||June 2. My condition has worsened. What is the
matter with me? The bromide does no good; neither do the showers.
This afternoon, in order to tire out my body, which is already exhausted
enough, I went for a walk in the Roumare Forest. At first I thought that
the fresh air, the sweet, mild air, full of the fragrance of grass and
foliage, would infuse new blood into
my veins and new vigor into my heart. I turned into the broad hunting trail
and took the narrow path leading toward La Bouille, which runs between
two rows of immensely tall trees whose branches form a thick, green, almost
black roof between me and the sky.
All at once a shiver ran down my spine, not a shiver of cold, but a
strange shudder of dread.
I quickened my pace, anxious and uneasy at being all alone in this
wood, stupidly and irrationally alarmed by my utter solitude. Then suddenly
I had the impression that I was being followed, that someone was walking
at my heels, quite close, close enough to touch me.
Abruptly I turned around. I was alone. Behind me I could see nothing
but the straight, broad path, lined with high trees, and empty, terrifyingly
empty. On the other side, the path stretched out endlessly before me, just
as empty and just as frightening.
I shut my eyes. Why? And I began to spin round on one heel, very quickly,
like a top. I almost fell; I opened my eyes again; the trees were dancing,
the ground was swaying; I had to sit down. Then, ah!-I could no longer
remember from which direction I had come. A peculiar sensation! Peculiar!
Peculiar indeed! I no longer had any idea. I started off to the right,
and soon found myself back in the trail that had led me into the heart
of the forest.
June 3. I had a horrible night. I am going to go away for a few weeks.
A little trip will surely put me right again.
July 2. Home again. I am cured. And I had a delightful holiday. I visited
Mont Saint-Michel, which I had never seen before.
What a sight, when you arrive in Avranches, as I did, toward the end
of day! The town stands on a hill, and I was taken to the public gardens
just on its outskirts. When I got there, I uttered a cry of astonishment.
An enormous bay stretched out before me as far as the eye could see, between
two widely separated coasts which dissolved into mist in the distance.
In the middle of this vast yellow bay, beneath a brilliant, golden sky,
there rose amid the sands a strange, dark, pointed mountain. The sun had
just set, and on the horizon, still aflame, appeared the outline of that
fantastical rock, with a fantastical structure upon its summit.
The following morning, as soon as it was light, I made my way toward
it. It was low tide, as it had been the evening before, and as I drew near
I saw the extraordinary abbey rising up before me. After several hours
of walking, I reached the enormous mass of stone which serves as foundation
for the little town and the church which towers above it. Having climbed
the steep, narrow street, I entered the most magnificent Gothic temple
that was ever built for God upon earth, vast as a city, with innumerable
low halls hollowed out beneath vaulted roofs, and lofty galleries supported
by frail columns. I entered that gigantic jewel of granite, as delicate
as lacework, covered with towers and slender pinnacles where twisting stairways
wind their way upward, towers that thrust into the blue sky of day and
the black sky of night their curious heads bristling with chimeras, demons,
fantastical beasts, and monstrous flowers, all linked together by finely
When I reached the summit, I said to the monk who was my guide, "Father,
you must be very happy here!"
He replied, "It is quite windy up here, Monsieur." And we began to
converse, looking down upon the incoming tide which raced across the sand,
covering it with a breastplate of steel.
And the monk told me stories, all the old stories belonging to the
place, one ancient legend after another.
One of them particularly struck me. The local people, those of the
Mont, claim that at night you can hear voices on the sands, and that you
can hear the bleating of two goats, one loud, the other fainter. Skeptics
say that it is nothing but the cry of the sea birds, which at times sounds
like goats' bleating, at times like human moans. But fishermen out late
at night swear to have seen an old shepherd roaming about on the dunes
between tides, near the little town which has sprung up so far from civilization.
They say no one has ever seen his face, which is hidden in his cloak, bu:
they have seen him leading a he-goat with the face of a man and a she-goat
with the face of a woman, both with long white hair, chattering incessantly
and quarreling in a strange tongue, then suddenly interrupting themselves
to bleat with all their might.
"Do you believe all that?" I asked the monk.
"I don't know," he murmured.
I went on, "If there are other beings than ourselves living on this
earth, how is it that in all this time we have never come into contact
with them? How is it that you have never
seen them; how is it that I have never seen them/"
He answered, "Can we see even a hundred thousandth part of what exists?
Take the wind, the greatest force in nature, which car knock men down,
shatter buildings, uproot trees, make the sea swell into watery mountains,
destroy the cliffs, and toss great ships onto the reefs-the murderous wind,
that shrieks, and moans, and roars.... Have you ever seen it, can you see
it? Nevertheless, it exists."
This simple logic reduced me to silence. This man was either a seer
or a fool. I was not entirely sure which-but I said not a word. What he
had just uttered, I myself had often thought.