Weeks passed before his stomach decided to function. The nausea returned at certain moments, but these attacks were disposed of by ginger ale and Rivieres’ antiemetic drink.
Finally the organs were restored. Meats were digested with the aid of pepsines. Recovering strength, he was able to stand up and attempt to walk, leaning on a cane and supporting himself on the furniture. Instead of being thankful over his success, he forgot his past pains, grew irritated at the length of time needed for convalescence and reproached the doctor for not effecting a more rapid cure.
At last the day came when he could remain standing for whole afternoons. Then his study irritated him. Certain blemishes it possessed, and which habit had accustomed him to overlook, now were apparent. The colors chosen to be seen by lamp-light seemed discordant in full day. He thought of changing them and for whole hours he combined rebellious harmonies of hues, hybrid pairings of cloth and leathers.
“I am certainly on the road to recovery,” he reflected, taking note of his old hobbies.
One morning, while contemplating his orange and blue walls, considering some ideal tapestries worked with stoles of the Greek Church, dreaming of Russian orphrey dalmaticas and brocaded copes flowered with Slavonic letters done in Ural stones and rows of pearls, the physician entered and, noticing the patient’s eyes, questioned him.
Des Esseintes spoke of his unrealizable longings. He commenced to contrive new color schemes, to talk of harmonies and discords of tones he meant to produce, when the doctor stunned him by peremptorily announcing that these projects would never be executed here.
And, without giving him time to catch breath, he informed Des Esseintes that he had done his utmost in re-establishing the digestive functions and that now it was necessary to attack the neurosis which was by no means cured and which would necessitate years of diet and care. He added that before attempting a cure, before commencing any hydrotherapic treatment, impossible of execution at Fontenay, Des Esseintes must quit that solitude, return to Paris, and live an ordinary mode of existence by amusing himself like others.
“But the pleasures of others will not amuse me,” Des Esseintes indignantly cried.
Without debating the matter, the doctor merely asserted that this radical change was, in his eyes, a question of life or death, a question of health or insanity possibly complicated in the near future by tuberculosis.
“So it is a choice between death and the hulks!” Des Esseintes exasperatedly exclaimed.
The doctor, who was imbued with all the prejudices of a man of the world, smiled and reached the door without saying a word.
Des Esseintes locked himself up in his bedroom, closing his ears to the sounds of hammers on packing cases. Each stroke rent his heart, drove a sorrow into his flesh. The physician’s order was being fulfilled; the fear of once more submitting to the pains he had endured, the fear of a frightful agony had acted more powerfully on Des Esseintes than the hatred of the detestable existence to which the medical order condemned him.