One morning old Rouault brought Charles the money for setting his leg—
seventy-five francs in forty-sou pieces, and a turkey. He had heard of his loss,
and consoled him as well as he could.
"I know what it is," said he, clapping him on the shoulder; "I've been through it.
When I lost my dear departed, I went into the fields to be quite alone. I fell at the
foot of a tree; I cried; I called on God; I talked nonsense to Him. I wanted to be
like the moles that I saw on the branches, their insides swarming with worms,
dead, and an end of it. And when I thought that there were others at that very
moment with their nice little wives holding them in their embrace, I struck great
blows on the earth with my stick. I was pretty well mad with not eating; the very
idea of going to a cafe disgusted me—you wouldn't believe it. Well, quite softly,
one day following another, a spring on a winter, and an autumn after a summer,
this wore away, piece by piece, crumb by crumb; it passed away, it is gone, I
should say it has sunk; for something always remains at the bottom as one would
say—a weight here, at one's heart. But since it is the lot of all of us, one must not
give way altogether, and, because others have died, want to die too. You must
pull yourself together, Monsieur Bovary. It will pass away. Come to see us; my
daughter thinks of you now and again, d'ye know, and she says you are
forgetting her. Spring will soon be here. We'll have some rabbit-shooting in the
warrens to amuse you a bit."
Charles followed his advice. He went back to the Bertaux. He found all as he had
left it, that is to say, as it was five months ago. The pear trees were already in
blossom, and Farmer Rouault, on his legs again, came and went, making the
farm more full of life.
Thinking it his duty to heap the greatest attention upon the doctor because of his
sad position, he begged him not to take his hat off, spoke to him in an undertone
as if he had been ill, and even pretended to be angry because nothing rather
lighter had been prepared for him than for the others, such as a little clotted
cream or stewed pears. He told stories. Charles found himself laughing, but the
remembrance of his wife suddenly coming back to him depressed him. Coffee
was brought in; he thought no more about her.
He thought less of her as he grew accustomed to living alone. The new delight of
independence soon made his loneliness bearable. He could now change his
meal-times, go in or out without explanation, and when he was very tired stretch
himself at full length on his bed. So he nursed and coddled himself and accepted
the consolations that were offered him. On the other hand, the death of his wife
had not served him ill in his business, since for a month people had been saying,
"The poor young man! what a loss!" His name had been talked about, his
practice had increased; and moreover, he could go to the Bertaux just as he
liked. He had an aimless hope, and was vaguely happy; he thought himself better
looking as he brushed his whiskers before the looking-glass.