That Tuesday I awoke at the still and empty hour when the night is nearly over but there is still no sign of dawn. I lay in the dim light, while mortal fear lay heavy on my body and invaded my mind, and my mind in its turn lay heavy on my body; and the smallest particles of myself writhed in the appalling certainty that nothing would ever happen, nothing ever change, and that, whatever one did, nothing would ever come of it. The explanation of my terror was contained in the dream which had troubled me during the night and had ended by waking me.

What had I dreamt? By a regression of a kind that ought to be forbidden to nature, I had seen myself at the age of fifteen or sixteen, I had reverted to adolescence. Standing in the wind on a stone at the edge of a river, I had said something, heard myself saying something, heard my shrill, long-since-buried, adolescent voice, seen my excessively big hands and the immature nose on my soft, provisional, adolescent's face, felt the unprofitable content of that passing and intermediary phase of myself; and I had awoken between laughter and fear, for it had seemed to me that the adult, the thirty-year-old who I am today, was apeing and mocking the adult; and that each of my two selves was thus taking the rise out of the other. Hapless memory that forces on us knowledge of the paths that we followed in order to become what we are! Half-asleep, I even imagined that my body was not entirely homogeneous, and that parts of it were not yet mature, that my head was laughing at and mocking my thigh, that my thigh was making merry at my head, that my finger was ridiculing my heart and my heart my brain, while my eye made sport of my nose and my nose of my eye, all to the accompaniment of loud bursts of crazy laughter - my limbs and the various parts of my body violently ridiculing each other in a general atmosphere of caustic and wounding raillery. But when I cam to myself completely and started looking at my life, my terror, far from vanishing, increased, though a little laugh which it was impossible to restrain kept turning up to interrupt (or perhaps stimulate) it. Half-way along the path of my life, I found myself in a dark forest; and the worst of it was that the forest was green.

For in reality I was as vague and uncoordinated as I was in my dream. I had recently crossed the unavoidable Rubicon of my thirtieth birthday; according to my papers and my appearance, I was grown up. But I was not mature. What was I then? Where was I? I wandered from bar to café, from café to bar, met people, exchanged words and sometimes even thoughts with them, but my situation was by no means clear, and I did not know myself whether I was a man or an adolescent. the result was that in confronting the second half of my life I was neither one nor another, I was nothing at all, and that I was rightly treated with suspicion by those of my generation who had married and had settled positions, if not exactly in relation to life, at any rate in offices of one kind or another. My aunts, those numerous, devoted, clinging, but kind semi-mammas, had been trying for a long time to use their influence to get me to settle down in some suitable occupation, say, as a lawyer or in business, for the prolonged nondescript nature of my life was torture to them. Not really knowing who I was, they did not know what to say to me, and at best their conversation with me was at a level of sad twaddle. 'Johnnie,' they would say to me between one twitter and the next, 'the years are passing, and what will people think? If you don't ant to be a doctor, be a bon viveur or a collector, but be something, you must be something'; and I would hear one of them whispering to another that I lacked polish; and then, desperate because of the void which thereupon appeared in their heads, they would revert to their twitterings. This situation could not of course be prolonged indefinitely; the hands of nature's clock are inexorable and exact. My last teeth, my wisdom teeth, having come through, I had had to accept that the hour had struck for the inevitable murder; the man must slay the youth and take wing like the butterfly, leaving the dead body of the chrysalis on the ground. I had had to enter the grown-up world.