One night towards eleven o'clock they were awakened by the noise of a horse
pulling up outside their door. The servant opened the garret-window and
parleyed for some time with a man in the street below. He came for the doctor,
had a letter for him. Natasie came downstairs shivering and undid the bars and
bolts one after the other. The man left his horse, and, following the servant,
suddenly came in behind her. He pulled out from his wool cap with grey top-knots
a letter wrapped up in a rag and presented it gingerly to Charles, who rested on
his elbow on the pillow to read it. Natasie, standing near the bed, held the light.
Madame in modesty had turned to the wall and showed only her back.
This letter, sealed with a small seal in blue wax, begged Monsieur Bovary to
come immediately to the farm of the Bertaux to set a broken leg. Now from
Tostes to the Bertaux was a good eighteen miles across country by way of
Longueville and Saint-Victor. It was a dark night; Madame Bovary junior was
afraid of accidents for her husband. So it was decided the stable-boy should go
on first; Charles would start three hours later when the moon rose. A boy was to
be sent to meet him, and show him the way to the farm, and open the gates for
Towards four o'clock in the morning, Charles, well wrapped up in his cloak, set
out for the Bertaux. Still sleepy from the warmth of his bed, he let himself be
lulled by the quiet trot of his horse. When it stopped of its own accord in front of
those holes surrounded with thorns that are dug on the margin of furrows,
Charles awoke with a start, suddenly remembered the broken leg, and tried to
call to mind all the fractures he knew. The rain had stopped, day was breaking,
and on the branches of the leafless trees birds roosted motionless, their little
feathers bristling in the cold morning wind. The flat country stretched as far as
eye could see, and the tufts of trees round the farms at long intervals seemed
like dark violet stains on the cast grey surface, that on the horizon faded into the
gloom of the sky.
Charles from time to time opened his eyes, his mind grew weary, and, sleep
coming upon him, he soon fell into a doze wherein, his recent sensations
blending with memories, he became conscious of a double self, at once student
and married man, lying in his bed as but now, and crossing the operation theatre
as of old. The warm smell of poultices mingled in his brain with the fresh odour of
dew; he heard the iron rings rattling along the curtain-rods of the bed and saw his
wife sleeping. As he passed Vassonville he came upon a boy sitting on the grass
at the edge of a ditch.
"Are you the doctor?" asked the child.
And on Charles's answer he took his wooden shoes in his hands and ran on in
front of him.