She thought, sometimes, that, after all, this was the happiest time of her life—the
honeymoon, as people called it. To taste the full sweetness of it, it would have
been necessary doubtless to fly to those lands with sonorous names where the
days after marriage are full of laziness most suave. In post chaises behind blue
silken curtains to ride slowly up steep road, listening to the song of the postilion
re-echoed by the mountains, along with the bells of goats and the muffled sound
of a waterfall; at sunset on the shores of gulfs to breathe in the perfume of lemon
trees; then in the evening on the villa-terraces above, hand in hand to look at the
stars, making plans for the future. It seemed to her that certain places on earth
must bring happiness, as a plant peculiar to the soil, and that cannot thrive
elsewhere. Why could not she lean over balconies in Swiss chalets, or enshrine
her melancholy in a Scotch cottage, with a husband dressed in a black velvet
coat with long tails, and thin shoes, a pointed hat and frills? Perhaps she would
have liked to confide all these things to someone. But how tell an undefinable
uneasiness, variable as the clouds, unstable as the winds? Words failed her—the
opportunity, the courage.
If Charles had but wished it, if he had guessed it, if his look had but once met her
thought, it seemed to her that a sudden plenty would have gone out from her
heart, as the fruit falls from a tree when shaken by a hand. But as the intimacy of
their life became deeper, the greater became the gulf that separated her from
Charles's conversation was commonplace as a street pavement, and everyone's
ideas trooped through it in their everyday garb, without exciting emotion,
laughter, or thought. He had never had the curiosity, he said, while he lived at
Rouen, to go to the theatre to see the actors from Paris. He could neither swim,
nor fence, nor shoot, and one day he could not explain some term of
horsemanship to her that she had come across in a novel.
A man, on the contrary, should he not know everything, excel in manifold
activities, initiate you into the energies of passion, the refinements of life, all
mysteries? But this one taught nothing, knew nothing, wished nothing. He
thought her happy; and she resented this easy calm, this serene heaviness, the
very happiness she gave him.
Sometimes she would draw; and it was great amusement to Charles to stand
there bolt upright and watch her bend over her cardboard, with eyes half-closed
the better to see her work, or rolling, between her fingers, little bread-pellets. As
to the piano, the more quickly her fingers glided over it the more he wondered.
She struck the notes with aplomb, and ran from top to bottom of the keyboard
without a break. Thus shaken up, the old instrument, whose strings buzzed,
could be heard at the other end of the village when the window was open, and
often the bailiff's clerk, passing along the highroad bare-headed and in list
slippers, stopped to listen, his sheet of paper in his hand.