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Swann's Way In Search of Lost Time 1


For a long time I used to go to bed early. Sometimes, when I had put out
my candle, my eyes would close so quickly that I had not even time to
say "I'm going to sleep." And half an hour later the thought that it was
time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book
which, I imagined, was still in my hands, and to blow out the light; I had
been thinking all the time, while I was asleep, of what I had just been
reading, but my thoughts had run into a channel of their own, until I my-
self seemed actually to have become the subject of my book: a church, a
quartet, the rivalry between Franois I and Charles V. This impression
would persist for some moments after I was awake; it did not disturb my
mind, but it lay like scales upon my eyes and prevented them from regis-
tering the fact that the candle was no longer burning. Then it would be-
gin to seem unintelligible, as the thoughts of a former existence must be
to a reincarnate spirit; the subject of my book would separate itself from
me, leaving me free to choose whether I would form part of it or no; and
at the same time my sight would return and I would be astonished to
find myself in a state of darkness, pleasant and restful enough for the
eyes, and even more, perhaps, for my mind, to which it appeared incom-
prehensible, without a cause, a matter dark indeed.
I would ask myself what o'clock it could be; I could hear the whistling
of trains, which, now nearer and now farther off, punctuating the dis-
tance like the note of a bird in a forest, shewed me in perspective the
deserted countryside through which a traveller would be hurrying to-
wards the nearest station: the path that he followed being fixed for ever
in his memory by the general excitement due to being in a strange place,
to doing unusual things, to the last words of conversation, to farewells
exchanged beneath an unfamiliar lamp which echoed still in his ears
amid the silence of the night; and to the delightful prospect of being once
again at home.
I would lay my cheeks gently against the comfortable cheeks of my
pillow, as plump and blooming as the cheeks of babyhood. Or I would
strike a match to look at my watch. Nearly midnight. The hour when an
invalid, who has been obliged to start on a journey and to sleep in a
strange hotel, awakens in a moment of illness and sees with glad relief a
streak of daylight shewing under his bedroom door. Oh, joy of joys! it is
morning. The servants will be about in a minute: he can ring, and some
one will come to look after him. The thought of being made comfortable
gives him strength to endure his pain. He is certain he heard footsteps:
they come nearer, and then die away. The ray of light beneath his door is
extinguished. It is midnight; some one has turned out the gas; the last
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