Peck's lengthy translations
the mountain fell
by D. C. Peck with assistance from Petit Robert
II, Chapter 5
looked at him from a distance. She said:
Antoine, is it really you?"
him, he looked at her as well:
you, is it really you?"
he began to laugh and turned his back on her.
thought he would be dancing for joy. She had thought that he would approach her
and take her by the head and never let her go. Oh! they were going to say things
to one another, so many things; they would be standing, or sitting. Oh! they would
be standing up first, but he would say to her: "Sit down"; and for a
long time then, feeling the warmth of one another, they would speak softly, then
they would speak no more, because they would have no need to speak.
here he began to laugh.
kitchen was still full of the steam of the hot water and the smell of soap. He
has been washing. They had brought him a new set of clothes. Rebord, one of whose
trades it was, besides that of selling drink, had shaved him carefully after having
cut his hair.
at himself in the mirror.
what a little face I have!"
looked at himself again in the mirror:
much bigger than my fist.... And," he said, "an awful look to it. Its
not surprising. You understand, two months in the cellar.... Well," he said,
"this Rebord, he wanted to shoot me up there.... Oh! hes a former soldier...."
him, he said:
a book.... Its your prayer book, or what?"
she, still watching him carefully, though from a distance, as if she didnt
dare approach him:
Antoine, is it you?"
touch me, its skin, its flesh, and now that Ive passed under
the cross.... Just touch," he said, "youll see, its not
imaginary, its solid, it endures, its me...."
she said, "is it possible?"
was continuing to make an inventory of the objects he found in the room; he made
a tour of the room, naming them one by one.
he said, "that, thats the brooch I gave you."
were a lot of people standing before the house, but they didnt venture to
enter. Old Philomène was putting the kitchen into order. She went out with a tub
full of soapy water, which she emptied at the foot of the wall.
said to her:
Is it really him?"
said to her:
"How is he
But then he
opened the window abruptly, under which a whole crowd of children were assembled;
he frightened the children with his white face, thrusting it out at them with
a loud cry. And the children scattered in all directions, as when one fires a
rifle at a flock of starlings that has set upon the vines.
pulled his head back into the chamber laughing; then suddenly he resumed casting
his eyes about the walls, because he said: "I must relearn everything."
would have wanted at last to go to him, to hold out her arms to him, to clasp
him against her; she didnt dare.
would have had many things to say to him, she found nothing to say to him: the
astonishment she felt of him made her forget it all.
would have wanted to say to him: "Listen, there is a surprise for you, and
its a good surprise"; but him:
A chair.... Ah! it looks comfortable...."
tried it, and then he laughed; why was he laughing? He laughed, he began again:
a pin cushion! So, youre still sewing?"
of a sudden he asked:
month is it now?"
what day is it?"
lived seven weeks less than everybody else, less than you. Only," he said,
"now that the good times have come back, Im going to have to catch
Someone knocked on
the door of the kitchen. It was the president.
Antoine come out?" The curate wanted to speak with him.
was ready. He had only to put on his hat. Everyone was standing in the street
and along the side of the house. He opened the door. They were astonished at seeing
him, they didnt recognize him. "Oh! he is much smaller than he was,"
they said. "Is it true? Oh! is it really true? Oh! he is thinner and more
came forward to grasp his hand, the women, the neighbor women, the neighbor men,
even the children, though timidly and mistrustfully. He didnt say anything,
he laughed at everybody. The president walked alongside him. The weather was fine,
with a little northern breeze that felt cool on ones cheek.
walked beside the president, the others were obliged to follow along behind because
of the narrowness of the street. He wasnt very steady on his legs. And to
see him in broad daylight, he seemed such a stranger to the sun, with his color
that had the appearance of the plants that have grown up under dead leaves or
those vegetables that one whitens in the cellar. He laughed as he turned round
towards everybody, he said to the president: "Its not very easy for
me, I have been under the rocks, you understand...."
will go easier," said the president, "and anyway were here now...."
just that Im no longer under the rocks...."
he breathed the air deeply once again eagerly: "Ah! its good!"
turned round, he said: "Its good, but it makes my head swim."
stayed shut up with the curate and the president for nearly an hour.
it was in front of the town hall that the people were standing. They were arriving
already from Premier, where the news had been quickly carried, and these soon
made a greater proportion of trousers among the dresses. Someone asked: "What
is he doing?"--"Oh!" they said, "theyre questioning
And him, when he
came out, he said: "I must go and find my wife, Ive hardly seen her
yet....", but they said to him: "Come on! what about us?..."
said to him:
have plenty of time to see you later; as for us, we have only a short time here...."
was the men of Premier who stood themselves before him: "Salut!
it you? If it is you, youve certainly got smaller...."
there were those who, seeing him a little nearer, turned away fearfully, or went
to hide behind others who were already there, gazing from a distance at Antoines
face, his hands, his legs, what remained of his body under clothes that were too
big for him (like a scarecrow, in fact, that you put in the garden to frighten
away the birds); gazing from a distance at the two holes in place of his cheeks
under his cheekbones, his cracked lips, his yellow teeth that stuck out--very
like a dead man among the living.
not possible, ah!"
needed to assure themselves that he was there, not only with their eyes, but with
their ears and their hands, making him speak, passing a hand over his clothes;
then they said:
him under one arm, Dionis took him under the other.
led him to Rebords house because they said: "Were going to have
a drink to this."
helped him ascend the wooden staircase, making a great clatter on the steps. Will
it hold under the blows, the staircase? for it cracks and you can feel that its
bending under the weight, but they enter, all those at least who could find space
in the drinking room, and the others remained under the windows or went to drink
in the houses roundabout.
they sat him down facing the light at a table in the back; they said to him: "Do
you want anything to eat?"
said to Rebord: "Bring some cheese and some dried meat.... You owe him that
They said to
Rebord: "Where have you put your rifle, you old fool? Have you hidden it
well? It wont be necessary for you to play us another bad trick...."
said to Antoine: "To your health!"
put down their glasses and then looked at him.
the while more people came mounting the staircase, and before entering they examined
Antoine through the open window.
didnt say anything; some of them went back down the stairs without making
any noise. But the others, on the contrary, couldnt restrain themselves:
raised his head; he turned his vague eyes on them, as if they were hurt by the
you. It cant be true.... Where have you come from?"
said to him:
you manage to get out from under there?"
village made a noise like a disturbed beehive.
he said, "I havent got my ideas sorted out yet.... Where am I? Ah!
yes, Ive come out from under the earth; and there you are, you, and here
I am, me. Good!"
funny, because theyve already questioned me at the town hall.... Well! I
dont know anymore. It goes, it comes again."
if youre finishing the harvest now, you must explain to me, because you
hadnt begun the hay when.... Yes, you hadnt begun it. Oh! I remember....
What day is it? what date? I already asked my wife that. What did you say? What?
The 17th of August? the 17th of August of what year? Its just that Ive
been living for a long time outside of years, outside of weeks, outside of days...."
must count it up; me, I cant. You count," he said to Nendaz. "How
long does that make?"
makes seven weeks and even a little more than seven weeks. It makes nearly eight
Sitting at his
table, surrounded by everyone, a glass in front of him.
just that one no longer has the habit of days.... One saw the day only from time
to time above oneself; it was there, then it wasnt there.... A great distance
above me, between the rocks.... The mountain fell down."
came in from the air outside. Wasps came in, and bees; flies came in. All kinds
of flies came in; some were blue or green, the black ones made a fog all about
you. The black ones made around your head like one of those muslin things they
wrap about them when they go to take honey out of the hives. He was in the cloud;
he raised to meet you two pale sunken eyes that struck you without seeing you.
came in, went out; they said to other people: "You, be quiet"; but him,
without noticing anyone, he continued to follow behind his eyes, with a gaze as
if turned inward, the movement of things that were passing there, that is, one
thing, then suddenly another thing:
its coming back.... The mountain has fallen down."
"Did it make a
noise as far as here, the mountain, when it fell down?"
of course," said Nendaz, "but we didnt know what it was. We would
have thought it was a storm, if the weather hadnt been so fine."
the weather was fine?"
stars like weve never seen and not a cloud in the sky. Then, we had gone
to bed.... It was only me; ask Justin. Because I said to myself: Maybe its
something else; and me, I had an idea."
said Antoine, "I didnt hear a thing. For me," said he, "it
was not a sound, it was too great for the ears. Its like if a knee had pressed
me down; and I tumbled off the wall with the plank and the mattress. The plank,
the mattress, and me, there we are, all three of us on the ground...."
listen," someone said. "Be quiet, you!"
man with the broken arm had arrived.
for me," began the man with the broken arm, "a beam struck me on the
shoulder.... They repAïred my arm with two little boards...."
him, without interrupting himself:
mountain fell down, the mountain fell down on me, then I remained on the ground
without moving, because I just didnt know whether I could move, and anyway
I didnt want to move. How long? Who could say?... And then, there was someone...."
if he had in fact heard someone, inside himself:
this someone was calling me.... Yes...."
it seems that he has already forgotten what he was saying, and who is it? One
doesnt know. Him, he had passed on to something else:
how one is," he said. "Because I was only occupied with not moving and
didnt go to see, you understand, wondering if I still had my arms and legs.
I could also have broken my spine in two, couldnt I? It said to me: Where
are you? I said: Here. And then thats all. Then I began
to stir a little bit, the ends of the fingers of my right hand, and then the hand,
and then the arm up to the elbow, and then the whole arm...."
Antoine!" someone said.
was still more of the men of Premier who had come in; but him:
thought: I have at least one of them, thats good; now lets see
about the other one; and with my right arm I paid a visit to the left one...."
said to him: "Youre not drinking?"
Im fine. And at the same time, I raise my left arm...."
was laughing, everyone had raised their arms, too.
there were both my legs still, and meanwhile I asked myself: Did someone
call me?; in any case, no one called anymore. I saw that I had my knee,
that made one, and the other knee, that made two. And both of them in good condition,
as I also saw, making movements with my knees like a little baby being taken out
of its diapers."
spoke to him, they asked him questions, he didnt listen to them.
was led from within by his recollections, as they came into his mind, and they
came in disorder; he was carried ahead of himself by them, then led back by them.
I was sitting up and I could see that I wasnt missing anything, that is,
that I had two arms, two legs, and a body, not to mention my head; only, you know,
thats when I raised my arm, then I could raise it; see, I raise it; well,
there was a kind of ceiling three inches above my head; it was the mountain that
had fallen, it was a big piece of mountain making an inclined plane. And me, I
was trapped beneath it, caught in the angle and as much as to say buried alive,
as I saw.... The 23rd of June, you say? Well! yes, the 23rd of June, towards two
oclock in the morning nearly, thats about right. And I began to yell
with all my strength, as if anyone could have heard me...."
took up his glass; it is he who said:
Health to you, too, Placide, ah! youre there, ah! you got a broken arm!....
And the others?"
answered him. Already he was thinking no longer of his question.
its just that one is foolish in such moments, you see. And first of all
I yelled as loud as I could; then I thought: I must economize the air;
thats what made me shut up. I told myself that I might not have much more
of it for a long time, and I shortened my breath as much as I could, closing my
mouth, sealing my lips, breathing only with my nose, in little breaths, like this...."
made a gesture of pinching his nostrils.
think of it, if the air had run short, not only the space and the light, but the
bread?" someone said.
going too fast, because the air is the beginning for us, or what? its more
important even than bread and water; and then, then I was content, seeing that
the air at least had not deserted me, on account of the empty spaces everywhere
among the rocks that were piled one on top of another, making a great thickness,
but full of fissures through which the air could enter. So that I had to creep
about on hands and knees, not being able to stand upright; and thus I realized
my luck, the chalet having held solid on all the part behind, that is, where it
was backed up against the rock...."
"We had already
made two cheeses, and we had brought up enough bread for six weeks. Well, picture
that the cheese and the bread had been stored on the good side, that is, against
the rock, on a plank, and going with my hand along the rock...."
said: "Ah!...." And Antoine: "You understand?.... And even my mattress
was left to me...."
understood. He went on still.
have to picture that the mass of the landslide was pierced by holes that went
in all directions, as in a sponge; unfortunately, these holes didnt communicate
with one another. Theres one that ends here, and there is, of course, another
that begins again over there, but between the end of the first and the beginning
of the second, there is nothing to do, its barred. A separation without
much thickness, perhaps, but more solid than a wall, being made of the same mass,
made of compacted rock, of rock of a single piece, and he would have needed to
blow it up with a mine to move it. You see, the time lost! Just count it! Seven
He followed a fissure
flat on his chest for as long as he could, then he passed into another flat on
his chest, then he was on his knees and the rock below him began to rise.... He
spoke still: "I was encouraged when it rose, because the daylight, its
up above; but there! I began to descend again, then I was discouraged."
took time," he said; "it took one day, two days, maybe three or even
four; how could I know? But you can guess, no? because I had nothing to drink....
My mouth began to dry up, my lips were all cracked, my tongue was like a piece
of leather and had got too large for my mouth; and I returned to stretch out on
my mattress, telling myself: Stay calm; if only I could have had a
utensil to urinate in; you remember what they say of travellers lost in the desert
who survive only by redrinking it.... Ah! you have the luck, you others, under
the open sky, with your clocks to tell the time with; and I said to myself: With
their fountains, their beautiful fountains! the springs above the ground--nothing
but a tiny little bead of water from time to time that oozes from the end of a
sprig of moss!..."
They are at Rebords,
the drinking room is full; he raises a finger: "Cloc...."
a pendulum that beats, slowly at first, then faster, faster still: "Cloc...
up from his mattress, he crept forward holding out his hands. And suddenly he
raises his head: the water streams down onto his face, he has only to open his
"It was the runoff
from the glacier that had at first been stopped up in its passage, and which percolated
once again between the rocks, having diverted one of its streams towards me; it
made like a thin cord that I felt moving between my hands, coming from the roof
to the ground. I felt it move between my hands as if alive, when I raised them
vertically and it was alive there, and me, I was going to live by it; then I went
quickly to search out a bucket, which I placed beneath it, thinking: If
ever it stopped.... And there it is! I was saved! Because now I had everything,
you understand, everything that we need to stay alive, something to eat, something
to drink, something to breathe, someplace to sleep; having only now to pass the
time, of which I had also plenty before me, what do you think? As for time, I
was going to have as much as I needed, one sees that now, eh? seven weeks, and
even more than seven weeks...."
whole afternoon, like that, at Rebords house.
was interrupted in his discourse by the people who came in or by the questions
that they posed, or because they drank to his health, and of course he had to
But each time he set
forth again in his explanation:
was like the drains that are under the roads. It was so narrow that I slid myself
along rubbing on both sides. I made marks in order to know how to return, in the
places where there was light; in the places with no light, I made the same journey
many times in both directions, until I had learned the route by heart.... I went
for a long time in one direction, and then nothing more, it was barred; I had
to go back.... Sometimes it was just above me that there appeared between the
rocks a kind of slender attic window; I tried to go straight up towards it, like
a chimneysweep in a chimney, I ascended, I ascended; all of a sudden, I see: a
slab projects into the passage, I was forced to go back down. Then the daylight
appeared on my left and once again I went towards the daylight like the sprout
of a plant, thinner and more flexible than a thread, stronger than an iron bar;
but me, I didnt have its abilities, nor its strength, being thus called
all the time from one side or the other by a hope that was mistaken. Seven weeks
of time," he said, "and it required perseverance and prudence, because
it turned out often that the fault was obstructed by debris; and it was cautiously,
with the tips of the fingers, with great slowness, that I worked to clear it.
You understand the time that takes."
evening was beginning to fall.
someone said, "then here you are."
looked at him attentively, they said to him:
you already have a better look to you, you look like youre feeling better...."
the evening light, facing the window, they gaze at him and see that he has a bit
of pink in his cheeks:
the wine, youve been drinking too much water! Hey! Rebord, another glass....
Yes, there, on the edge of the cheekbones.... To your health. To your good health!"
him, this time, he didnt drink; they see that he is reflecting, his hand
around his glass resting still on the table.
"How many were
was a silence, then someone said:
see, perhaps twenty or so...."
"And there were
how many who came back?"
heard the cries of the birds in the trees.
last they said:
"And then theres
him, where is he?"
said Nendaz, "youre tired.... Well talk of this another time,
if youd rather...."
"Where is he?"
said Nendaz, "the poor man.... Yes, its a disaster," said Nendaz;
"he was caught under the rocks."
said Nendaz.... "Well, yes...."
said Antoine, "I understand. I was up there, I know what it is. It comes
down on you, it carries everything away. And I understand: the others, all the
others, Jean-Baptiste and his sons, the two Mayes, all the Carrupts, Defayes,
Bruchezs.... I understand, but...."
bangs his fist on the table:
there is one who is not dead.... Ah!" he said, "I had forgotten....
Him, hes alive, I tell you.... When the mountain fell... Ah!" he said,
"its my fault, it had slipped my mind."
heard again the cries of the birds in the trees.
Antoine sees him; Antoine says nothing more, because he sees him. Antoine keeps
silent still, staring fixedly before him. What he sees is a man already old, dry,
with bright little eyes buried in their sockets without eyebrows. They are sitting
together in front of the fire, around nine oclock. And then....
bangs his fist on the table.
alive, I tell you; he is alive, because he called out to me. I was on the ground
with the mattress. Hes a friend, you understand. More than a friend, a father...."
people all about him remained silent:
him, I wouldnt be married, I couldnt have.... Well! hes alive,"
he said.... "He called to me, I was on the ground.... He said: Hey!
Antoine. I wanted to answer, I had no voice left. Hey! Antoine, are
you there? I wanted to say yes, nothing came out.... I must have lost consciousness.
But hes up there, hes alive.... Yes, Séraphin."
remain silent; then he said:
must go and search for him."
day the women had been at Thérèses house. All the time people were knocking,
because they came for news or they were neighbors who expected to find Antoine
at home. She had to say to them:
is not here."
she said, "hes gone to the town hall with the president and the curate."
as the afternoon advanced:
he has not come back yet. I think youll find him at Rebords. Hes
with his friends, he has been drinking...."
funny, because I am his wife.
she was seated before the fire; Philomène shook her head; she said: "Its
a good fortune...."
what luck, indeed," someone said. "To regain like that a son-in-law
and a husband after seven weeks!"
yes," said Philomène, "its a good fortune. Only," said Philomène,
"its a great misfortune as well. Because he was not alone up there,
and he has come back alone. There were two. My poor brother!"
brother!... And he is dead for the second time...."
was now eight oclock in the evening. The people had withdrawn little by
little; Philomène, the last, had returned to her house; him, he was still not
there. Has he forgotten his wife? Has he even forgotten that he is married? "And
he has noticed nothing," she said to herself; "even though its
nearly three months along...."
set herself in front of the mirror where she put herself in profile, so that the
lamp would illuminate the front of her body; and looking at herself from the side:
"But yes, it shows," she said, "and especially when Ive put
on my new dress, because its tighter in the waist.... Well, he has noticed
a moment longer in the chamber where the bed was made and where the lamp shone
softly, while the evening meal was prepared on the kitchen table; still he didnt
to go look for him."
goes to the door and opens it, and she sees that the stars are already in the
heavens; she didnt dare go any farther, on account of the people.
would laugh at her. There she is, running after her husband, no? Leave him be.
He has found his friends, its only natural. Let them drink a glass together.
Hell come home in his own good time.
what people would say; werent they right? "Well," she said to
herself, "he will come when he wants to; me, at least, I will be here. Im
going to sit down in the kitchen so that hell find me straightaway when
he returns, still faithful, the first thing."
didnt move again, her hands in the hollow of her skirt.
there were voices in the distance; one heard them very distinctly, because the
village had become completely silent. Its the men, several men, many men.
voices are approaching, she hears:
well let you go."
hears the voice of Nendaz:
a third voice:
night.... Watch out, theres a step.... Okay? Well, good night...."
step approaches. The step mounts the stairs where it stumbles on each stair. It
stops before the door for a moment.
hears that a hand is searching for the latch and having difficulty finding it.
she, she had risen, so that he would have her before him immediately, the first
thing, as she wanted; but he said:
"Ah! its true,
little one!... Its you.... Ah!" said he, "I have a wife...."
he passes his hand over his face:
name is Thérèse; you see, I remember.... And of course one is married, only, it
is necessary... before...."
said she, "Antoine!..."
are my weekday clothes? Its because hes alive.... Them, at Rebords,
they didnt believe me.... I must go and search for him."
had come forward, he looks all about him, he stops; he is like a plant the stalk
of which doesnt hold anymore, like a tree that has been sawn across the
base. He is obliged to hang onto the doorframe before entering the chamber to
not dead, its just as I told them. He is not dead, since he called to me....
He cant get out, thats all there is to it. Hes still captive
under the rocks...."
cant answer anything. And the lamp softly lights the big bed with its bedcovers
turned down; but him:
they in the closet?"
Listen, Antoine, I have something to tell you."
he fell over like a man who has got a blow on the head.
fell half onto the bed, and the upper part of his body is flat on the bedcovers,
but his legs are trailing across the floor.
could see that he was asleep immediately, and now nothing could drag him from
his sleep, as she sees, for she took off his shoes and his jacket, she lay him
out on his back, she put up his legs; he felt nothing, he made no objection, supple
and docile like a dead man still warm.
slept with his arms crossed, his mouth half open. And from his mouth at regular
intervals came a loud noise like that of a wood saw, such that, in his condition,
Thérèse didnt have the courage to lie by his side, as was her duty as his
She passed the night
at her mothers house.
Thus it is that,
the next morning, the neighbors saw her coming and the neighbors said to her:
there you are already!"
were surprised that she had not spent the night with her husband; but seeing the
thing was already done:
come too early, come on!... You must let him sleep. These men, when they are tired,
youve seen them sleep for three days.... Yes, three days and three nights
was already late, however, it was nearly nine oclock.
as Thérèse hesitated to enter:
go on in," the neighbors said to her. "Either he is still sleeping and
you wont disturb him, or hes up now and it hardly matters if you disturb
They were laughing as she entered. And they didnt see her anymore, then
havent seen him?"
my God, hes not there!"
nothing! You frightened us. Well! hes just gone out; you only have to go
look for him, hes surely in the village."
she, she shook her head, she shook it again and again:
no," she said, "me, I know; he has gone again."
Just then a representative
of the justice and a gendarme had arrived from the valley to collect Antoines
declarations. They had asked where he lived; someone had shown them the house.
They approach; they see a woman making movements with her head and great gestures
with her arms upward from the stairs. And she, seeing them coming, begins to laugh
with a false laughter.
there you are, you.... Ah! its just the moment! its just the moment
go up quickly!... If he is up there... Oh! please.... Who knows what might happen?"
He was up there, in fact.
left before daylight, in his folly, he had made the whole journey in the opposite
direction; and, wearing his white shirt and his new clothes, he appears at Biollazs
house, a little before the place where the big rocks appear that the moss today
has painted in gold, in bright yellow, or grey upon grey, or dark green; a little
before the landslide where the biggest of the blocks, the ones like houses, nourish
in their fissures all species of plants, the myrtle, the whortleberry, the thorny-barberry
with its woody fruits, its hard leaves.
puts his head in the opening of the door:
dont recognize me?"
Lord, no!" said Biollaz.
who? There are lots of Antoines around here."
Look at me better.... Come on.... Antoine Pont, from Aïre."
Biollaz steps back.
Then with his eyes still fastened
on this face that he sees entirely now because Antoine has taken off his hat,
he supplies with his imagination his good coloring and his former shape; he rounded
him out, he colored him in.
wait.... But of course! its really you! Where did you come from?"
"From under the
He pointed his
arm towards where it was, and it was very near.
was taken like the others; only, me, Ive got out."
true!" said Biollaz.
Biollaz said again:
did you do it?"
my belly, on my hands and knees.... Seven weeks...."
where are you coming from now?"
Biollaz whos calling:
Loutre is working
nearby. Loutre comes:
know who this is?"
stayed some distance off, distrustfully.
you know him well. You must have seen his brand.... A.P."
Lord, in any case," said Loutre, "hes not wanting loose skin on
needs a little stuffing under his cheeks."
it, Loutre. You see, you can come closer, youre not risking anything...."
approached, and Loutre too said:
have you come from?"
once again stretched out his arm towards the north where the walls are, and where
you could see the base of the heap of rocks; then he began his story again, while
Biollaz asked him:
no, the day before yesterday."
the wife of Donneloye who lives in one of the neighboring chalets. She appears
on the doorstep and stops. Biollaz speaks to her from a distance:
Marie, you remember, the day before yesterday, the phantom.... Yes, when you ran
away. It had an appetite, you remember, it had a good stomach. Well! heres
she said. "Who?"
And Dsozet appeared
beside her, sticking out his head to see better.
true," said Antoine, "but I was hungry, you can imagine, seven weeks!
And, its true, I mustnt have been very pretty to look at.... But its
me, yes I promise you that; its me," he said, addressing himself to
Donneloyes wife, "and Im going to pay you what I owe you, of
wife took one or two steps out of her house.
said Antoine, "I went down to the village and in the end they had to recognize
me, because at the beginning, yes, they had been like you.... They even fired
on me. They took me for an apparition.... We drank together," said Antoine....
"They made the curate come," said Antoine, "and then we drank together."
him too, had approached.
you see," he continued, "theres one who remains up there; its
on account of him that Im going back up. You havent seen anyone, have
you? I got up before daylight, because otherwise, Im sure, they would have
prevented me from setting out; they would have said: There is no one....
Well! I say there is someone."
were now several men who surrounded Antoine without understanding very well what
he was saying; and him:
hes not dead.... Séraphin, you remember him.... Séraphin, Séraphin Carrupt;
rather old; yes, him, thats him. The brother of my mother-in-law, and, if
I am married at last, its thanks to him, because my mother-in-law didnt
want me for a son-in-law. You understand, an old friend, more than a friend...."
hes still there...."
there.... We were together in the chalet when the mountain fell. Oh! I recall
it well, now.... He was sitting before the fire. He said to me: Youre
bored? He said to me: And then, dont I count? Much more
than a friend, a father; Im an orphan, me. Well! me, I got myself out, but
hes still up there, yes, under the rocks. Ive told them in the village,
but they wont believe me; thats why Ive come back up. And Im
alone, but youre going to help me. How many are you? At least ten. Hes
alive, I tell you, I remember well, I was on the ground, he spoke to me, he said:
Where are you, Antoine?... Only he hasnt known how to find the
right passage out."
think so?" they said, "you think so, after all this time?"
me?... I was there for seven weeks. Him, its been hardly two days more....
Listen, are you coming?... Oh! of course youll come. Well try to call
him; or it may be better to have a rifle and fire off a couple of shots. That
will make him find the right direction...."
was speaking more and more abandonedly, faster and faster and in great disorder,
posing his questions without waiting for an answer. The others all about him,
the others shook their heads. Then two of them, Biollaz and Loutre, left with
Antoine just the same.
three men took the right side of the stonefall, so as to get above it quickly.
They ascended the steep slope, and they made the stonefall descend past them as
if being lowered on a rope. Being arched in the middle, it flattened out above;
the big blocks became more like gravel, and littler ones more like sand.
of all you had before you an elevation, a ridge like a wave, and the slope behind
the ridge was hidden; the slope appears, it lies open, it falls away; this was
the last slope.
said the men, "and you should have seen it when it was smoking!"
all that dust! For three whole days you couldnt see anything."
now you could see everything, you could see everything better and better; now
you could hear everything. It was only when the hobnailed shoes of the three men
bit into the rock, making a noise like a dog chewing on a bone, that the silence
was a little disturbed. Then it was no longer disturbed at all, because the three
men had arrived on a kind of landing where they stop, while Antoine looks all
about below him, then shakes his head:
think that I got out of that alive!"
"But, since I got
out of it alive, he will get out alive, him too."
considers once again below him the enormous disaster that it is, this kind of
frozen sea, all this immensity of death where no one remains; Antoine says:
is dead; nonetheless Antoine says:
And they had
a good look, nothing moved in any part of these spaces, neither on the gleaming
surfaces of the rocks, nor in the holes that made dull spots among them, nor above
the surface: not a bird, this morning, turning in the heavens on its big wings
or fluttering with cries before a fissure in the walls. Everything was dead, but,
him, he said: "He is alive." He stretches out an arm, he says:
there, those two big blocks, do you see them? Well! thats where I came out.
And the chalet," he said, "the chalet must be a little lower, but where?
Ah!" he said, "its hard to find yourself again in all this rubbish....
Its necessary first to orient yourself, its not easy. Where is the
north? Ah! there it is! Well," he said, "thats good: heres
the slope of debris. Because we were backed up against a bank of rock and the
little rocks passed above.... He should be there. Séraphin...."
calls with all his force. He put his hands over his mouth like a megaphone, pushing
out with all his force the three syllables that make three notes one after another,
and seem at first to be lost, because for a long moment one hears nothing more;
then they come back to you, having been dashed against the walls on the other
side of the combe. The name comes back to you the first time almost intact, it
comes back the second time muffled and worn down in the angles of the rocks; the
third time, it is only a rustling as when light coattails trail behind you on
have had a rifle, and fired off a shot," says Antoine.
"But you must have
a pickaxe and a shovel to lend me...."
little Dsozet arrived in Aïre, he said:
hes up there, but...."
touched his forehead.
Dionis with the gendarme?"
they too had set off that morning towards Derborence:
course!" said Dsozet, "theyre there, too; thats who sent
"They sent you?
wont come down. He says he wont come down without Séraphin...."
is he doing?"
with the top of his finger, touched his forehead once again.
she, something stirred in her heart; she said: "I have to go there."
said Dsozet, "you think so? Hes taken a pickaxe and a shovel, because
he says that Séraphin is under the rocks and that hes alive. He says that
he heard Séraphin calling him. The men wanted to accompany him, but the men returned."
did they return?"
they were afraid."
were they afraid of?"
with the sheep."
one in the Derbonère. Well! he comes down with his sheep. He sits himself on a
rock. He tells you: Dont go any farther."
shake their heads:
that one, he knows things, that one!"
exactly, and when you want to pass, he cries out to you: No farther...
and you dont dare go any farther."
he went on all the same.... It seems as if he is risking nothing."
shook their heads.
says that hes false."
says that he isnt real.... Yes, that he is a spirit. Yes, that you can see
him, but that hes not like us, that he has no body at all.... And that he
has come to lure us away, because they are unhappy and jealous of us and they
are bored under the rocks...."
someone said, "what should we do?"
a voice made itself heard inside her, and the voice said: "Thérèse, go find
The voice said to
her: "You foolish woman, did you tell him in good time what you had to tell
him, in time to be useful, at the time when you should have? If only you had tried
to restrain him, staying by your husband during the night hours, which are the
worst counsellors. The cross had shown you that it was really him, but you didnt
believe it? Have you forgotten that he is your flesh, too, woman without memory?"
men took little Dsozet for a drink at Rebords, though he was scarcely old
enough, and, to her, the voice spoke: "Repair your error now, you negligent
woman; go up there, woman, go to him. Go, find the words that are necessary; find
as many as you must, so that he will understand, so that he will come home....
Wake him up, for he is in a daze. Go to him with your secret; go, say to him:
There are going to be three of us. For there is a little one who is going
to come, and hes going to need you."
took little Dsozet for a drink at Rebords; they said to him: "You must
sleep here tonight, and then tomorrow morning well see what there is to
She, she called her
mother who was weeping in the kitchen. She says:
going to go."
said Philomène, "Oh! Thérèse...."
"Please, go bring
a basket. Put a white cloth and two bottles of old wine in it. Then put in it
everything one needs to make a good meal, because its for him, and he mustnt
have much to eat with him, up there. Some ham, some fresh bread, mother.... Its
so that the little one will have a father."
the same time she prepared herself to leave; but she didnt get very far
The people had
not yet gone to bed; they were discussing things amongst themselves, in little
groups before their doors. They fell silent when they saw Thérèse coming. She
followed the alley where it began to become dark. There was a big red spot that
was an open door, in which a black head made a movement, or you could see the
shape of a shoulder that was leaning a little to the side and forward. They were
silent, she said good evening, they said good evening to her.
continued her journey as far as Rebords house.
goes up the steep wooden staircase. She makes a noise on the steps, but its
a noise they dont hear, so loudly are they talking in the drinking room.
She knows very well what shes doing, for its not the custom among
us that the women enter the cafés. She doesnt enter. She looks through the
window near the door; and the windows give on the staircase, so that when youre
standing upright on the steps, only the top of your person (that is, the forehead
and the eyes) are above it, which is convenient because you can see in without
She sees. She sees
that he is there; she had guessed rightly; its Nendaz.
is there with little Dsozet whom they are getting a drink, though hes scarcely
old enough, and Rebord, then the president, then the men of Premier.
remains standing on the step, she calls.
can see only the top of her head and her eyes; shes in the dark and not
well lit; her hair is black, her forehead is white, her eyes are black; she says:
"Nendaz! Nendaz!" He doesnt hear her immediately because of the
noise and because his back is turned; he turns round suddenly.
the noise in the drinking room falls off until there is no more at all, as when
one of these piles of firewood, which one provides for the winter under the eaves,
falls to the earth:
Nendaz, can you come for a moment?"
look in her direction, but she has already disappeared.
gets up, Nendaz leans on his walking-stick, he goes out on the steps, he descends
wont you come with me?"
"To look for
Perhaps he sees
that she is going to go, whatever he does; then he is embarrassed. One doesnt
let a woman go alone on the paths, especially a path like that one, which is solitary,
which is dangerous, which never ends.
scratches behind his ear; he says:
in the morning."
There were already
some men in the fields, because the rye had to be got in quickly. The men had
the base of the stalks at the level of their sickles, the ground was so steep.
you could see the loose sheaves standing upright three by three, leaning one against
another and tied together at the top; from a distance, in the day not yet well
begun, they looked like little women making small talk.
was with Nendaz and Dsozet, who was taking advantage of their company to ascend
again to Zamperon.
It was hazy
and calm; the air had the color of ripe wheat. That same color filled the whole
valley, opening out on their left and just beside them falling away into a void
where they could see nothing. But from those depths which still remained hidden,
a message came to you all the same, that is to say a voice, telling endlessly
an old story that never ended and maybe never began: it was the Rhône that you
couldnt see, the Rhône that you heard.
since forever it has been there, and immemorially it murmurs there, raising its
voice when the night comes, letting it fall and weaken as the day increases.
walked quickly, and Dsozet briskly as well, being in his young years; but Nendaz
followed only with difficulty, making the iron tip of his stick grate against
is carrying her forward. You could see her, she had her basket in her arms. You
could see her from afar now, for the kind of wheat-colored haze that was all about
them (was it the light mist of mornings of fine weather, or could it be that autumn
is already approaching?), the haze was dissipating, drifting off without the least
breath of air, and it was neither rising nor separating; it settled rather, like
when there is a fine powder in solution in a liquid--and the powder goes to the
She, she was pushed
forward. They said nothing, she said nothing. You could see Nendaz leaning on
his walking-stick. You could see the great mountains that began to shine in the
heights of the air now returned to their clarity. Then all of a sudden it became
somber, it became cold, it became dark and sorrowful, as if you had jumped ahead
three months in the year.
gorge is a saber cut that has been struck all across the mountain, and the cut
is so deep that the sun enters it for only a few minutes, at the moment when it
passes just above.
to time, Thérèse stopped to let Nendaz catch up with her. Little Dsozet walked
alongside Nendaz. She heard Nendaz say:
hole in your head?"
wasnt a hole, it was only a scratch."
has it healed?"
says he, "a long time ago...."
had gone on. She heard nothing more. Then, again, little Dsozet said to Nendaz:
dont believe me?"
course not, youre too little."
wont ask Rebord for me?"
wouldnt even know how to use it."
pushed her on. She stopped, she set off again. And Dsozet:
You believe that! There is one among us also, in Premier.... Its a rifle
that belongs to Cattagnoud, the old soldier. Cattagnoud lends it to me when I
bring him the wood for his fire.... Oh! I know very well how to make sparks with
the flint; only you cant fire Cattagnouds rifle because the barrel
is bent.... Well, if Rebord lent me his.... Oh! I would know how to pour in the
powder and then tamp it, put the ball in and then tamp that...."
could hear Nendaz, who said:
shot is fired, the shock you get in the shoulder."
indeed, youd fall on your rear end, thats all there is to it. How
old are you?"
wait till youre twenty."
had made a stop for a moment to catch their breath, sitting all three against
the slope that bordered the path; Thérèse said nothing, for she had nothing to
say. It was little Dsozet who continued to speak:
Cattagnoud, when I do him a favor.... Well, me, Ive done you a favor."
wait a bit, well see about it...."
as they set off again:
said Dsozet, "theyre there, up there in the rocks, and Ive seen
them. They have their holes among the rocks, those marmots. Theyre shrewd,"
he said, "but me!... Theres one that sits in front of the others to
watch over everything that happens. When it sees you coming, it whistles...."
whistled between his fingers.
me, Im shrewder still than they are; I know what Im going to do. There
are the rocks, Im going to hide behind them. Im clever, when I want
to be, you know, and nimble. I can creep a long ways on my stomach, I can...."
but with a rifle.... Its heavy, you know, and its very long.... Its
longer than you are...."
was already growing brighter. They had rejoined the stream that at first flowed
in the depths below; but it rises towards you little by little and in the end
it is at your level. They walked thus for a long time, then they saw the first
chalet. It had been built to the right of the path in the middle of a square of
meadow that is dominated by the forest, itself dominated by the rocks. They advance
yet a little farther, and a second chalet appears, then a third, then a fourth,
equally poor and tiny.
has carried her this far. They are three. Biollaz is in front of his chalet. Biollaz
saw them coming from afar.
he said, "you come, too?"
"Where is he?"
my poor woman!" says Biollaz.
"You see, Im
afraid that he hasnt got his head anymore.... Its on account of Séraphin,
thats your uncle, yes? Well, Antoine, him, he claims that he is alive....
He borrowed a pickaxe and a shovel from us. We did our best, but we couldnt
stop him from going to search for him."
you?" says she.
we dont dare."
just the way it is...."
"I must go there."
says Biollaz, "thats not wise."
that moment, you could see Dionis and the gendarme coming to meet them; they too
to do! He claims he hears his voice."
voice of Séraphin."
must go and look for him."
said the gendarme, "it would be better for you to wait until he comes back,
when he cant do anymore.... Me, I have to go back down. But you, you have
only to stay here; when he returns, you speak with him...."
goes forward. She shakes her head without answering, she goes forward.
wife came out of her house:
she said, "you at last, Dsozet, where did you spend the night? Oh!"
she said, "Thérèse, Madame Thérèse, dont go any farther, stay with
me, its better."
didnt seem to hear her.
Donneloyes wife calls to her son:
Dsozet! come here.... Dsozet, I forbid you to go any farther."
placed herself in the middle of the path, barring the passage to him, so that
Dsozet had to obey.
And Nendaz and
Dionis and Biollaz go with her.
follow the stream still, you turn to the left. And there, the other times, when
she had come, oh! she remembers it well, it was a beautiful flat bottom that had
presented itself, fresh to see, richly peopled with men and animals--now, its
one big rock, another big rock, a third big rock. Its all a wall of big
rocks, like the façades of houses that are there, where she is looking, telling
you: "Dont go any farther."
left between them only narrow tortuous passages, like shadowed alleys, where she
was going to have to go; because above those that were in front, higher than her
and behind, you perceive the grey bulge of the mass of the landslide looming up,
hiding by its elevation even the expanse that comes behind it.
all these things tell you: "Stop!"
they said to Thérèse: "Go anyway."
Then he appeared in his great overcoat,
with his curved staff that came almost to his shoulder.
appeared to the left of Thérèse, on top of a rock; and he was up there like on
a pedestal, for he moved almost not at all, only shaking his head under his great
hat, and his white beard.
the left of Thérèse and the three men, a little above them, there where the ravine
of the Derbonère comes out by a pocket at the edge of these bottoms.
And he said:
he said, "I see, its Antoines wife.... Well! Only do you know,
woman," said he, "whether he that youre seeking is still the same
as him that you knew?"
"They fool you with
their appearance.... They still havent found rest. And they wander under
the rocks, jealous of you, envious of you."
Dionis, and Biollaz stop. She, she continues forward....
said Plan, "woman, be careful.... They have the appearance of bodies, but
there is nothing under that appearance.... Just come pass one night with me in
my hut under the cliff, if you want to hear them and if you want to see them.
I have heard them and seen them, me: theyre white, they wander about, they
moan; they make a sound like when the wind strikes the edge of a rock, like when
a stone rolls in the bottom of the stream."
she too stopped; and him, raising his hand:
know what its called, up there?... Yes, you see well, the arête and the
crack in it.... D... I... A... He won his shot, this time...."
shook his head.
for him that youre seeking, listen to me, he is also false like the others.
Hes only bolder than them, thats why he came down."
Because you will be cursed as well. Dont go where he is trying to lure you.
Its full of holes in the rocks, its full of rocks that are teetering;
its all in creases, all in fissures.... Dont go, Thérèse, dont
She said to the men:
want to go there?"
"Then maybe it
would be better if you went there alone."
right," she said, "Ill go alone."
To ascend to Derborence,
you reckon seven or eight hours, when youre coming from the Pays de Vaud.
You go against the flow of a pretty stream, skirting along the banks. The water
confined within its banks is like many heads and shoulders pushing ahead of one
another to go faster. With great cries, with laughs, with voices that call out,
as when the children come out of the school and the door is too narrow to let
them pass all at the same time.
leave behind the lovely chalets, low and long, with roofs carefully covered with
polished shingles against the rain, that shine like silver. The fountains have
spouts as big as arms; they make the churns turn.
then, nothing more, nothing more but the cold air.
more but a little bit of winter that breathes upon your face when you lean out
over the void, nothing more than the enormous hole full of shadow--where he was
again, him, but would you be able to see him, there, all the way down to the bottom?
hes much too little.
six hundred meters below you, he would be only a miniscule white dot, imperceptible
to the naked eye, among the immensity of those wastes where the rocks, in the
shadow, are bluish when wet, or a sorrowful grey with black spots like those you
see on the faces of the dead.
too little for you to see him, all the same suddenly the rocks awaken, it seems
that they begin to dry out, they brighten, they come to life again for an instant;
and above the arête the sun, leaping suddenly, has come upon them; but he is no
bigger than an ant at the foot of those heaps of rock.
didnt raise his pickaxe any the less for that; then he seized the shovel,
searching for him who was no more, and thats poor Séraphin.
wasnt right in his head, thats why he raised his pickaxe in the sun;
then, bending down, seized the flat shovel by the handle, digging out a trench,
scarcely evident yet anyway in the debris of black schist, all intermixed with
stones, against which the iron of the tool clanged sometimes, making a clear sound.
she had only to listen for where the sound came from, though at first completely
lost in the narrow passages that the biggest blocks left between them on their
fronts, more complicated still and more tangled than the alleyways of a village;
for where are you now? where should you go? in which direction? She could just
see a little sky like a blue skein half-unravelled above her; where is the south?
where is the north?--completely lost at first, then the sound of the iron striking
a hard and resonant material came to her, said to her: "Here."
raises the pickaxe and lets it fall; it speaks to you from a distance.
stops; she has only to listen for where the sound comes from, she goes on. She
edges again round this block of stone and then another; then the blocks become
smaller, more crowded together, at the same time that they are piled up higher,
making the steps of a staircase where she climbs--in these wastes where a woman
would never dare to venture herself alone, but she isnt alone, because there
is love, and love comes with her and love pushes her forward.
raises his pickaxe in both hands, having taken off his jacket and his vest.
turns his back to Thérèse.
has kept on his fine white shirt, his new trousers; he is there, hes very
small, for before him all the great pile of stones raises up its mass; nevertheless
he raises his pickaxe and lets it fall; and he raises his pickaxe again.
leaps from one block to the next one, from one mass of rock to another mass of
rock; he doesnt hear, hes making too much noise himself. Then he stops
swinging the pick and takes up the shovel.
voice had said to Thérèse: "Go closer."
voice had said to Thérèse: "Keep going, dont be afraid, dont
let him go again; if he runs away, run after him...." She calls him, he doesnt
heard, this time; he turns. He saw her, but he begins to shake his head; he shakes
it several more times to say no, and again no, and again no.
starts forward again; she sees that hes saying something; she doesnt
understand what hes saying to her. Then he lets the pickaxe fall; he turns
round yet once again, sees her coming; and suddenly he begins to run straight
ahead of him towards the heights of the rockfall.
they watched from down below; at first they saw nothing. They saw the stones.
is to say, Nendaz, Dionis, Biollaz; that is to say, in all, five men who were
come from Zamperon.
nothing, they had ended by sitting down. "What should we do?"
theres nothing to do.... Well wait for her, shell come back
sun had descended upon them in the meantime; they had been right in the middle
of one of those indentations that the sun cuts out in the band of shadow, while
to their right it projected a point far before them and to their left was in sawteeth,
on account of the irregularities of the mountain chain behind which the sun was
The southern chain,
right behind them.
towards the heights of the air its battlements, its square towers, its pointed
roofs, its steeples; then the sun, when it comes, slips in between their gaps,
stretching down towards you, and then it withdraws.
saw the little lakes shining, a little ahead of them, to their right; and melancholy,
they were no longer melancholy, on account of a little movement that was made
on their surface, as if the sun in passing had stirred a finger in the water.
water, which was black, became more blue than the sky; there was like a fine silver
net thrown on it; through the holes in the mesh, you saw a tiny white cloud that
advances, leaves the bank, like a bark over the one lake, then passes into the
Carrupt. He stands up at the same time as he raises his arm.
you see him?"
the big rocks, on the slope, among the little ones...."
yes, I see him."
"Ah! me, too."
account of the distance, Antoine was already no more than a white point up there,
the color of his trousers lost among the dark spots between the rocks. Nothing
but the little white spot of his shirt, but fortunately it was moving and constantly
changing its place, the other colors on the rockfall being motionless. Him, he
was changing his place; they could follow him with the eye: its upward that
he was moving, towards the top and the farthest part of the rockfall, in the side
of the great walls.
is he going?"
fine, hes running away."
say the men, "he wont be coming back."
then they said:
her," said Nendaz, "surely shes going to come down; what do you
expect her to do, if he doesnt want to hear her?"
at that same moment there was a brown spot that began to move a little below the
white one; as that one ascended, it ascended, as that one moved farther off, it
moved farther off.
been asleep? But now love has awakened.
could see them very well, both of them, in the sun, on that slope that seemed
from below almost uniform, almost smooth, but in reality and from closer was all
knobs and hollows, fissured, pierced with holes. He went before, she had great
difficulty following, but she went, because love sustained her. From time to time,
to advance, she had to help herself with hands and knees on account of a great
leaning block in her way; sometimes also you saw her slide back as the stones
slid away under her weight.
"She is lost, if
she goes on."
you know her better than we do."
too far," said Nendaz.
"Ah! but.... Its
know what to say anymore.
at that moment they could no longer see Antoine; a moment later they could no
longer see Thérèse. Both of them, they had disappeared behind the height of the
is the story of a herdsman who was captured under the rocks, and here he is returning
to the rocks as if he could not do without them.
is the story of a herdsman who disappeared for two months, and he reappeared,
and he disappeared again; and, now, theres his wife about to disappear with
They were still there,
the five of them, and behind them, on the rock, old Plan also was still there;
but, before them, there was no longer anything but rocks and still more rocks,
nothing more that was alive, nothing more that moved in the sunlight.
one of the men began to say things in a very low voice:
old Plan is right, how do we know?"
answered: "My God!" in a low voice.
it was really a man, would he have gone back up again?"
its only a spirit, and came down to fetch her."
they stood there motionless. The sun slid to the side, and thus the sun left them,
but it was still close to them with its triangle of light. Strangely, the indentations
were moving across the space; the little lakes had become grey again like zinc
Its a game that
is played by the sun and the shadow in the spaces that lie between the teeth of
the arête or through the interstices that separate the different links; and, them,
having received yet once more one of the rays on the neck, they had turned to
the side from which it came....
astonished then, and its at old Plan that they are astonished, because they
see him shrug his shoulders, and then he shrugs them again. Old Plan holds his
head raised towards the height of the rockfall; suddenly, he turns away and makes
a movement with his curved staff.
they did not yet understand what was happening, but they saw that old Plan was
leaving, having made a half-turn and his flock with him.
was then that having turned their heads round again, and having also raised them,
they too saw something moving up there in the rockfall; and its Thérèse
up there, isnt it? and it is she, and she is leading him.
not possible!... But yes! it is she and they are two.
a man and a woman.
who were there had in front of them the great mountain with its ramparts and its
towers; and it is evil, it is all-powerful, but there! a weak woman rose up against
it, and she has beaten it, because she loved, because she dared.
will find the words that she has to say, she will come with her secret; having
life inside her, she was there where there was no more life; she leads him who
is alive in the midst of those who are dead.
shout between their hands the cry of the mountains; they hear their cry coming
back to them, and it is from up above that someone has answered them.
mans voice, a womans voice.
it was she, and it was he; now they saw that the man was helping the woman in
the difficult places; there where the rock made a wall, he jumped down first,
he took her in his arms.
on the fine summit of the wall, the edge of the glacier reddened in the light
like a gleam of honey; but, behind them who came, and even as they came, the combe
entered into silence, into cold and into death.
Derborence, the word sings sadly and
sweetly in the head as you lean over the emptiness, where there is nothing more,
and you see that there is nothing more.
is winter below you, its the season of death all the year long. And as far
as the eye carries, there are only the rocks, and the rocks, and still the rocks.
nearly two hundred years.
sometimes, a flock of sheep appear in these solitudes, on account of a little
grass that grows there, there where the rocks leave them room to pierce through;
it wanders about for a long time like the shadow of a cloud.
makes a sound like a sudden rainshower when it moves about.
makes, when it grazes, a sound like that of very small waves that come, the evenings
of fine weather, in rapid beating and rebeating, knocking on the bank.
moss, with a slow and meticulous paintbrush, paints in lively yellow, in grey
upon grey, in all sorts of green, the biggest of the blocks of stone; they nourish
in their fissures several species of plants and bushes, whortleberry, myrtle,
thorny barberry, with the hard leaves, with the woody fruits, that tinkle softly
in the wind like little bells.
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Translated in about 1983, posted on this site 22 June 2001.