A short distance further on, the river divided into three branches. After hesitating for a few minutes, we chose the middle channel. For two hours we slowly made our way through a labyrinth of low islands, sand banks and reeds. Then suddenly one of the crew members stood up and let our cries of joy. We had emerged on the sea.
"Aren't you happy now?" I asked Carlier.
The men pitched camp for the night. During the day they had killed several wild turkeys which they put up to roast, and they laughed and sang merrily.
"There's something wrong with my astrolabe," Carlier told me. "I can't get the longitude."
"What's the difference?" I said. "We'll come back. We'll come back by sea, with a real ship. It's a great discovery!"
Carlier's face remained grave. "Your discovery," he said.
"What makes you say that?"
"It was you who saved my life on the prairie. It was you who went to Montreal for help. It was you who persuaded me to continue the expedition. Without you I wouldn't be here right now."
"And neither would I be here without you," I said gently.
I lit my pipe and sat down beside him. I looked out at the sea: always the same sea, the same sounds, the same smells. I glanced over his shoulder and watched him write down a few numbers in his journal.
"Why haven't you written anything in there for so long?" I asked.
Carlier shrugged his shoulders.
"Why?" I repeated.
"You were always scoffing at me!"
"I was scoffing at you?"
"Oh, you never said anything, but I saw it on your face." He let himself fall back, put his hands under his head and stared up at the heavens. "It's a terrible thing to have to live under that gaze of yours. You look at people from so far off; you're on the other side of death. For you, I'm already dead, a corpse: age thirty in the year 1651; searched for a route to China; failed; discovered a great river that others would have discovered a little later without him." With no trace of bitterness, he added, "If you had wanted, you wouldn't have needed me to make this discovery."
"But I was incapable of even wanting to make it," I said.
"And I, why should I want to? Why should I take an interest in things that don't interest you? Why should I be happy? I'm not a child."
A thick fog crept into my heart. "Would you prefer that we part?" I asked.
He did not answer, and deeply distressed I thought, If I leave him, where will I go?
"It's too late," he finally said.
—Simone de Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal, p. 224