24. M. De Bassompierre
Those who live in retirement, whose lives have fallen amid the seclusion of schools or of
other walled-in and guarded dwellings, are liable to be suddenly and for a long while
dropped out of the memory of their friends, the denizens of a freer world. Unaccountably,
perhaps, and close upon some space of unusually frequent intercourse - some congeries
of rather exciting little circumstances, whose natural sequel would rather seem to be the
quickening than the suspension of communication - there falls a stilly pause, a wordless
silence, a long blank of oblivion. Unbroken always is this blank; alike entire and
unexplained. The letter, the message once frequent, are cut off: the visit, formerly
periodical, ceases to occur; the book, paper, or other token that indicated remembrance,
comes no more,
Always there are excellent reasons for these lapses, if the hermit but knew them. Though
he is stagnant in his cell, his connections without are whirling in the very vortex of life.
That void interval which passes for him so slowly that the very clocks seem at a stand,
and the wingless hours plod by in the likeness of tired tramps prone to rest at milestones -
that same interval, perhaps, teems with events, and pants with hurry for his friends.
The hermit - if he be a sensible hermit - will swallow his own thoughts, and lock up his
own emotions during these weeks of inward winter. He will know that Destiny designed
him to imitate, on occasion, the dormouse, and he will be conformable: make a tidy ball
of himself creep into a hole of life's wall, and submit decently to the drift which blows in
and soon blocks him up, preserving him in ice for the season.
Let him say, 'It is quite right: it ought to be so, since so it is.' And, perhaps, one day his
snow sepulchre will open, spring's softness will return, the sun and south wind will reach
him; the budding of hedges, and carolling of birds, and singing of liberated streams, will
call him to kindly resurrection. Perhaps this may be the case, perhaps not: the frost may
get into his heart and never thaw more; when spring comes, a crow or a pie may pick out
of the wall only his dormouse bones. Well, even in that case, all will be right: it is to be
supposed he knew from the first he was mortal, and must one day go the way of all flesh,
'As well soon as syne.'
Following that eventful evening at the theatre, came for me seven weeks as bare as seven
sheets of blank paper: no word was written on one of them, not a visit, not a token.
About the middle of that time I entertained fancies that something had happened to my
friends at La Terrasse. The mid blank is always a beclouded point for the solitary: his
nerves ache with the strain of long expectancy; the doubts hitherto repelled gather now to
a mass and - strong in accumulation - roll back upon him with a force which savours of
vindictiveness. Night, too, becomes an unkindly time, and sleep and his nature cannot
agree: strange starts and struggles harass his couch; the sinister band of bad dreams, with
horror of calamity, and sick dread of entire desertion at their head, join the league against