Twenty-eight

AND SO IT WENT, day in day out, week in week out, month in month out. So it went for seven long years.

Meanwhile war raged in the world outside, a world war. Men fought in Silesia and Saxony, in Hanover and the Low Countries, in Bohemia and Pomerania. The king’s troops died in Hesse and Westphalia, on the Balearic Islands, in India, on the Mississippi and in Canada, if they had not already succumbed to typhoid on the journey. The war robbed a million people of their lives, France of its colonial empire, and all the warring nations of so much money that they finally decided, with heavy hearts, to end it.

One winter during this period, Grenouille almost froze to death, without ever noticing it. For five days he lay in his purple salon, and when he awoke in his tunnel he was so cold he could not move. He closed his eyes again and would have slept himself to death. But then the weather turned around, there was a thaw, and he was saved.

Once the snow was so deep that he did not have the strength to burrow down to the lichen. He fed himself on the stiff carcasses of frozen bats.

Once a dead raven lay at the mouth of the cave. He ate it. These were the only events in the outside world of which he took notice for seven years. Otherwise he lived only within his mountain, only within the self-made empire of his soul. And he would have remained there until his death (since he lacked for nothing), if catastrophe had not struck, driving him from his mountain, vomiting him back out into the world.

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