Thursday, March 29, 2012

The knocking game at Balbec

One of the more charming episodes in the book occurs at the hotel in Balbec when M's and his grandmother must part for the evening.

She says to him: "And be sure you knock on the wall if you want anything in the night. My bed is just on the other side, and the partition is quite thin. Just give a knock now, as soon as you're in bed, so that we should know where we are."

"And sure enough, that evening, I gave three knocks — a signal which, a week later, when I was ill, I repeated every morning for several days, because my grandmother wanted me to have some milk early..."

"Then when I thought I could hear her stirring I would venture three little taps, timidly, faintly, for I was afraid of disturbing her... And scarcely had I given my taps than I heard three others, in a different tone from mine, stamped with a calm authority, repeated twice over so that there should be no mistake, and saying to me plainly: 'I've heard you; I shall be with you in a minute!' and shortly afterwards my grandmother would appear."

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