No; I will return to that house on the hill above Woluwe no more, not even to see Monica standing on tiptoe to pick her roses. For I have left a giant’s robe hanging on a peg in the hall, and I would not have those amiable people see how utterly incapable I am of filling it under normal conditions. I feel, besides, a kind of sentimental tenderness for this illusion fated to have so short a life. I am no Herod to slaughter babies, and it pleases me to think that it lingers yet in that delightful house with the books and the old furniture and Monica, even though I myself shall probably never see it again, even though the Englishman watches the publishers’ announcements for the masterpieces that will never appear.
As we grow older it becomes more and more apparent that our moments are the ghosts of old moments, our days but pale repetitions of days that we have known in the past. It might almost be said that after a certain age we never meet a stranger or win to a new place. The palace of our soul, grown larger let us hope with the years, is haunted by little memories that creep out of corners to peep at us wistfully when we are most sure that we are alone. Sometimes we cannot hear the voice of the present for the whisperings of the past; sometimes the room is so full of ghosts that we can hardly breathe. And yet it is often difficult to find the significance of these dead days, restored to us to disturb our sense of passing time. Why have our minds kept secret these trivial records so many years to give them to us at last when they have no apparent consequence? Perhaps it is only that we are not clever enough to read the riddle; perhaps these trifles that we have remembered unconsciously year after year are in truth the tremendous forces that have made our lives what they are.
Standing at the window this morning and watching the rain, I suddenly became conscious of a wet morning long ago when I stood as I stood now and saw the drops sliding one after another down the steamy panes. I was a boy of eight years old, dressed in a sailor suit, and with my hair clipped quite short like a French boy’s, and my right knee was stiff with a half-healed cut where I had fallen on the gravel path under the schoolroom window, it was a really wet,