فصل 03

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فصل 03

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A New Wife

One morning Pere Rouault came to pay Charles for his treatment, and to say how sorry he was to hear about his wife’s death. Seeing how unhappy Charles looked, he said, ‘You must make an effort, Monsieur Bovary; you will be happy again one day. Come and see us. My daughter asks about you and says that you are forgetting her. Spring will soon be here. Come and shoot a rabbit or two!’

Charles took his advice. He went back to Les Bertaux, and found everything there just the same as before. The apple trees were already in flower, and Pere Rouault did his best to make the doctor feel comfortable. He even told him a few stories, and Charles was surprised to find himself laughing. When he remembered his wife he became serious again, but then the coffee came in and he thought no more about her.

Back home, he also thought of her less and less as he got used to living alone. He was free now to have his meals when he liked, he could go out and come in without having to give explanations, and when he was very tired he could stretch out his arms and legs in bed as far as he liked. He gave himself little treats, let himself feel self-pity and let people be nice to him. Moreover, his wife’s death had been rather good for him professionally because, for a whole month, people had been saying, ‘Poor young man! What bad luck!’ So his name had been heard and his practice had increased and he could go to Les Bertaux whenever he wanted to. He was strangely happy and, looking at himself in the mirror as he brushed his moustache, he thought he had become better-looking.

He arrived at the farm one day at about three o’clock when everyone was out in the fields. He went into the kitchen, but did not see Emma at first. The sunlight shone on the kitchen floor in long narrow bars, reflecting on the ceiling. Flies on the table crawled up the glasses that had not been washed, or drowned in the cider in the bottom of a jug. Between the window and the fireplace Emma sat sewing. She had no scarf around her neck, and he could see the fine hairs on her shoulders.

Like all country people, she offered him a drink. He said no at first, but at last, with a laugh, she persuaded him to have a glass with her. She went to the cupboard and brought out the bottle, took down two small glasses, filled one, poured two or three drops into the other and, tapping it against the doctor’s, put it to her lips. As it was nearly empty, she leaned back to drink and, with her head back, she began to laugh because she could not taste anything. At the same time, she tried to catch some of the drops from the bottom of the glass with the tip of her tongue.

Then she sat down and took up her work again - a white cotton sock which she was repairing. She worked with her head bent forward. She did not talk, nor did Charles. As he watched her, the only sound he could hear was the excitement of a hen that had laid an egg in the yard outside.

After some time, Emma started to talk to him. She had been complaining ever since the spring about feeling dizzy; she wondered whether bathing in the sea would do her any good. She began to talk about her convent school, and Charles about his college days. They went upstairs to her room, where she showed him her old music books and the prizes she had won. And she went on to speak of her mother, and even pointed out the bed in the garden where she gathered flowers on the first Friday in every month, to lay on her mothers grave. She said she would like to live in town in the winter, although perhaps the long days made the country even more boring in the summer; and according to what she was saying, her voice was clear and strong, musical or almost a whisper, as if she were speaking to herself.

That night, as he was riding home, Charles thought about the different things she had said, trying to remember them exactly to discover what they meant, so that he might understand how her life had been before he met her. Then he began to wonder how she would become if she married - and whom she would marry. Unfortunately, old Rouault was apparently very wealthy, and she herself… so beautiful! But the thought kept coming to him: ‘The doctor wants a wife. Yes, the doctor wants a wife.’

That night he could not sleep. He got up, took a drink from the water-jug and opened his window. The sky was filled with stars, a warm breeze was blowing and, a long way off, some dogs were barking. He turned his head towards Les Bertaux. Thinking that, after all, he had nothing to lose by it, Charles made up his mind to ask her to marry him. But every time he was alone with her, the fear of being unable to find the right words left him unable to speak.

In fact Pere Rouault would have been happy to see his daughter married, especially as she was very little use in the house. He made excuses for her, telling himself that she had too much intelligence for the farming life. When, therefore, he noticed that Charles blushed each time he was near his daughter, and that the young man was clearly interested in her, he gave the matter some thought. Although Charles was not the sort of man he would have chosen for a son-in-law, he was well educated and a hard worker, and would not ask him for too much money to take his daughter off his hands. This mattered, as Monsieur Rouault had debts with most of his suppliers and had just had to sell a large amount of land.

‘If he asks me,’ he said to himself, ‘he can have her.’

A little later, Charles came to spend three days at Les Bertaux. The time went quickly, and he never seemed to find the right moment to speak. As he was leaving, Monsieur Rouault came out to see him on his way. They had reached a bend in the road and were preparing to say goodbye. It was now or never. Charles gave himself until the corner of the field and at last, when they had passed it, he said, almost in a whisper, ‘Monsieur Rouault, there is something I want to say to you.’

They stopped. Charles could not speak.

‘Come on then, out with it! Do you think I don’t know what it’s all about?’ said the farmer, laughing quietly.

‘Pere Rouault… Pere Rouault…’

‘Well,’ the farmer went on, ‘there’s nothing I would like better. But, though I am sure my little girl will agree, we must put the question to her. You go on; I’ll go back to the farm. If it’s yes, there’ll be no need for you to come back… She’ll need some time to get used to the idea! But so you can be sure, I’ll open the window in the front bedroom. You’ll be able to see it from the back here.’

And with these words he returned to the house.

Charles tied his horse to a tree. He hurried back to take up his position, and waited. Half an hour went by, then nineteen more minutes, which he timed by his watch. Suddenly something banged against the wall. The window was open. She had accepted him!

Next day, by nine o’clock, he was at the farm. Emma blushed when he came in, but tried to laugh a little, too. Pere Rouault took his son-in-law in his arms. Then they began to talk about the arrangements. They had plenty of time before them, since the wedding could not take place until at least twelve months after the death of Charles’s first wife, and that meant the spring of the following year.

The wedding dinner was a grand affair. Forty-three people sat down at the table and remained there for sixteen hours, and the party which followed went on for several days. For most of the guests it was a wedding to remember. The only person who did not enter the spirit of things seemed to be Madame Bovary senior, who sat through the whole event with a sour look on her face. No one had asked her about the bride’s dress, or the arrangements for the party. She went to bed early. Her husband, however, did not follow her, but sent into Saint-Victor for cigars. He sat with the men and smoked until the morning, drinking and laughing until the sun rose.

On the day of the wedding, Charles had not been a great success; he was neither a confident speaker nor a great teller of jokes. Next day, however, he seemed a different man. While Emma did not give the smallest idea of what she thought about it all, Charles was completely changed. He called her his wife, his dear, kept asking where she was, looked for her everywhere and frequently took her out into the yard, where he was seen among the trees with his arm round her waist.

Two days after the wedding, the newly married couple left. Charles could not be away from his practice any longer. Monsieur Rouault sent them home in his carriage, and went with them himself as far as Vassonville. There he kissed his daughter goodbye, and started for home again on foot. When he had gone about a hundred metres he stopped and looked back at the carriage disappearing down the road. Then he thought of his own wedding. Like Charles, he, too, had been happy when he took his wife from her father’s house, back to his own. She had ridden behind him through the snow; it was near Christmas and the country all white. One of her arms held on to him, and over the other she carried her basket. When he turned his head he saw close by him, just above his shoulder, her little smiling face. To warm her fingers she had pushed them, from time to time, inside his jacket. How far away it seemed now. He looked back again, and there was nothing to be seen along the road. He felt as sad as an empty house.

Monsieur and Madame Charles arrived at Tostes at about six o’clock. The neighbours came to their windows to take a look at the doctor’s new wife. The old servant came to meet them and made excuses for the dinner not being ready, and suggested that, for the moment, Madame should come in and look around the house.

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