Here where we live, the avenues are deep and calm as alleys of a cemetery. The streets which run from the Ecole Militaire to the Invalides seem somehow reserved for state funeral processions: one sidewalk in sun and one in shade, they stretch away between their frozen plane-trees, between their rows of withdrawn facades, empty of shops, empty of sound. There is, nevertheless, a sort of shivering suspense in the air, a sense of general misgiving in the face of the periodic bells, and the sky leans low on this quarter of mine, so very old before its time.
My house stands at the crossing of two silences. The absence of a policeman, which permits the elderly edifice to finish out its days in dignity, adds to the distinction of the place. Some mouldings in cornucopia form and a species of turret are the sole adornments it was given ; as for the rest of it, one might liken it to a thermometer—tall and narrow and constructed of windows to absorb the daylight. The daylight is never given back, and I wonder what becomes of it. (Here, by the way, is one of the principles which dominate the life of the house—that part of its life, at least, which is known to me—that it never sends back for the use of the world a single thing, neither the daylight, nor the elevator, nor its servants.)
Today I regarded it from a little distance, with the eyes of a stranger. Not everyone can do this with his own house, and it seems rather sad that it is possible at all. At any rate, the house made not the slightest effort to recognize me pretended, even worse, that I wasn’t there.