The Marmot with the CollarDiary of a Philosopher
Part II - Dry MoonSecond Summer
M.02.05.01.01 / M.120
There are moments when all relapses into uncertainty, even what I was beginning to believe secured and beyond doubt. They don’t know what sort of thing a Marmot’s eye is, these White Hares. Did he not say that it is dark in our burrows? Idle remarks of a dreamer, who passes the night in a form. They don’t have eyes at all. If they put up in a burrow, they would never see the sun rise; they would not sleep for six moons, but twelve, if it is true that the year has twelve moons. For us, there is no glimmer that escapes us. I could still see it, last autumn, when I had closed my two doors. A furtive ray filled my burrow with light… No, he has no idea, this unhappy worshipper of winter, what the sun is for a Marmot. The sun, it is our life. When it reappears, after the Long Night, we thrill even within the entrails of the earth… It cannot be that the sun rises over the mountain one or two hundred times, that its rays shine over our burrows, and that never has Marmot suspected it.
I do not know what to believe.
M.02.05.01.02 / M.121
He is no liar but a dreamer. I catch myself thinking that I am also a dreamer, that we are all dreamers, that each one dreams in his own fashion, in his form or in his burrow. A White Hare dreams that there is a winter, that the sun rises, that he sees it rise; a Marmot dreams that there is a Long Night, during which strange things happen. A White Hare dreams that he is awake, whereas I dream that I sleep.
M.02.05.01.03 / M.122
I will return tomorrow to the Hare’s form and will propose to him an alliance. If he is my friend, and if it is true that we sleep a sleep that is a death, he will come to visit me in winter, he will come to awaken me when I sleep, and we will go together to see how Marmots sleep. I will not have it otherwise. I wish to see before I believe.
M.02.05.01.04 / M.123
I made my visit and I return but little consoled.
He was very civil; he came to meet me and at first sight greeted me affectionately, as would a friend, almost a father.
“You inspire me,” he said, “with a compassion that is almost a brother’s. I love you so much as a White Hare can love a dark inhabitant of burrows. Renounce those foul holes, come to share my form, and I will love you as myself.”
I took advantage of these kindly intentions to submit my treaty of alliance. As he listened to me, he pulled a face that was hardly propitious, and his ears were seized by a singular movement. He pushes them aside, tilting them quickly back when he wishes to indicate that he does not like something or that he does not believe it.
“My son,” he said, “I am ready to do for you all that is possible for a White Hare to do; but ask not what is possible only for the Gods, the sun and perhaps Men. I have power to kill you when you sleep your sleep of winter; I have no power to awaken you.”
“You will shake me until you have awoken me.”
“I would try in vain to shake you awake, if your sleep must last six moons, it will last six moons.”
“You will sharpen your claws and will drive them into my flesh.”
He tossed his head.
“You will bite my paws, my ears, everywhere.”
He tossed his head.
“You will tear these whiskers, which are curled like no other Marmot whiskers.”
He tossed his head.
Then I felt my blood rise to my face in anger.
“Your evasions do not deceive me at all,” I cried; “I have untangled your lies and seen through your pride. What do you have that allows you to despise the ancient and noble race of Marmots? Our industry is worth more than your light foot, and it is us who are the clear-sighted ones. You require the full sunlight, poor blind wretch; as for us, we can see even in the bosom of the earth. We sleep, that is true; but we are not insensible; our heart still beats, and I who address you, I have counted its pulse.”
Scarcely had I uttered these words when I repented of having spoken too warmly; but he did not seem offended.
“I know not what passes in your heart,” he continued, “my observations have not reached that far; but what I know well is that in winter you are like frozen bodies, which the sun melts in spring. If you wish that I should let you hold a sleeping Marmot, come to share my form, and try not to sleep yourself.”
I will absolutely not go to share his form. This White Hare is an egotist and a fantasist. Why does he not come to share my burrow? I for one have a horror of forms.
M.02.05.01.05 / M.124
He is very amusing when he speaks of these foul holes. A Marmot, Sir Hare, is the most respectable animal on the mountain, whereas you… Enough said.
M.02.05.01.07 / M.125
I think better of it. Tomorrow I will go to ask hospitality of him for at least a few days. This body which is frozen and this sun which melts it remain fast in my memory.
M.02.05.02.01 / M.126
Catastrophe! murder! horror!
He was my friend. I will maintain deep mourning for eight days, like a husband for his wife, a child for his father.
M.02.05.03.02 / M.127
The days prescribed for the period of mourning have passed. During this time I have abstained from labour with the paws.
Divine Providence, thus is it ever that you have exercised justice! Innocents are born only to make sinners fat.
I had taken the path to his form, and I was making the ascent, toddling along as best I could. Not only was I resolved on the idea of spending a few nights in his form, but I was beginning to find its novelty attractive and stimulating. I was impatient to hold and to fasten at close quarters on these bodies which freeze and melt. And then, I had to ask of him pardon for the intemperate remarks which had escaped me in my anger. So, I was ambling along at a cheerful pace, not forgetting, however, the precautionary measures that are the custom of an old Marmot, five times father of a family. I was looking for covered places and aiming always at some sort of shelter. When I had to expose myself to being seen from the sky, I raised my eyes first, to assure myself that nothing suspect was hovering there. All went well until a last boulder, whence I could see the form of the Philosopher, my friend. I sheltered there for a few instants. He saw me and hurried without thinking to meet me. I let out a strident alarm call; I had just discerned a moving point amidst the clouds. He was too late. I was knocked almost senseless by a great flapping of wings, and I saw a black bird swooping on his prey, swifter than lightning. The Hare was struck with terror and flattened himself on the ground; it did not save him from being snatched up in the Vulture’s talons. I followed him with my eyes. Not a movement did he make. Head low, ears at rest, he seemed at peace and resigned to all.
M.02.05.03.03 / M.128
I will preserve the memory of the White Hare religiously. He held too lofty an idea of races which keep a form and scorned too much those which dig burrows. He placed also too much confidence in his swiftness of foot, and that proved his undoing. But he was good, he valued Philosophy, he had a mind that was swift and enthusiastic, he could pardon offences and he really loved me. It is through an impulse of friendship, running toward me, that he met his death. I will see him alway, motionless in the Vulture’s talons.
It requires time for mutual understanding and to get used to each other, when one has acquired habits and when characters are so different. Even so, I think that we would have ended up living as brothers. The search for wisdom is the strongest of all bonds. May your soul rest in peace, my friend, you who are the only being in the world who, since my misfortune, shewed me any goodwill, who could have been the confidant of my most secret thoughts, the companion of all my labours, my guide, perhaps, in the paths of knowledge! The Gods have been cruel; they have parted us at the moment when a closer friendship was about to join us. They allowed us only to be seen by each other. May they at least have pitied you in your death, may they have shortened your suffering, may they allow, of all the voices of the earth, the voice of my regrets and of my inalienable friendship to reach your soul!
M.02.05.03.04 / M.129
I feel incapable of taking up the thread of my thoughts. My spirit is empty and the world seems a desert to me.
M.02.05.04.02 / M.130
Days succeed to days, and my courage is not coming back. I have never experienced a like feeling of loneliness.
M.02.05.04.04 / M.131
Today I undertook an excursion to distract myself and to chase away unhappy thoughts. I intended to scale the Dent-Noire, the highest peak in the valley. A storm made me retrace my steps.