"After we've reached the estuary, I'm going to return to the source," he said. "There has to be a waterway between the river and the lakes." He looked at me rather anxiously. "Don't you believe there's one?" Every night he repeated the same words, and every night with the same ardor.
"Why not?" I said in reply.
"Then we'll charter a ship, won't we? and sail all the way to China." His face hardened. "I don't want anyone to sail that route before me."
I drew on my pipe and blew a cloud of smoke through my nostrils. I tried to share in his life and make his future mine, but it was useless —I could not be him. His hopes, his perpetual anxieties, were no less foreign to me than the unique tranquility of that hour.
He put his hand on my shoulder. "What are you thinking of?" he asked tenderly.
For all of three centuries no man had ever put his hand on my shoulder, and since Caterina's death, no one had ever asked me, "What are you thinking of?" But Carlier spoke to me as if I were no different than any other man, and it was for that reason, above all, that I cherished his friendship.
"I'd like to be in your place," I said.
"You? In my place?" Smiling, he held out his hand to me. "Let's change!"
"You don't know what you're asking for."
"Ah!" he said fervently. "If only I were immortal!"
"There was a time when I used to say that, too."
"Then I'd be certain of finding the route to China. I'd sail down every river on earth. I'd plot maps of every continent."
"No," I said. "You'd soon lose all interest in China, you'd lose interest in everything, because you'd be alone in the world."
"Are you alone in the world?" he asked me reproachfully. His face and movements were virile, but a feminine softness often appeared in his voice and eyes.
"No," I answered, "not now." Far off in the savanna an animal cried out raucously. "I never had any friends," I said. "People always looked upon me as a stranger —or as a dead man."
"Well, I'm your friend," he reassured me.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 215