot.
In order to raise him up, I made an effort that cost me great pain. He was drawn together and frightfully heavy. I had thrown my arms about his waist and I carried him breast to breast, as one carries a sleeping child. Little by little he relaxed and grew limp. A thread of foamy saliva slipped from the corner of his mouth as it does with oxen at labor. His head began to sway heavily.
Night was falling. I had to put my burden down after a few steps and then take it up again. From the body came an inarticulate and pitiful lamentation. My wounded shoulder caused me many a sharp pain. But my mind was distracted and my movements almost unconscious.
I don't know how I managed to get within sight of the château. As I reached the foot of the hill, at a turn of the avenue, I suddenly came upon the doctor, who was taking a solitary walk. It was almost dark; I did not see the expression of his face, and I don't even remember what he said to me.
I laid the body on the ground, knelt beside it, my face streaming with sweat, and said: "There he is." Then I began to weep.
There were cries, calls, lights. They carried away the body of Dauche, and they carried me away also.
Dauche did not actually die until two days later. I did not wish to see him again. They had placed me in a distant room where I remained in a semi-delirium, asking from hour to hour: "Is it finished? Is it really finished?"
As a matter of fact, I was aware of his end before they told me of it, and I let myself slip into a black, dreamless sleep, of which I have retained, however, the most distressing memory.
It seems that Dauche was buried in the little cemetery, shut in by limbs of birches and dead fir-trees, which one sees from the village of C., in a barren field of white sand. I could not make up my mind to go and visit him there. I bore within myself a tomb that was deeper and more actual.
I left the Château de S. toward the middle of December. I had grown weak and thin, full of lassitude at the thought that I must still pursue my own life, still struggle for my life and my death.